Those looking for Chelsea to put to rest the (few) doubters on their title challenge credentials, were most likely happy to see the Blues put one of their best recent Premier League performances away at Leicester. While the Foxes have struggled to reproduce the form that put them in top four contention in previous seasons, away matches are still the best way to trap unaware teams if they underestimate their opponents, no matter how their form look like.
What we saw was a clinic by the Blues from top to bottom. Solid defending from Édouard Mendy and co. gave midfielders and attackers to create as many chances as possible, and so they did. Goals from Antonio Rüdiger, N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic sealed the match at a 3-0 advantage to the Blues, taking us to 29 points in 12 league matches while holding top position.
But there is always room for improvement. While manager Thomas Tuchel was likely the happiest man at King Power Stadium with the result, he feels the team could have been less wasteful in a game where they could have gone 6-0 were it not for three offsides against them.
“We could have finished the game with a third one earlier. There are still things to improve, technical things, decision making and conversion from our chances. But it was a good performance and we needed it, to get a deserved win and a clean sheet and we did deserve it.
“I think we played a good game, a good away game, we have an excellent result so it’s a good mix, we created a lot of chances and half-chances, were a bit unlucky with the offside decisions, but I’m happy we created and never stopped creating and that was the key.”
Is Tuchel going overboard here? Certainly not. More often than not matches like these are won by inches, and not the miles we ran on Leicester earlier today. Given the chances we had to make it 3-0 in the first half against the Foxes, not doing so can feel like a wasted opportunity.
“You have to decide the game when it’s possible to decide. I thought we could be more precise, we could be more clinical in the last third in the first half because we played with such effort, we had such good ball recoveries high up the pitch, we were good in finding the spaces with the ball.
“Of course we all know that a third goal would have decided the match pretty sure. With a two-goal lead you are pretty comfortable but you can never be completely comfortable. One goal, one set-piece, one deflected shot can change the whole momentum and suddenly you struggle when it’s not necessary.”
This was also another match where our wing-backs were insanely good. Both Reece James and Ben Chilwell seem to be on the form of their lives, either scoring for fun considering the goalscoring expectations for defenders, or assisting goals like the first ones today — the first by Chilly, and the second by Reecey.
Individual ability certainly has a lot to do with their stats. But so does Tuchel’s system, which allows them and the rest of the team to take more risks and offer more support to attacking moves. Thus once you set them up for success, key goals and assists are the natural result.
“We know, the whole team, me included, the places we can take risks and adapt our positions. Not to go full over-confident, not to do crazy stuff, but to have a bit of wild momentum and a bit of freedom in our attacking movements. I think the wing-back positions can also adapt their positions to half-positions and to support our attackers.
“I think it’s a matter of repetition, a matter of understanding with each other, and at the moment they do very good, no matter who plays. Azpi has had fantastic matches in this position and also Marcos Alonso, today it was Reecey and Chilly. We want to be dangerous from certain spaces and to accelerate the game in certain spaces so they are allowed to do it.”
Another highlight today was Pulisic’s second goal of the season, on a Hakim Ziyech assist. Both came from the bench, and Pulisic scored in his typical fashion: a late arrival to the box — this time, the six-yard one — to bury a great chance, and put to rest any doubts of Chelsea securing the three points in the second half of the game.
Tuchel was quite glad with how quick Pulisic was to show his goalscoring credentials in the PL. Alongside Ziyech’s contribution, they show how stacked Chelsea are in terms of offensive power.
“It’s one of Christian’s key qualities, to arrive exactly like that, not only in the box but also in the six-yard box. This is a top quality from him.
“He gives something of course in terms of sprints, repetitive sprints, intensity on and off the ball, but in the end of the attacks he is hungry to score, he arrives in the box and this is where we need players also, to be dangerous and to score.
“I’m very happy that, after a long time when he suffered from Coronavirus and injury, that he is back and decisive straight away and I’m very happy also for Hakim, who deserved to start, that he was again involved with an assist.”
-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Chelsea FC
To the rest of the league: beware!