Thomas Tuchel was very pleased with the victory against Tottenham last night, and rightly so. It was a dominating performance against a rival, with the first half possibly the best we have seen Chelsea play all season. The team were in firm control, with finishing perhaps the sole quality lacking.
By the end of 90 minutes, that dominance had softened, as Chelsea finished with “just” 58% of possession. Of course, such numbers are far from the be-all and end-all of a football match. However, if there’s been one thing notable about Chelsea’s style throughout the three matches under Tuchel, it’s that we will happily defend with possession. The other team can’t score if they don’t have the ball, after all!
“In general I’m very pleased with the result. It’s a deserved win. We were very, very good in the first half, very dominant, very strong with the ball, very good in counter pressing and did not allow counter attacks against one of the most dangerous teams, maybe in Europe, for counter attacks.”
“That was very, very strong. We lacked a little bit of precision in the box of composure to make it 2-0 to score more goals to decide the match.”
“In the second half it was a bit harder because we had some easy ball losses and lost a little bit of ball possession and of confidence, but we never lost intensity and we never lost the structure to defend and we never lost the intensity to push up high and the courage to defend up high and up front.”
Spurs' shots against Chelsea:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 4, 2021
1st-85th minute: 3
86th+ minute: 4
Leaving it too late. pic.twitter.com/xNYEKGypB0
The second half certainly played out differently than the first, after what surely was a bit of the ol’e “hairdryer treatment” from José Mourinho for his team during half-time. Tottenham began to press further up the pitch, to moderate success but still causing Chelsea considerably more trouble than the first half’s walk in the park. Our anxiety grew larger as the second half progressed, as Chelsea lacked the finishing necessary to put the game to bed with a second goal.
After just three matches, it would be much too soon to gather anything meaningful about Tuchel’s tactics and system. However, on the surface, Tuchel’s setup and success so far, with a balanced set of three central defenders flanked by wingbacks, can be easily compared to the success Antonio Conte found in 2016-17.
What we do know is that Tuchel is a very flexible manager, willing to try multiple approaches. While it is unknown what the future will look like tactically for Chelsea, in this moment right now, it’s hard to argue against the success we have found with this Conte-esque system. Tuchel even conjured up the best — or is it the worst? — of Conte’s press conferences of old, admitting that the players were “ready to suffer” to see the match out to a nervy finish where the margin of victory was only one goal.
“With that I’m very, very pleased. It is normal. If you play a dominant game like this, if you don’t score the second one it can happen that some minutes arrive where you have to suffer and we were absolutely ready for that mentally and physically and I’m super happy with the effort.”
“We defended excellently. We had half chances, big chances in counter attacks, okay we couldn’t finish them. We conceded only one chance and that was when Tottenham risked a lot and that’s why I’m happy.”
(Ed.note: if we “suffer” our way to a league title and FA Cup trophy under Tuchel as well, I certainly won’t be complaining!)
So, three games, three clean sheets, three unbeaten. And three goals scored.
Tuchel has a history and pedigree of getting his teams to play attractive, free-flowing attacking football. The defensive solidity from the get-go under Tuchel is really good to see — (ed.note: can’t lose if you don’t concede, after all!) — but the lack of attacking output is at the moment a cause of concern.
“We need to create more clear chances. This is the objective and this is the job for me and I blame nobody. This is the job for me and I blame nobody because I never scored in my career in the second and third league.”
“It is the hardest thing, or one of the hardest things in football to score and be calm. But we have trust in our players and we will work to create even more chances and to create more clear chances and to be more effective. But, it is hard to talk the guys into it. No, in general everyone wants to score with every half-chance and chance we have. It is not like this in the Premier League so no worries so far.”
- Thomas Tuchel, source: Football.London
“Trust the Process” is one of my favorite sports adages, even when used ironically by Philadelphia 76ers fans in the face of their team losing to accumulate draft picks. Obviously, that intent of the phrase does not apply to Chelsea, but in this moment, Tuchel has Chelsea working towards a system that allows his attacking players to thrive.
The optimist in me believes we will get to see the best of Chelsea soon. Could be as soon as this Sunday against Sheffield United.