All’s well that ends well, but for large portions of Wednesday night’s League Cup third round win over Aston Villa, Thomas Tuchel cut a frustrated figure on the touchline and in the dugout.
There was certainly a lot of gesturing, a lot of pointing, and a lot of yelling, with the fourth official at one point even feeling the need to get involved and presumably tell the Chelsea head coach to tone it down a bit. (And that was before Tuchel really exploded thanks to a most egregious yellow card was given to Reece James because of the referee falling for Emiliano Buendía’s simulation of getting hit in the face.)
Considering that Tuchel put out a fully rotated lineup (all but the goalkeeper) featuring several players who had never played with each other, and that after just a couple days of training, the lack of fluidity and cohesion was perhaps not surprising. Tuchel himself acknowledged that afterwards as well, giving credit for the players for sticking to their tasks and improving markedly as the game went along, especially in the second half.
“We knew after the Tottenham game who we wanted to get 90 minutes into the legs of.
“So two days and we worked on the same principles. It was the same structure so we don’t make it too complicated or unfair [on the players]. What we demanded was intensity, energy, attitude, to try their very best. Maybe we didn’t expect the most fluid and precise attacking game from the start but it got better and better because the guys did well on this and it’s a perfect evening.”
Attitude and commitment have been some of the key operative words thrown around during Tuchel’s tenure, and that was certainly the case in this one as well, turning what could’ve been basically a fitness exercise into an exciting game, and a useful game with several outstanding individual performances (James, Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek come to mind, not to mention Werner getting a goal and of course Kepa again being all heroic in the shootout).
It was precisely the sort of performance you want to see from a bunch of players, some playing in unfamiliar positions as well, thrown together in a competitive setting for the first time on short notice: lacking in details, but not in overall focus or dedication.
“I’m happy because we won, it was a hard one, and now we have some competitive minutes in more players’ legs.
“We had many changes, the team had never played in this formation. This needs a bit of time on the field, but it was important we don’t expect too much in terms of how we create chances. We expected energy and teamwork, and this is what we got out of it. With every minute we got more confident.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Winning is fun. Winning is a habit. As Tuchel said, it was a perfect night in the end, including in setting us up for Saturday’s early kick-off against the defending champions.