Chelsea’s shoot-out selection dilemma
Who would you pick if the Champions League final went to a penalty shoot-out?
Imagine the scene. It’s Saturday night in Portugal and the local time is close to 2230. The Champions League final is going to a penalty shoot-out. You’re Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea coach. Which players do you select to win the biggest match of your career? And what order do you put them in?
Photo: Getty Images
Before we look into this challenge – and it’s something that the Chelsea staff will have considered long before you read this – there’s some background to consider.
Firstly, Manchester City under Pep Guardiola has never lost a shoot-out, winning 5/5. Tuchel’s record, I mean your record, is patchy: three wins (two with Dortmund, one with PSG) and three defeats (one each with Mainz, Dortmund and PSG, the latter two in Cup finals).
And then there’s Chelsea’s recent penalty shoot-out record. Below are the last six shoot-outs Chelsea played. They include one against Manchester City. Note there is an * next to those players who missed):
September 2020, EFL Cup fourth round, lost 5-4 to Spurs: Abraham, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Emerson, Mount*
August 2019, Super Cup, lost 5-4 to Liverpool: Jorginho, Barkley, Mount, Emerson, Abraham*
May 2019, Europa League semi-final, beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3: Barkley, Azpilicueta*, Jorginho, Luiz, Hazard
February 2019, EFL Cup final, lost to Manchester City 4-3: Jorginho*, Azpilicueta, Emerson, Luiz*, Hazard
January 2019, 2019 EFL Cup semi-final, beat Spurs 4-2: Willian, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Luiz
January 2018, FA Cup third round, beat Norwich 5-4: Willian, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Kante, Hazard
Let’s assume you have no injuries or red cards to think about. So which five players do you want to secure your place in Chelsea history? Let’s look at the options:
Jorginho (8/11 this season): The first-choice taker for Chelsea. He has missed three this season (against Liverpool, Krasnodar and Arsenal) but none since Tuchel took charge. He made a notable technique switch to GK-Independent to get back into the groove after his last miss, and since then, has scored three using the GK-Dependent method (including last week against Leicester). He has taken a penalty in each of Chelsea’s last five shoot-outs, scoring four and missing one, when kicking first, against Manchester City. He’s certain to step up – but which one should he take?
Timo Werner: (3/4 this season): Werner replaced Jorginho on penalties earlier in the season but when he missed his spot-kick against Luton Town, in Frank Lampard’s last game in charge, he was taken off duties again. His three converted penalties were all in the Champions League – two of which came in the 3-0 win over Rennes.
Mason Mount: Scored a penalty against Southampton from open-play this season but missed the fifth kick in the Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Spurs in September. His penalty, struck GK-Independent, natural side, hit the outside of the post. In previous penalty shoot-outs he scored for Chelsea in the 5-4 loss to Liverpool, kicking third, and for Derby County, kicking first in an 8-7 win over Manchester United. Will he be on the list?
Cesar Azpilicueta / Emerson Palmieri: These two occupy the Fabio Grosso role of players who don’t take penalties in open-play and yet are dependable options in a shoot-out. Azpi has scored in four out of five shoot-outs, and Emerson in two out of two. If they are on the pitch at the end of extra-time, they must be considered!
Olivier Giroud (1/1 this season): Giroud is a quietly effective penalty-taker, scoring his only penalty for Chelsea earlier this season against Sevilla. He has become one of France’s penalty options, and is on a run of 4/4 for the world champions.
Kai Havertz: He has never taken a penalty for Chelsea but was Bayer Leverkusen’s first-choice taker in the previous two seasons, with a record of 7/7: including this one, left-footed, GK-Independent, non-natural side, against Rangers; and he used a similarly successful strategy against Bayern Munich in the German Cup final.
Christian Pulisic: Has scored 2/2 for the USA, against Cuba and this one against Northern Ireland, kicking right-footed, GK-Independent, to non-natural side. His approach started very soon after the referee blew his whistle (a sign of nerves?). In Dortmund’s 2017 shoot-out win over Hertha Berlin, Pulisic kicked second, to his natural side, and had his penalty saved. Will Tuchel remember that?
Tammy Abraham: He did score, kicking first, in Chelsea’s last shoot-out against Spurs, but has dropped down the pecking-order under Tuchel (he wasn’t even on the bench in the Cup final). He scored 6/7 as Aston Villa’s main penalty-taker in 2018-19, but missed kicking fifth in the shoot-out against Liverpool. Earlier this season, Mount admitted that Abraham was second behind Jorginho in the penalty pecking-order, but that might have changed now.
Hakim Ziyech: The winger has scored and missed penalties for Heerenveen, Twente, Ajax and Morocco but has not stepped up yet for Chelsea. His Morocco record is 8/11, better than the 1/3 in an Ajax shirt. He scored this magnificent Panenka playing for Twente, but missed in a 2013 shoot-out defeat playing for Heerenveen (after scoring a penalty in the game). It would be surprising if he got the nod.
Penalty Verdict: Below are the five players I would consider as Plan A options if they are all available (still on the pitch and fit) for a shoot-out. This may not be likely, so it’s important for the coach to consider Plans B, C and D to cover all scenarios. As I have said before, this should be the coach’s decision, not down to the players. And so, my first-choice five for Chelsea would be:
What do you think? Do you agree? Should Werner, Abraham or someone else be in there? Let me know who you would pick as your first five: if the match goes to penalties, the first person to reply who gets the names and order of the Chelsea kickers right will receive a signed copy of Twelve Yards! You can post your answers in the comments below or send them to me at @benlyt. Good luck!
Goalkeeper on the charge! Thanks to Rupert Fryer for bringing this fantastic piece of goalkeeping to our attention. The game comes from the Brazilian regional state championships, Campeonato Sul-Mato-Grossense, between Comercial and Costa Rica in Brazil. The GK charges the penalty-taker so he’s outside the six-yard box when the ball is struck. You’ll have to see if his tactic of narrowing down the angle (and hoping VAR doesn’t notice) worked…
Esperance of Tunisia coach Moïne Chaâbani did a Louis van Gaal at the weekend: he subbed on a new goalkeeper, Farouk Ben Mustapha, just for a penalty shoot-out. And guess what? It worked! Ben Mustapha saved two penalties in the African Champions League quarter-final shoot-out against Chabab Belouizdad. Esperance had equalised three minutes from the end to force extra-time; and we know the boost from scoring last can help in a shoot-out. Still: we love to see it – bravo Moïne!
Does Brest goalkeeper Gautier Larssoneur read Twelve Yards? I wrote this about Neymar’s penalty technique a few weeks ago and on Sunday night, Larssoneur adjusts his strategy to distract the Brazilian. As Tom Williams points out, definite shades of Mikael Landreau against Ronaldinho here as Neymar rolls his effort wide of the post.
Never seen this before. Lars Bender, in his final game before retirement, comes off the bench for Bayer Leverkusen against Borussia Dortmund and scores a last-minute penalty. Dortmund is already 3-0 up so the goal makes little difference. Goalkeeper Roman Burki stays central (not the same as letting him score, which is how many reported it) and then congratulates Bender after the goal. As far as I could work out, the pair have never been team-mates (although Burki did play with Bender’s brother Sven at BVB). Nice gesture!Yesterday was the final match of Lars Bender's career 🙏 Off the bench for one final appearance, Leverkusen won a late penalty. When Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki saw it was Bender taking it, he didn't try to save it.
Please share any penalty thoughts or further questions to me either by commenting below or at @benlyt.
If you enjoyed this post, please spread the word about Twelve Yards and share this with your network. Recent pieces include: the secret to Bruno Fernandes’s success from the spot, Maradona’s penalty legacy, how Neymar honed his technique after FIFA changed the rules,explaining Real Madrid’s penalty drought, how Diego Alves became the penalty scourge of La Liga, Pep Guardiola’s surprisingly impressive record in penalty shoot-outs, which players will be next to score penalties with both feet, the Chilean defender who hates penalties but keeps scoring, the Argentine penalty tradition sweeping across empty stadia in Europe, why Lionel Messi is average at penalties, how Robert Lewandowski became a penalty killer, who really invented the two-touch penalty (and Robert Pires relives his trauma), why it’s better to aim high than low, the great Ederson penalty debate, an interview with Antonin Panenka, how to define a true Panenka, how to end Antoine Griezmann’s run of five missed penalties in a row, penalty records in empty stadia, and Barcelona’s first shoot-out win in 23 years. Thank you!
Ben Lyttleton is the author of Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty