Thomas Tuchel’s solid start to life as Chelsea manager hit a bit of bump yesterday. No, he still hasn’t lost a match — although the 1-1 draw against Southampton wasn’t anything to write home about — but he committed a most cardinal sin in the eyes of the football gods by substituting a substitute without being prompted by an injury.
The rarity of such a happenstance ensured that it was central to any and all post-match discussion, regardless of how much it may or may not have affected the actual outcome. It also ensured that any such discussion was basically an episode of overreaction theater.
Tuchel himself was more than willing to elaborate on his thought process, which of course didn’t help the situation either. Too much trust in the audience, Tommy Cool, just like Christopher Nolan with Tenet.
But at the end of the day, both head coach and player have to move on from this disturbance in the force that caused a million voices to cry out in agony, and get back to the business of winning games. Whether Twitter will be able to handle the decision of Hudson-Odoi starting or not starting on Tuesday against Atlético Madrid is one thing that won’t be playing on Tuchel’s mind however. He’s more concerned about what he’s seeing from Hudson-Odoi as a starter versus Hudson-Odoi as a substitute.
“Tomorrow it’s already over and maybe he starts against Atletico if we need his qualities. But then he needs to be trustworthy and reliable and this is the next step for him. He’s a bit in trouble when he comes off the bench, it was like this against Sheffield [United] and today.
“So it’s on him to improve because we need him in some games from the bench, to hang in a different way. So now it’s forgotten and he has step up, learn from it, swallow it, and there’s no problem.”
It’s ironic that it’s Hudson-Odoi with whom Tuchel has made his first public faux pas of the Chelseaverse considering that the young winger has been a key feature of the new head coach’s gameplans since day zero. The same certainly couldn’t be said of Frank Lampard, who seemingly couldn’t quite bring himself to trust this one Chelsea Academy product as much as most of the others of the Youth Revolution™.
Lampard may have (also) criticized Callum at times for similar issues with effort and attitude, but Tuchel has been very generous with the 20-year-old, and had been reaping the rewards of those decisions as well. Chelsea’s attack has lacked a cutting edge, but Hudson-Odoi has been one of the sharper Blues thus far.
If we can react in a good way to this cataclysmic event, we should expect that to continue.
“In a game that it is hard to create chances, you need to rely on counter-pressing to maybe force errors, to get a second ball and get an easy chance. For that, you need to be totally on and totally sharp. I didn’t feel this from Callum today.
“He missed chances to counter-press, lost some easy balls. I had the feeling he was never really into the game. You know I trust him a lot because he plays every game for us but today I was close to him and I don’t know, maybe it was unfair, but I didn’t get the feeling today that I normally get from him because he can be decisive.”
Tuchel had several well-publicized substitution dramas (of the more common kind) with Kylian Mbappé at PSG, while we were reminded of a certain José Mourinho once pulling this same stunt with Nemanja Matić in 2015 as well. Matić of course wasn’t entirely happy about that, but would end up leaving Chelsea a couple years later to reunite with Mourinho at Manchester United. Football may look upon this as a “humiliation” because football can be weird about certain things, but at the end of the day, it’s just ... well, football. It’s not life or death, unless we want it to be.
Hudson-Odoi has spoken positively about Tuchel already, and vice versa. And obviously on the pitch, things have been good, if not great. This moment may prove an inflection point in that relationship, and perhaps Tuchel’s time overall at Chelsea, but whether that’ll be in a positive or negative direction is entirely up to the principals involved.
“It was a hard decision but nothing that will stick between us or stick for long. Tomorrow it will be forgotten and we will prepare for Atletico.”
“No, absolutely not [worried it will affect his confidence]. Everyone has to understand that I make decisions to win games and there is no problem that he makes mistakes, has a bad game, or does a miss, but we can’t lack energy even 10% or 5%. It’s not possible.
“I know what he can give, it’s why I trust him a lot. That will not change. He knows exactly what I demand from him and when he doesn’t reach this level, maybe it means a hard decision like today. There is no need to think in old-fashioned terms that this is the worst thing that can ever happen, no.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Chelsea’s next six games are against Atlético Madrid (twice), Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, and Leeds United. That run could certainly make something far worse happen than substituting a substitute after 30 second-half minutes for a clearly explained reason (regardless of whether you agree with the reason or not).
We move on.