Premier League Picks, Predictions | Wolves vs Chelsea Preview
Darren Walsh/Getty. Pictured: Frank Lampard.
Wolves vs Chelsea Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (+120 / -142)|
|Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)||(-106 / -125)|
|Odds via bet365. Get the latest soccer odds here.|
Chelsea are on their fourth manager of the season after the club announced that Frank Lampard would finish the season on an interim basis to replace the recently sacked Graham Potter. Lampard’s firing in 2020 is part of what led to the eventual top 4 finish and Champions League victory in 2021 under Thomas Tuchel. Lampard’s managerial record is spotty in the Premier League, but the Blues performances were on a clear trend upward and that continued on Wednesday against Liverpool. Even though Chelsea settled for a goalless draw, the Blues have completely dominated the minutes since N’Golo Kanté returned from injury and rejoined the midfield.
The Blues created more than 2 xG in each match against Aston Villa and Liverpool but don’t have an actual goal to show for it. Now, Chelsea travel to take on Wolves and the market has moved from +105 to -110 on the three-way moneyline in the last two days. Wolves came from behind on the road to salvage a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday and while Julen Lopategui’s side is safe from relegation for now, the herd is so tightly packed that one downturn in form could see Wolves teetering on relegation once again.
Chelsea’s recent performances haven’t been reflected in the results at all, and I’m going to continue to bet on positive regression for the Blues.
Wolves Struggling For Offensive Form
Wolves want to use defensive possession to slowly progress the ball up the pitch and because of this, they have the second-most defensive final third touches in the entire Premier League. Wolves’ results have improved under Lopategui, but the attack still creates the worst quality shots in the league and ranks dead last in average shot quality. Wolves are the least efficient team at turning possession in the final third into box entries, and now they face a defense that is second-best at protecting the penalty area.
Wolves’ results have improved under Julen Lopategui, but the attack still creates the worst quality shots in the league and ranks dead-last in average shot quality. Set pieces have been a major weakness for Chelsea defensively this season — Everton were recently able to exploit this — but Wolves also don’t produce much from dead ball situations either. Wolves are second to last in xG per set piece and rank in the bottom four in the league in goals and total xG produced from set plays.
Unlike Crystal Palace, who combine a dismal offense with an above average defense, Wolves don’t even grade out above average defensively. They did last year because Jose Sá had a historically good season as a shot stopper, but he’s regressed and the Wolves defense has followed along. Wolves are 13th in non-penalty xG allowed this season.
Chelsea Still Looking For Boost in Luck
The firing of Potter came because of a lack of results, but there were clear signs that the Blues had solidly improved their underlying performances. Since February began, the Blues produced 1.55 xG per 90 and averaged a +0.6 xG difference per 90 minutes, good enough for fifth-best in the PL behind Manchester City, Arsenal, Newcastle and Brighton.
Chelsea’s ability to press and cause high turnovers could lead to a bunch of transition direct attacks for the Blues on the road on Saturday. If there was a criticism of Potter’s system, it’s that it focused a little too much on defensive possession and didn’t do enough to use their forward’s biggest strengths. There were signs that the Blues were working through some issues and getting more opportunities for Joao Felix and Kai Havertz to run at defenders with the ball in space and to run in behind defenses as opposed to holding lots of more conservative possession to set up cutbacks.
Chelsea’s attack went from about 1.2 xG per 90 minutes in the league in the first two months under Potter to about 1.55 xG per match. That’s still below that of a title challenger, but it’s more than good enough to produce a top 5 attack. Given the depth of quality talent but lack of elite attacking talent, that’s not terrible production.
But when the Blues aren’t able to finish any chances because both Felix and Havertz are in a slump and lacking confidence, the result is that Chelsea produced 0.85 goals per 90 from those better underlying numbers. Bad finishing runs don’t last forever and they showed.
Wolves vs Chelsea Pick
The first meeting between these two clubs was mostly uncompetitive — Chelsea won the shots battle 20-8 and out-created Wolves 1.9-0.9 in xG. It really comes down to the cold finishing run ending at some point for Chelsea. If the Blues just finish near or above their xG totals for a few games, you’ll see that Chelsea are really a top 6-7 team despite their position in 11th currently.
The market has upgraded Chelsea too, but I’m not sure they’ve bumped them high enough. Wolves’ attack doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with this group of Chelsea attackers. Kanté’s return upgrades the Blues transition defense even more and should help with ball winning in a very functional midfield with Enzo Fernandes and Mateo Kovacic. I’d bet Chelsea at -115 or better to win this match on the road on Saturday.
Pick: Chelsea ML (-115 or better)
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