Chelsea’s five-match winning streak came to a grinding halt at St Mary’s on Saturday, unable to (completely) overcome the first goal ever scored by an opposition player against Tuchel’s Blues. While we did manage a share of the spoils at least, the team’s attacking output was found wanting yet again. As with Lampard, and now with Tuchel, Chelsea’s inability to generate and convert chances consistently is coming back to bite us in the (rear) end.
In his first season, Frank Lampard tried to solve that problem mostly by just throwing as many attacking players on the pitch as he possibly could, conceding an absurd, almost (modern) club-record amount of league goals in the process. The second season saw a bit more measured approach, helped in part by key signings at goalkeeper and in defense, but in turn, the attack suffered Texas-sized power outages at regular intervals. In Lampard’s final eight Premier League games, Chelsea scored just eight goals, three of which came against West Ham in one of the only two wins during that slide.
Lampard placed those failings of finding balance largely at the feet of the players rather than tactics — a classic managerial death knell — though ultimately it’s always up to the players to make a head coach look good or bad. Tuchel knows that just as well.
“We will work on it, but you will score goals in any structure and concede then in any structure. The structure is never the problem or the solution. It is always the input of the players, the structure is fluid. You find the spaces where you find the spaces, in different structures, you find different spaces.”
There’s a fine line between “it’s up to the players” and “it’s up the players in the given structure”, but it’s the line that the best coaches can toe seamlessly (and give credit when it works, and take responsibility when it doesn’t).
Tuchel seems well aware that his current preferred structure isn’t exactly providing the ideal framework for the players to succeed. On paper it might be, but in reality, it isn’t. It works at one end (save for the breakdown and lapse of concentration against Southampton), but it doesn’t really at the other (just 9 goals in 7 in all competitions — only marginally better than we were before).
So that’s his challenge as we head into the meaty part of the schedule. To find that elusive balance that gives a chance to win games based on less-fine margins than are deciding them right now.
“For sure you can pick more offensive players but it is in the moment it is a balanced game. It is about not conceding and also scoring.
“You can be sure we think day and night about scoring and creating chances. We play high up the pitch and given the statistics from the last matches, I know we don’t score enough for the amount of touches in the box, the number of shots, the number of chances we’re creating. At this moment, it is a lack of precision, it’s not a lack of opportunities or lack of touches in the box. It is a lack of quality in decision-making.
“I will have to analyse and it is my job to create more or bigger chances.”
“My job is to win games, not to put some expensive guys together.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
That job went unfinished on Saturday.
Tuesday is a different day and a new chance (albeit a much tougher one) to make it work.