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Tuchel happy as ‘last minute’ tactical switch, personnel change pay off for Chelsea against Spurs

League Cup semifinal first leg in the book

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Carabao Cup - Semi Final - First Leg - Stamford Bridge Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Perhaps the only negative for Chelsea from Wednesday night’s League Cup semifinal first leg against Tottenham Hotspur is that we’re only up by two goals after a dominant, controlled, and quite pleasing performance. And also Kai Havertz’s broken finger — though which, while painful, shouldn’t keep him out of action once it’s set in cast.

“We could’ve created a bigger cushion. Yes, it was possible. We created a lot and were very strong because it is so hard to create against Tottenham as we’ve seen in the last few games.

“[At the end] we were very worried but Azpi says it was only a cramp, not an injury. That would be the good news and we trust him so hopefully, it is only a cramp. Kai was an issue with his finger. I think he broke his finger; it looked horrible. He played through the pain but it was getting bigger and bigger with every movement and touch from the opponent. He survived until half time and then we needed a change.”

Antonio Conte came in unbeaten in domestic competitions as Spurs boss, but Tuchel appeared to win the tactical battle by surprising everyone with a 4-3-3 formation — the first time he had gone to a back-four from the start of a game as Chelsea head coach. Previously we had only seen that option deployed in-game.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Tuchel also made a couple personnel changes, some voluntary like restoring Romelu Lukaku at striker, some enforced with Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kanté testing positive. Given all those last-minute changes, everyone involved performed quite admirably indeed.

“I liked this performance. It was far from normal today against Tottenham who are compact and full of confidence.

“We had two last-minute bad news with Thiago and N’Golo who were both supposed to start. We decided yesterday at the last minute to switch to a back four and the guys were very committed, open and focused to play how we played.

“It was good and it was not always fair to demand performances out of nothing like from Hakim [Ziyech], Saúl and Malang [Sarr]. All three were outstanding today. It makes us very happy because it was a well-deserved win against a strong opponent.”

Of course, the tie is not over, with another 90 minutes to follow next Wednesday in the second leg (with another 30 and possibly penalties after that if the scores are level — no away goals). As we saw in the second half, when Conte also changed to a back-four and a midfield-three, Spurs won’t necessarily be as easy to push over as today.

“In the second half, we created a lot, big chances to have a third or fourth goal. Everybody knows the game isn’t decided and we have to arrive at full focus and top shape again. We will need another 90 minutes of top-quality football if we want to go through to Wembley.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London

Eyes on the prize.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images