In Thomas Tuchel’s 45 matches in charge, Chelsea have kept 27 clean sheets and conceded more than one goal just twice — once in a 2-1 loss to Aston Villa and once in a most idiosyncratic 5-2 defeat to West Brom that was clearly just a glitch in the Matrix.
Any way you slice it, that’s a fantastic record, one that’s not that far off from the best we’ve ever seen in the Premier League: Chelsea in 2004-05. Even with the 5 goals given up to relegated West Brom, Chelsea have only conceded 16 Premier League goals (28 games) since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival.
And what makes that record even more remarkable is Chelsea’s defensive frailty preceding that.
So what the secret to our success? According to one of its key cogs, it’s simply down to a clean plan and structure.
“If there is a clear plan in what you are doing, it doesn’t matter if it’s a back three or a four. It’s about structure. This what I have to give full credit to the manager for. [We] concede less, which is good.”
“When we had those runs where you’re not conceding, you start thinking about it. Before, it was not the case. We didn’t have many clean sheets. For a defender there’s nothing more important than a clean sheet.”
That’s a simple notion to be sure, yet evidently not a simple thing to implement. That Tuchel was able to do it that quickly, pretty much from day one, is certainly credit to him, and to the players as well. We may have our issues in attack, but outside of rare lapses in concentration or organization, our defending has been exemplary. (Famous last words, eh?)
Rüdiger’s own personal fortunes have mirrored the team’s upturn as well. While he had fought his back into Frank Lampard’s reckoning as well, he’s been consistently one of the first names on the team sheet under Tuchel — and among the very best in England and Europe.
“I have always been as I am now. It’s just that things are going well. Obviously everyone has their opinion. I’ve always been the same Toni.
“[But] Tuchel gave me new life. I wouldn’t say he said: ‘You have to be the biggest speaker in the dressing room.’ I’m not like this. I like to show everything on the pitch. He told me what he expects – my natural game: to be aggressive, to be a leader.”
This synergy between defender and head coach appears to be one of our biggest trump cards in trying to convince Rüdiger to stay. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he’s no closer to agreeing an extension. While he’s of course focused on our team goals above all else, he will have a big decision to make eventually.
“The most important thing is that I feel happy here. I think if people look at it, they can see I’m happy.
“About the contract situation, I talk with the club. This is for nobody’s ears. It was how I said it would be after the Euros — there would be talks. There was a talk between Marina [Granovskaia, a Chelsea director] and my agent. We have the situation where we are at now and I have nothing to do with all the speculation. This is not in my mind. I’m focused on what I’m doing because this is why I wake up every morning.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; source: Guardian
Whatever happens there, hopefully we can keep our defensive excellence going.