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Thomas Tuchel explains Chelsea’s incredible defensive record, ‘invisible work’

All eyes on us

Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

At this point in time the incredible stats by Thomas Tuchel since taking over Chelsea are at the heart of every Blues fan. In 50 matches, the team has 31 clean sheets and only 24 goals conceded across Premier League matches, Champions League playoffs — including the winning finals last season — and group stage games, and domestic cup encounters.

These stats have not been collected with ease, however. If it was not for the timely intervention by one Thiago Silva right after Juventus conceded the first of four goals last Tuesday night, with former Chelsea striker Álvaro Morata almost instantly dealing the hosts the same amount of damage, things could have gone way differently for the Blues.

Still, split-second plays do no justice to Chelsea’s solidity in defence. But as expertly explained by the tactical expert in Tuchel, there is way more to it than just knowing how to defend well.

“Many times attacking is a good way to defend your own goal, and sometimes in the 50 matches we were forced to overcome difficult moments.

“Sometimes we had to dig in and defend deep, which we don’t like too much, but I feel the players are very open to finding solutions and going through difficult moments.

“It’s a team sport, it’s what we all love about it.”

You do not need to be an expert to see the variations that Tuchel and his Chelsea team deploy on the pitch across a 90-minute game time. While we enjoy the high press, maintaining it for an entire match would be too costly on our player’s legs. So we weave through different types of “height” in our lines, depending on what the occasion demands with every player dedicating themselves to the crest and to each other.

“We attack together and defend together. There are many ways to defend: high pressing, counter-pressing, sitting deep. They are all allowed, and every way is beautiful. We are constantly on it, but it’s not the case we spend 90 per cent of our time thinking about defensive solutions. It’s more or less the opposite.

“The open-minded players and the quality of the players, in combination with the mentality of the club, is a very good mix to produce numbers like this.”

The media loves soundbites — but to be honest, who does not? And Tuchel gave them what they wanted by praising what he called the ‘invisible work’ by our players in the Juventus game.

Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

If it sounds a bit like dark arts or magic, it kind of is when you start to piece together how the team is working so well in the tiniest of details.

“If you look at the goal from N’Golo at Leicester, I was surprised when I saw it again and realised Toni Rüdiger was the first one to be there and congratulate and hug him. How fast did that happen?! He scored from the 18-yard box!

“When you look at it in detail, while N’Golo is driving with the ball, you will see Toni is closing the space and doing this kind of invisible work to close a striker down, [Ademola] Lookman. If the shot was blocked, and the ball came into that area, Toni is the first one to counter-press. He takes the responsibility so Lookman cannot get the ball freely, turn and initiate a counter-attack that ends with Vardy scoring.

“This is the kind of work where we are taking care with our roles. Toni’s work was very humble because it’s not often N’Golo scores from 18 yards on his left foot. He did not just step back and watch, he did his part.”

-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Chelsea FC

This is in the same lane as our strikers making runs to create space for their colleagues, often taking themselves out of play to allow guys like Reece James to take potshots at opposing goalkeepers. Or Jorginho calmly putting on a midfield masterclass when all eyes were on the five to six players forming an offensive juggernaut whenever Juventus dared pushing up against us.

It is all quite visible. You just need to pay attention, and enjoy the great work at display by this Chelsea team building greatness in front of our very eyes, week in and out.