Build a house on solid rock, and “though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock”. That would be a good way to summarise Chelsea’s recently found success under manager Thomas Tuchel, with the team becoming a defensive juggernaut since the German boss took the club over at the end of January.
Chelsea allowed their opponents to create virtually nothing of value again last night.— Josh Williams (@DistanceCovered) March 18, 2021
Here’s the big difference between Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel. pic.twitter.com/j3VNuwPY1r
And we often speak of this success in terms of it being a result of Tuchel bringing Chelsea back to a three-man defence and using midfielder N’Golo Kanté appropriately, with the Frenchman and our centre-backs all in great form while clearing balls left, right and centre for the Blues. But that is not the main ingredient in our recipe.
“I know that the focus is big on defending at the moment because we have conceded very few goals and we have been able to earn clean sheets, which is very hard to earn in modern football.
“But to move the ball, to have ball possession, is a way to defend. At the moment you have the ball, you have no chance to concede a goal.”
Since Tuchel took over, we have averaged over 63% ball retention. But we are not afraid to let our opponents hog the ball to themselves and still come out as winners, as it was the case against Liverpool where the Blues had their least amount of possession thus far under the German head coach — 45%.
Either way, our success in keeping such great numbers in defence is down to a collective effort from top to bottom, beginning with Édouard Mendy’s intercepting crosses and using his big hands to slap balls away from our goalposts, to Timo Werner using his pace not just to hit teams on the break but also to tackle his opponents.
“Football is a very complex game and you need to be good in all parts of it. I am very happy because we invest a lot, we play a high-intensity game, and we have huge effort as a team, in many combinations, with many changes, and the players compete on a very high level and get deserved results.
“We are happy to keep the momentum going. We are very solid, very brave. We try to be very active throughout the match, we are confident in our physical performances, in the physical input that we can give.
“If you look at the goal against Atlético, you can see Timo [Werner] doing a tackle before the counter-attack starts. And that is what makes it special - that we defend together and attack together.”
A seemingly impenetrable defence echoing the likes of Mourinho Mk.I, great offensive plays and players, and a focus on ball retention not just for the sake of it. This has been the foundation of “Tuchelball” at Chelsea, leading to the 13-match unbeaten streak to start Tuchel’s spell as our manager.
Many have been surprised by Tuchel being able to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around so quickly, after so many frailties from the team exposed before his arrival. But this success is not really a surprise for the man behind it.
“Surprised is the wrong word. I am impressed by the club, the structure, and the support from the first minute. I am impressed with the feeling I got from the first day I had here.
“I am impressed by my team, the attitude of the players, their capability to play at an intense level. This is an amazing feeling for me. We never thought about what was possible and the limit will never change. We go game-by-game, step-by-step.
“To play at this level is impressive and at the end, it’s what makes it possible to be serious. We need luck, little decisions, momentum, this is normal. But the foundation for all this is the attitude from the club.”
-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Sky Sports
Although Roman Abramovich is now seeing Chelsea in a much broader light than a football club, it would be safe to assume he still wants to fulfil that old wish of his: finding an on-pitch identity for the club he so loves. And it is difficult not to see, and also hope, that Tuchel can be the one to provide that for Abramovich and the rest of us Chelsea loyal.