The Champions of Europe are back to competitive football after two and half months, which really didn’t seem that long with plenty of football (Euros) and sports (Olympics) to keep us entertained. And in fact, in many ways, it really wasn’t very long at all, with many key players from last season arriving late for preseason due to international commitments, and still lacking match fitness.
So as we take on Europa League winners Villarreal tomorrow night at Windsor Park with the UEFA Super Cup at stake — the only European trophy that's eluded Chelsea in Roman's reign thus far — head coach Thomas Tuchel’s facing a fairly sizeable selection headache, which he expects will not go away anytime soon thanks to what’s looking like a very busy and demanding season ahead (which is of course what we want, to compete for every trophy possible).
“Tomorrow we arrive with a squad with some players who actually had one in-house squad game for 45 minutes, and we arrive with players who have been training for five weeks and four matches in their legs. We were often on the pitch twice a day for double sessions, we had to split the groups, then we had the possibility for a lot of loan guys back at Cobham so we could provide good football training and not just physical work.
“Overall, we did the best that we could and I had fantastic support. We arrive at this moment and play an important match, which is fine for us but for a lot of players, the preparation for a very demanding season — including for the Club World Cup in December — will continue over the next weeks. Of course, we will have a lot of players in a much better shape after the next international break
“[This] is our first competitive match. We have to consider all scenarios because there could be extra time, we could even play 120 minutes. We will have training today and some of the guys maybe start. Then we have to have a scenario in our heads who ends the match, who is better to come onto the pitch, who could have an influence from the bench, who is more comfortable starting. This is the challenge for today but it’s important not to get lost in all these thoughts because it’s a competitive match. It’s not only about sharing minutes, it’s about the first title that we want to win.”
In just six months under Tuchel, Chelsea secured a top four finish, reached the FA Cup final, and won the Champions League, earning the gaffer a well deserved contract extension in the process.
This has undoubtedly raised the bar for both the coach and the players to at least maintain, but hopefully better the performances from last season — especially if certain quality additions are made to the squad as well.
Tuchel knows the magnitude of the task ahead and the dangers inherent in the job, but all he can do is focus on the things he can control and get his players to keep following him with the same dedication, attitude, and commitment as last season.
“It doesn’t feel like pressure because this is what we demand of ourselves, me at the very first point. I demand to get better every day, use my experience and to be the best coach I can be every single day.
“I want to lead by example to come into Cobham with a good mood and energy and ready to continue the journey together. It is not over, it has just started and hopefully it will be a long journey. The courage now is to face the challenge, does anybody have a recipe how to do better after a Champions League victory? I don’t know, it was my first win so I think the courage is to face the challenges, step up and keep on demanding.
“We have some things we need to develop and improve, there were things that were very strong last season and we have to maintain that level. We have to, clearly, rebuild the same spirit that put us in the position to get these results. There are a lot of different tasks to fulfil and the most important is that we don't lose sight by thinking too much about pressure and expectations.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
It's time to kick off the new season with a European trophy!