Football is a game of highs and lows. After starting the season with eight matches unbeaten in all competitions, conceding just three times, Chelsea have lost two back-to-back games, against Manchester City in the league and Juventus in the Champions League.
But we have an opportunity to turn the tide just before the players head into another dreaded International break, as we take on a (surprisingly) winless Southampton on Saturday at the Bridge.
Also potentially helpful: Mason Mount is back! He’s the only one of the injured quartet to return however, with N’Golo Kanté, Reece James, and Christian Pulisic continuing to recover from their various ailments.
“When I saw [the international selection], I thought that maybe Reece goes with the water polo team for England, because right now he trains in the pool. So I was a bit surprised, but I understood that he was selected for the football team. So this will not happen because Reece is training in the pool right now. My understanding, my last information is that he will not go so that can only be a misunderstanding, nothing else.
“And for Mason is in the squad, he’s back, it was not a long injury, a minor injury. We’re happy that he’s back and it’s obviously a given that he’s nominated. He’s happy to be nominated and will give everything to do his best for the England squad.”
Chelsea's two losses highlighted several systemic issues, but nothing more clearer than the disconnect between midfield and attack. Mount and Kai Havertz are usually quite adept at fulfilling this task, but Havertz hasn't quite kicked on this season while Mount had a rough start before getting injured.
However, Tuchel is also careful of overreacting to the events of the past 180 minutes, and rightly points out that a team’s performance is never the result of just one single player. And while it’s easy to think so, and it plays well in the narrative, it’s not always the players not playing who would have or could have made the telling difference.
“It is not on single players. Of course, we want to have Mason on the pitch and we know the energy he gives and we miss him but we cannot start reproducing performances on the thought of players who are missing.
“Every team in the world would miss N’Golo Kante when he isn’t playing, we miss Mason when he is not playing at his highest level, that’s why he is a top player. Do we miss Reece James? Yes, of course but still there would have been a selection headache because we could only start with 11 players against Juventus.
“Do we miss Christian Pulisic? Of course we do, his sprints and intensity. We have a squad and we have the duty, and me as a coach, to find the solution and it is possible to win games without Mason Mount and hopefully he knows how much we respect and love him and want him to be in the team. But if he is injured, we can win games without him.”
Chelsea are clearly not the finished product yet. We finished fourth in the league despite winning the Champions League, after all. But we’ve appeared to take a step or two back, with our attack reduced to new ineffective lows (just 1 shot on target in the last two games) and a noticeable drop in counter-pressing that has allowed opponents to attack our backline more.
But Tuchel trusts the system, and trusts the players to raise their play back to the levels necessary. It’s a long season ahead, and there’s no need to panic. Chelsea are just one point off the lead, and could head into the break on top of the league if Liverpool and Manchester City draw on Sunday, for example.
“I know it’s always about reactions, and talking about reactions and what we demand, but we always demand the very best from us, no matter if we lost or won.
“Nobody likes to lose, the opposite: we hate to lose. [But] it’s not long ago that we played very, very good matches, the second half at Tottenham for example. It’s not that long ago but it just feels long ago because there are so many games in between We miss a little step from 90 per cent to 100 per cent.
“It’s not that we have to question ourselves deeply and start to doubt each other. It’s about stepping up of course, it’s about improving. [And] it’s most important to keep a clear head and be well prepared and this is what we do.”
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Time to start a new winning streak!