Chelsea made it two wins from two (official) preseason friendlies yesterday by beating Arsenal at the Emirates, 2-1, and while these results themselves don’t really matter beyond cultivating a winning mentality and the idea of not wanting to lose a rivalry match even in preseason, the individual performances could have a tangible impact.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel is not just keeping an eye on proceedings. As he said the other day, (training) matches provide some of the best chances for him to evaluate players as properly as possible at this time.
One player who could certainly use some attention is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, back from his injury rehab loan at Fulham and feeling fit and ready and strong. But Tuchel wants more than that.
“Generally, I am happy and that’s why he plays, he deserves to play at this point of the preparation. But I think he can do even more, he can show up more. He can show more physical capability and drive more with the ball. I’m never satisfied with him, I have the feeling we need to push him to the absolute limit.
“It’s too early to judge Ruben. He has everything in his hands and it’s on him to decide his own future like every player. He has to keep on going 150% because 100% is not enough.”
Sounds like there could be a spot in the first-team for RLC for the season ahead, though it also sounds like that spot is hardly guaranteed to be his. Just the 150 per cent needed then?
Meanwhile, there is little doubt about the first-team prospects of young wingers Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic, but yesterday both were deployed as wing-backs as Tuchel opted for an ultra-attacking lineup — though still keeping within his usual 3-4-3 setup.
We saw this a fair few times last season, especially with Hudson-Odoi at right wack (though yesterday he was on the left, with Pulisic ont he right!). And given squad situation, we could be seeing it a few times more, even.
“[Pulisic] played there with me at Dortmund and we played many times like this with Callum. Marcos [Alonso] wasn’t able to play today so we put Callum on the left side which I wanted to see from a long time. Callum can maybe be more dangerous from this position coming inside which he loves, and which he did today. So you know our situation.
“We have Azpi and Reece for this position [right wing-back] but Azpi only started two days ago and Reece hasn’t even started yet. So we need solutions because we start on the 11th against Villarreal and on the 14th is the season. We can’t try things then so now is the time to see.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
The positions of James and Azpilicueta on the right and Chilwell and Alonso on the left don’t seem to be truly under any real threat, but it’s certainly great to have such versatility as we look to seriously challenge on four fronts this season.