Football is a game of inches, of small margins, and lucky bounces, especially at the top level. A single moment can determine games, fates, even careers. I sometimes wonder, for example, how Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career would’ve turned out if he had scored in that very first game against Liverpool, if his ex-teammate Jamie Carragher hadn’t made a spectacular goal-saving block, for example. Or how the 2016-17 season would’ve turned out if Kevin De Bruyne hadn’t missed the open net from three yards out against Chelsea.
Now imagine how different the mood or the narrative might be, if Kai Havertz’s last-minute header had struck the back of the net instead of a lucky Wolves player who had happened to wander into the perfect position with seconds to go on Wednesday.
Thomas Tuchel certainly would’ve enjoyed that, as much as for getting his own Chelsea tenure off to a winning, as for Havertz himself.
“I was happy [...] that it was him who got the almost decisive header in the box against all these towering, strong players from Wolverhampton. It would have been a nice moment at the end of the match.”
Tuchel had deployed Havertz as one of the two No.10s in the 3-4-2-1 setup, and the 21-year-old responded with one of his better games for Chelsea, and certainly since returning from his non-mild bout with COVID-19. It wasn’t a performance to justify the near-record transfer fee that Chelsea paid in the summer, but it’s a good step forward.
As for the rest of the steps, the new head coach has his butt-kicking boots ready.
“His potential is endless. It has been a challenge for him and I think he made a brave choice [coming to Chelsea]. But you come from Leverkusen to Chelsea and the culture cannot be any more different.
“[So] Kai steps not only to a different country, club, team-mates, which is in itself complicated and a challenge, but he changes the club culture in a dramatic way. I love it because he is far out of his comfort zone.
“What I feel from him is that he is a very intelligent, friendly and open guy who has a lot of potential — and we will push him. He seems like the guy who needs to be pushed and we won’t stop doing it. He has so much potential that he needs to be challenged physically, so he doesn’t just rely on his endless talent. This is good. In the end, the question is: does he show his teeth in the end when it gets tough?
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Goal
Tuchel certainly seems to have a plan for just about every one of our problems and challenges. That doesn’t guarantee that he will conquer them all, but chances are always better when there is a clear plan.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, as the cliché says. Over to you, Cobra Kai.