For much of 2021, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea looked to be doing the one thing we had not been able to do since 2017, close the gap — proverbial and competitive — to Manchester City. While City still ran away with the title (12-point gap to second, 19-point gap to Chelsea in fourth), we beat them three times in a row, in three different competitions, including the Champions League final.
The start of the 2021-22 season followed up that success with Chelsea — despite losing to Manchester City at the Bridge at the end of September — leading the league for two months, October and November. But we’ve dropped 13 points in the last 9 games and find ourselves staring up at a double-digit gap to City once again.
So what’s gone wrong? As far as Tuchel’s concerned, the main difference between us dropping points and them winning 11 in a row, is simply injuries (both actual injuries, and also isolation after positive tests).
“The biggest difference in the season as far as I’m concerned is they dealt better with injuries and the Covid situation. Maybe it is lucky, maybe they do it better, but they have fewer injuries to key players, fewer days out and weeks where they miss them. They did not suffer from Covid like we did. This is a huge difference.
“We had some draws this season that were unnecessary. If you have your full squad you create a certain atmosphere for everybody that pushes everybody to the edge and you need to be on your edge and at the very highest level if you want to compete with Man City. [...] If you have your 19/20 players from 23, always and constantly available, this creates energy, atmosphere and extra edge you need if you want to be on level where Man City is.”
“[They] are the strongest team in the UK and I think the Premier League is the toughest league in Europe, the toughest competition. They are on a level of consistency, quality and producing results even when it is getting close like the game against Arsenal, turning things around. They are very strong, it’s a tough one.”
And unfortunately, we have yet another COVID case in the team, with Andreas Christensen testing positive and thus set to miss out on the trip to the Etihad, as well as the midweek game against Brighton.
“Trevoh [Chalobah] will be out, Ben Chilwell will be out, Reece James out. That’s it from the injuries. And we have one positive Covid test with Andreas Christensen, so he is out for the game.”
Beyond injuries and unavailabilities, there are also some tactical considerations to examine, with the aforementioned defeat standing in stark contrast to our victories earlier in the year. Given that Tuchel surprised Antonio Conte with a back-four (twice!), he could yet have a few tricks up his sleeve as we attempt to reduce the gap.
“My approach was the wrong approach tactically. It made us too passive, we could have done better, but I think the approach was too passive, too defensive. It was not meant like this but it turned out this way. So lesson learned.”
“If you look at the points in the table, the consistency, it is a significant [gap] and we have to prove. We have to prove to ourselves that we can step up and close it day in day out. We have trust in what we do, in our players and trust in the mentality of our club that we can do it.
“[But] it is not enough to find our 100%. We need to overperform to catch City, to be on top of the Premier League. To overperform you need simply everybody, that’s why we are hoping to get players back.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Here’s to overperforming then!