Statistics That Defined Chelsea's 2016-17 Season

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2017

Statistics That Defined Chelsea's 2016-17 Season

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    Chelsea are Premier League champions. We've repeated that line as we're sure Blues supporters aren't going to grow tired of hearing it.

    But how did Antonio Conte's men turn the tides of failure into a waterfall of success in 2016/17? What was the inspiration for the Blues to transform themselves from mid-table strugglers into England's finest?

    Conte had a lot to do with it, of course, changing the culture of a club that was threatening to enter a period of insignificance. Chelsea had not long lost their messiah in Jose Mourinho when the Italian arrived and the future was unclear.

    But things didn't take long to change for the better, and come May, the good times had well and truly returned to west London as Chelsea lifted the Premier League trophy for a fifth time.

    It was a wonderful campaign—one that can be told through the statistics that would come to define it.

    So join us as we take a closer look.

The 43-Point Improvement to Become Champions

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    In 2015/16, Chelsea just about scraped their way into the Premier League's top 10, finishing ahead of Everton, having spent the majority of the campaign in the bottom half of the table.

    It proved a sobering season for the Blues, who were defending champions at the time. It was confirmation of just how badly they had crashed and burned after their 2014/15 title success.

    Their 50-point tally was Chelsea's worst return in close to two decades of top-flight football. It left the Blues 16 points off fourth-placed Manchester City, who claimed the last Champions League spot for 2016/17, while Chelsea were also 13 points outside of Europa League contention.

    Indeed, looking in the opposite direction, it was just 13 points that separated Chelsea from the drop zone, too.

    Under Conte, that all changed. The new boss didn't just make up that 16-point gap to Champions League qualification—he obliterated it and then some.

    Chelsea's eventual 93-point tally was a 43-point improvement on the previous campaign. Under the Italian, the Blues came close to doubling their points in just 12 months.

    From 16 points behind City a year earlier, they finished 15 above them in 2016/17. That's a 31-point swing in a single season.

    Chelsea made up 21 points on Arsenal (a 39-point swing), 20 points on Tottenham Hotspur (a 27-point swing) and 13 on Manchester United (a 37-point swing).

    We can marvel at Conte's goal celebrations and his team's style, but the transformation in the league table outlines just how impressive his debut season in English football really was as his side ended 2016/17 as Premier League champions.

Goals, Goals, Goals

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    Chelsea's best goalscoring season in the Premier League came in Carlo Ancelotti's debut campaign when the Blues broke the 100-goal barrier to become the first side to ever do it.

    In 2009/10, Chelsea defeated Wigan Athletic 8-0 to seal the Premier League title in some style, bringing their tally for the season to 103 goals.

    No team has matched that, before or after.

    In 2016/17, Chelsea recorded their best goals return in the Premier League since 2010. Outside of Ancelotti's achievement, the Blues' best return had been 75 goals in a season when Rafa Benitez had stepped in as interim manager.

    But with 85 goals this season, Conte's Blues blew that return out of the water. Indeed, in one season, Conte's side scored more goals than Mourinho's famed Chelsea teams ever did.

    In 2004/05, Mourinho's Blues scored 72 times. They repeated that the following campaign, but their goals dried up somewhat in 2006/07, dropping to 64.

    When Mourinho returned in 2013/14, Chelsea scored 71 goals and improved that by two when they became champions a year later.

    With 85 goals, however, Conte's side hit Chelsea's second-best goals return for a single season in the Premier League (a 26-goal improvement on 2014/15).

3 Is the Magic Number for Diego Costa

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    While we're on the theme of goals, let's talk about Diego Costa.

    He's much maligned at times, coming in for criticism that doesn't always reflect his true ability as a striker. Costa is one of the Premier League's finest in that regard. And this season he became just the third Chelsea player to score 20 Premier League goals or more in three consecutive seasons.

    Those before him were Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Didier Drogba, proving Costa is in good company when we consider his talents.

    Not only that, Costa notched up his 50th Premier League goal in the 2016/17 which, given the team's struggles last season, was no mean feat.

    Costa has had to deal with injuries and suspensions during his three years at Stamford Bridge, but still he finds the back of the net with the consistency of any world-class goalscorer.

    Hitting 20 Premier League goals this season is proof of that.

Costa's Goals Gives Chelsea the Title

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    From sticking to goals in our last slide, this time we continue the theme of Diego Costa.

    For all the negative headlines the Spain international attracts, he provides something much more positive to Chelsea, namely points on the board.

    Of Costa's 20 Premier League goals this season, he directly decided the result of seven matches, earning his side 19 points. That's just over 20 per cent of the Blues' 93 points that won them the title.

    Costa scored the winning or equalising goal against West Ham United (twice), Watford, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City in 2016/17.

    It shows his true worth as a striker. Costa doesn't just score the last goal in a 5-0 thrashing; he's there, leading the line and making the difference when it matters most.

    Not enough strikers have done that throughout the history of the Premier League at Chelsea. Some big names have flopped and disappeared when the club has needed them most. Not Costa, whose goals were a vital part in Conte's men winning the Premier League.

David Luiz and His Tackles (or Lack Thereof)

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    From PlayStation legend to a bona fide defensive stalwart, David Luiz's reputation since his return to Chelsea last summer has been turned on its head.

    We're not talking with a negative tone about the Brazilian these days. Gone is the impression of him as a liability, replaced with the view that Luiz is now the glue that binds the Chelsea back line together.

    His style is a big part of it. Playing as the central player in a back three, Luiz is now the last line of defence, sitting just behind Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.

    Luiz has become the insurance policy, there to mop up anything that makes its way through.

    But so far as being the defensive linchpin goes, it's pushing it too far. We've been looking at Luiz's role with the wrong perspective as he doesn't actually do that much defending. He's about something so much different at Chelsea.

    Don't believe us? Well, take a look at Luiz's number of defensive actions compared to Cahill and Azpilicueta.

    Cahill made a total of 74 tackles and 140 headers over the course of 2016/17, while Azpilicueta proved his iron-man abilities with 139 tackles and 140 headers.

    As for Luiz, he made just 67 tackles and 87 headers, according to Squawka.

    The Brazilian was used for fewer defensive duties and instead was deployed to give balance and structure to the backline by, well, defending less.

The Wonder of N'Golo Kante

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    We couldn't crunch some of the statistics surrounding Chelsea's season without giving a mention to N'Golo Kante.

    The former Leicester City man was a triple Player of the Year for 2016/17 having won the PFA Players', Football Writers Association and Chelsea players' club award. It was recognition for what was an incredible season.

    So do the numbers tell us what the eyes did? Of course they do, so let's take a closer look.

    No player made more interceptions at Chelsea than Kante in the whole of 2016/17. In his debut campaign, Kante averaged 2.4 interceptions in his 35 appearances, according to WhoScored.com. Total that up and it comes out as 84 for the season—an incredible return.

    When we look back at the Blues' porous defence in 2015/16, it's clear where the sudden improvement came from with Kante in the team. By breaking up attacks so efficiently, he was doing the job he was signed for by protecting the back line, shielding his defenders from being overexposed.

    Kante plugged the gaping holes that were there before.

    If the interceptions were impressive, then look at Kante's tackles—all 126 of them! He covered every inch of the Chelsea midfield, sniffing out danger and putting out fires.

    What more can you ask for from a defensive midfielder?

Defenders Got into the Goals Too

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    We've already discussed Chelsea's goalscoring prowess under Conte. Costa steals all the headlines in that regard, but let's give a mention to Chelsea's defenders.

    Overall, of the 85 goals the Blues netted in 2016/17, a healthy 15 came from their back line. Cahill and Marcos Alonso led the way with six each, but John Terry, Luiz and Azpilicueta all scored a goal themselves.

    Compare that group of five players with attackers from other clubs and we see how valuable those goals proved to Chelsea.

    For instance, the quintet of Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard at Manchester United—all players known for scoring goals—managed just 16 goals between them, beating Chelsea's defenders by a solitary strike.

Gary Cahill Steps in to Fill JT's Boots

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    It's going to be a massive job for whoever replaces Terry as Chelsea's permanent captain. The smart money is on that man being Cahill after he took the armband in JT's absence for much of 2016/17.

    And Cahill got his captaincy off to a flying start. Not only was he the man with the armband when Chelsea went on their incredible 13-match winning streak from October through to January, but Cahill has overseen a massive upturn in fortunes at Chelsea.

    It's best reflected in his winning percentage while wearing the armband.

    In the 31 Premier League games Cahill captained the Blues this season, Conte's men came out winners on 26 occasions. That's a win percentage of 83 per cent.

    Not too bad for a player who was being targeted on social media in the beginning stages of 2016/17, with some fans calling for him to be dropped or sold.

    Cahill used the captaincy to prove his doubters wrong and is now in pole position to step in now Terry has departed the club after 22 years.