Thomas Tuchel’s first midfield may have set all sorts of useless passing records, but it didn’t exactly do much in terms of inspiring the drastic turnaround Chelsea need in our current run of form. Tuchel himself has admitted since that he picked Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic based more on just reputation and experience rather than anything else, which is perhaps expected when a new coach is asked to pick a starting lineup 24 hours after being handed the keys to the training ground.
“I wanted to give the responsibility in this special moment to a bit more experienced players and have them in hand to have strong guys from the bench.”
That’s not to say that Jorginho, who has been on Tuchel’s rumored wishlist in years past, and Kovacic, who was Chelsea’s Player of the Season last year, won’t see more minutes under the new coach than the old one, but it sounds like Tuchel’s not discarding the likes of Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour without at least giving them a chance, while a certain N’Golo Kanté cannot come back soon enough from his latest injury.
In fact, Tuchel already has the latter earmarked for the two-man double-six (i.e. double-pivot) midfield, which is analogous with how Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte had used him in Premier League title-winning seasons. Maurizio Sarri and Lampard put Kanté in a midfield-three, either as a box-to-box No.8 or, more recently, at the base as a lone holding midfielder, but it sounds like Tuchel sees him in the same dynamic role in which Kanté became the best midfielder in the world.
“I think he’s the strongest in the double six, the centre and the heart of the game. Gives him little more freedom than when he plays a single six, what he can do.
“But for me he is a double six because we can use his energy and we can use his range and his volume in his game. His ability to recuperate and recover balls everywhere on the pitch. He is a guy who is a big, big helper for everybody, with the mentality of a helper, a water carrier, but at the same time a world class player who played a crucial role in the World Cup win for France.
“That’s why he’s super important to have him and for me the double six is the best role because it gives him a bit more freedom than the single six which demands a bit more discipline on the position and maybe cuts his wings a little bit, but I am sure he can also play there.”
Speaking of clipping wings, Mason Mount was grounded on Wednesday after ten (10!) starts in a row, which if Lampard were still in charge, would’ve been looked at as a more than well-deserved (and probably needed) bit of rest. But since Tuchel was in charge, it was seen as an affront, or a chance to show who’s boss, or some such.
But as Tuchel tells it, it was none of the sort. In fact, it sounds like he’s well aware of Mason’s abilities and his importance to the team, and not just symbolically.
“I like what I see from Mason so far, from his personality that I get to know now from three days. It’s amazing. Such a nice guy, such a competitive guy, such a lot of talent. And the most important – every game I watch so far he leaves his heart on the pitch.
“He cares for Chelsea 100 percent. He gives the 100 percent he has every time he plays and this is the best basis for a big development. I am very happy to have him around. I will not stop pushing him, I will not stop guiding him, I will not stop trusting him. There is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
“[...] maybe the decision for Mason yesterday was the toughest and we spoke about this in person.”
And Mount did indeed come off the bench on Wednesday to provide a spark as Chelsea searched for a late winner. Hopefully he won’t be limited to that role going forward.
However, Billy Gilmour wasn’t even named in the matchday squad, and given all the loan rumors swirling about, perhaps that is a cause for concern for his immediate Chelsea prospects — both if he’s forced to go on loan, or if he’s forced to stay and not play.
But Tuchel also speaks highly of the 19-year-old, and if we consider that Mount might see more minutes in attack in Tuchel’s 3-4-2-1 than central midfield, there could indeed be a role for young Billy as the backup to Kanté, Kovacic, and Jorginho.
“For Billy the same in a different personal moment for him because he didn’t play the biggest role like Mason did in the last weeks [but] for Billy I have a good impression.
“He is a very strategic guy. A very high level of game understanding. Very good in the first contact. Very clever in positioning. We see if he has the physical level. If he can compete in the centre of the field in the most physical league in the world. We will see that, but he is super quick, super fast with his feet. Super fast with his decision making and very, very good in positioning.”
Questioning Gilmour’s physicality just shows how little time Tuchel has had to get to know his players. Billy G might be small, but the size of the fight in him is anything but. Hopefully he gets a chance to show that to the new boss as well.
Overall, it sounds like Gilmour is welcome to stay, if he wants.
“We have right now 21, 22 field players available, playing three competitions. There is absolutely no need that we have to get rid of players.”
“I wanted to take the weight off their shoulders. Of course when I told them I am absolutely sure they can handle the weight. I have no trust issues. [...] There is nothing to worry about.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Tuchel talks a good game. But actions, as ever, speak loudest.
Let us see.