Thomas Tuchel said of his first lineup selection, in midweek, that it was a bit “unfair”, since he didn’t quite know all his players yet just 24 hours after his official announcement. It would be equally unfair to expect him to have fully remedied that situation after just a few more days, but as he tells it, he’s also trying to give all the players their fair dues.
So for his second lineup, he kept the five field players mostly responsible for defending and possession, and rotated just about all the rest. Only Callum Hudson-Odoi kept his place from the front five.
“Well if we manage to find a starting eleven that can guarantee us to win 20 in a row we will not change it. But it’s of course very unlikely this will happen.
“We decided very late for the back three and two sixes, because of the impact we expected from Burnley, and they did very, very well. And we made changes offensively just to have different characteristics and give everyone a chance to show up in competition.
“It’s super-hard in selection, or maybe also super-easy because I’m giving everyone the chance to show their abilities.”
It’s wasn’t just rotation for the sake of rotation of course. Marcos Alonso’s resurrection was equal parts expected — did someone call for a wing-back? — and surprising, especially considering that he had been summarily ostracized back in late September and not seen in a Premier League matchday squad for the last four months, let alone given a start. But Tuchel but him on the bench on Wednesday and gave him the full 90 today.
And of course Alonso did was Alonso does, and repaid that faith by scoring a rather ridiculous goal, his 23rd for the club. Left back in name, striker in his game.
“We had a reason, not that we were unhappy with Chilly, absolutely not, but we opted for a bit more size, to cope with the corners from Burnley.
“I know Marcos is used to playing this role, on the left side all alone and he has a good timing for arriving in the box. In the end we are very happy he could score the second goal to finish the game.”
First off, it’s hilarious that Tuchel’s calling Chilwell “Chilly” already as well. But it’s certainly nice to see a plan come together so well for the team and the head coach. After 4.5 years, we all know what we get and what we don’t with Alonso. Playing players to their strengths is a simple idea, yet often difficult to put into action.
That said, both of Tuchel’s games so far have featured Callum Hudson-Odoi as one of the wing-backs, which isn’t exactly the most obvious place to deploy him. Then again, as the most impactful pure winger in the team, it’s perhaps no surprise at all that Tuchel has rolled the dice in this Conte-esque fashion. If Victor Moses could do it on a title-winning team, Hudson-Odoi certainly should be able to do so as well. (Another common denominator that undoubtedly helps: being supported by César Azpilicueta as the right-sided center back.)
“Why not [play him as a wing-back]? He can have his input on the line, he has the ability to be decisive with his runs, his speed and at the moment we have opted for this structure. He can play in the half positions offensively, this is clear and we wanted to take the chance against Wolves so we went with Chilly and him, today it was Marcos and him.
“He had another good game, if we can improve the precision of our guys in the box then maybe we can score more goals.”
Perhaps the only drawback of playing Hudson-Odoi at wing-back in the 3-4-3 is that we don’t have an obvious place for Reece James. But given the hectic schedule and the importance of every single game, there should be plenty of minutes to go around as Tuchel tries to keep players fresh.
Case in point, Hakim Ziyech was not even named in the matchday squad today, which raised some eyebrows ... which were then promptly lowered by an entirely reasonable and, dare I say, welcome, explanation after the previous regime(s)’ tendency to overplay certain key players.
“We had a normal process of a recommendation [from the medical staff] and we had some words that he is in a personal overload in the last five weeks. He has a history to be a risk for injury when he plays for five weeks of overload. That’s why, the pure physical recommendation of the staff was for him to not play more than 30 minutes.
“We offered him a full break to not be on the bench and even play 30 minutes and he said okay, let’s do the break now and we can start using him again next week full-on. Let’s give him the break now because what will we do if we lose someone after 15 minutes and lose the opportunity for an offensive change and that was the only reason.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
A bit of common sense, a bit of tactical thinking, and some solid execution from the players. Now, to do this consistently...