Chelsea somehow managed to contrive to lose to mid-table bogey team Arsenal for the third game running last night, and this one in even more spectacular fashion than usual thanks a calamitous pseudo-own goal that gifted the inert visitors the game’s only goal. Meanwhile, Chelsea wasted our customary boatload of chances, hit the woodwork twice late on, and got no love from VAR, but that own-goal set the tone for much of the game and we never managed to rise above it.
Three of the principals involved in said turning point — and thus all sharing blame to some degree — were left-center back Kurt Zouma, midfielder Jorginho, and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, all three of whom were in some way affected by Tuchel’s lineup decisions, which the head coach confirmed in various post-match interviews.
Kepa, for example, was playing to get his blood pumping ahead of Saturday’s final, in which he’s set to start. This sounds a bit novel, but Tuchel has done this sort of thing before, rewarding Kepa with back-to-back starts in league and Cup, so hopefully it’ll pay off this time as well.
“[Kepa] starts the cup final and we thought it was a good idea to give him the game before. We trust him and he deserves it, that is the basis why we put him in the line-up. He deserves it. He is so close and good in training. We wanted to give him some minutes and to take both games together. It was an unlucky night for him as well.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Meanwhile, the decision whom to start in midfield was once again forced onto Tuchel thanks to not only Mateo Kovačić’s hamstring injury but also some “pain management” for N’Golo Kanté, who’s been apparently dealing with some Achilles trouble as Tuchel revealed to Chelsea TV.
N’Golo must be protected at all cost, so giving the Jorginho-Gilmour combo a try was understandable. Gilmour’s four previous starts under Tuchel had come paired with either Kanté (2x), Kovačić, or Mount.
So Kante was left out by Tuchel for #CFC v #AFC due to injury after all. Speaking to the 5th Stand app, he said: “N’Golo (was left out) for pain management. He has pain in the achilles and he suffers from that. There was no chance (he could play) because we miss Kovacic (too).”— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) May 12, 2021
Lastly, Kurt Zouma was filling in for Antonio Rüdiger on the left edge of the backline because Toni was in “overload and risk of injury”, and will be needed for the massive trophy matches and must-wins coming up. (And Andreas Christensen’s injured, though he probably wouldn’t have filled in on the left side anyway.)
Way I read this is that it's an issue being managed right now & with Kovacic also having an issue, Tuchel decided Kante couldn't be risked. He went on to explain he didn't pick Rudiger cos he's close to red zone (when you're vulnerable to injury) & already without Christensen.— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) May 12, 2021
None of that excuses the mistake, or our inability to score a goal despite generating several good-to-great chances. Tuchel himself was ruing some of his lineup decisions after the match.
But all we can do now is learn from this and make up for it with four wins from the last four games.