Tuchel gives verdict on Chelsea's defeat to Man City
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Thomas Tuchel’s second-half tactical masterstroke against Tottenham Hotspur, ended up becoming his tactical downfall against Manchester City. Before Chelsea blitzed Spurs with three goals in the second period of the match, Nuno Espirito Santo surprised the Blues by ferociously flooding the midfield and pressing the life out of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.
The midfield pair were not given a second to breathe at the London Stadium, and Tottenham looked to be the team in charge. But Tuchel wrestled the control back by introducing N’Golo Kante; giving them an extra avenue away from Spurs’ relentless midfielders. It worked beautifully as Santo’s midfield quartet were thrown by the addition of Kante, and Chelsea got through them with ease.
Tuchel began the contest against Pep Guardiola’s side in similar fashion to how he ended at the London Stadium. Except this time Timo Werner was partnered alongside Romelu Lukaku instead of Kai Havertz. Unfortunately, it did not work anywhere near as well, as City penned the Blues into their own 18 yard-box and meticulously dispatched of any counterattacks.
Lukaku has been a Lion for Chelsea since he returned to the West Londoners for £98m in the summer, but he was trapped in a sky-blue cage off Rhodri, Aymeric Laporte, and Ruben Dias. Lukaku is a master of pinning down and isolating defenders, but he was the one who was stranded on his own by City.
He is a master of pinning down and isolating defenders, but he was the one who was stranded on his own by City. Werner’s pace was decisive when Chelsea beat Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final, but at the Bridge there were no passes for him to latch onto.
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Werner’s pace was decisive when Chelsea beat Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final, but at the Bridge there were no passes for him to latch onto.
His pace, movement, and darting runs stretch defences as much as possible, but there was rarely an opportunity for him to do so. Tuchel’s decision to scrap his usual 3-4-3 formation, for a more compact and solid 3-5-2 formation worked perfectly against Tottenham, but it did him no favours against the Citizens.
Unfortunately, it could also beggar the question regarding the state of Werner’s future at the club. Reports from German outlet Sport1 have suggested Bayern Munich have expressed a keen interest in signing the 25-year-old, assuming Robert Lewandowski’s desire of an Allianz Arena exit is granted by the club.
A Werner and Lukaku partnership in the traditional big man little man set-up has been frequently discussed ever since the Belgian signed from Inter Milan. In theory it is a match made in heaven, but the most glass half full individual would have labelled the deployment of the pair against City as a work in progress at its most generous.
Moreover, Lukaku thrived alongside Lautaro Martinez in Italy, with Antonio Conte crafting the two hitmen into one of the best strike partnerships in the World.
Unfortunately, the fact remains, despite the evident similarities, Werner is not Martinez. If any partnership with Lukaku is to blossom, it will likely need the same amount of meticulous, long term planning Conte needed to blend them together.
The absence of Mason Mount was most definitely felt, with the England international ruled out of the contest with a minor knock. They missed his bite and drive with and without the ball. His tenacity, energy, and uncanny ability to win the ball back high up the pitch was a huge miss for Chelsea, who finished the match with only 40% possession.
These are not pretty statistics considering they are the reigning European Champions playing at home. However, these statistics should not concern Tuchel – after-all, only a full would try to beat Manchester City on possession.
But, when asked specifically about the performance and involvement of Lukaku, Tuchel shouldered the blame and suggested it was a failure on his tactical part, rather than Lukaku’s.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about Romelu’s [Lukaku] struggle today,” Tuchel said after the match.
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“When we reached Romelu the attack was already half over as there was not enough people, not enough belief and connection.
“So this was a team problem, not an individual problem.’
One of Tuchel’s key tasks when he took over from Frank Lampard was to try and get Werner firing again.
With Lukaku in now, that mission may not be as prominent, and the idea to partner him alongside Werner may be shelved for another time.
With Havertz and Hakim Ziyech reportedly low on confidence, and Christian Pulisic still struggling with niggling injuries, Werner will likely get more chances flanking or partnering Lukaku.
Unfortunately, it is yet another strategy designed to get the best out of the German which has not yielded the desired results.
The more Tuchel runs out of strategies, the faster his patience, and that of Chelsea, will wain.
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