Two big names missing from Chelsea’s preseason tour of the USA are N’Golo Kanté and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whose absences were explained by a casual mention on the Chelsea official website that they are unvaccinated (and thus not allowed to enter the United States).
But of course, there are much greater issues at play here, in terms of not only their decision to not to take the vaccine but also in terms of their physical absence from two weeks of preseason preparations, training, conditioning, team-building. And while they have continued to train with the Development Squad (and did partake in Friday’s 4-2 friendly win at Boreham Wood), it’s not quite the same as being with Thomas Tuchel and the rest of the first-team squad.
The head coach is of course not best pleased by this situation, one that is entirely out of his control. While individual choices can be respected, in this case, they have had a (relatively slight) detriment to the team, and that’s not going to be an ideal situation in any case.
“N’Golo is preparing himself with Ruben. We cannot force them (to be vaccinated). It is at the moment a very normal decision to get vaccinated. Both players took the decision not to.
“We need to follow the rules, so they cannot join us. They know about the consequences. We don’t like it, of course not. We would love to have them here and it’s not an ideal solution. Far from ideal. But once the situation is like this you need to come up with a solution.
“So they have their coaches there (in England). They have coaches from us there who take care. They train with the Under-23s, but they go to the United States too, so then they go with the Under-19s to not be completely not in a group. But it will not compensate, it will not be the same.”
One gets the feeling that the situation is perhaps more detrimental for Loftus-Cheek, with Kanté’s place in the squad obviously quite assured. RLC’s versatility was useful last season, but the overall narrative has been more of a promise unfulfilled rather than indispensability. For NG, we might even be able to put a positive spin on things.
“For N’Golo, it is maybe not even the worst thing to do, so we can give him a very individual load. A very, very individualised load for him. So maybe we can turn a disadvantage into an advantage
“I don’t think he, in particular, needs a long time to adapt to our game because N’Golo is N’Golo and everybody is aware that he is a key player and needs to be a key player if you want to win big stuff.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Telegraph
Chelsea return to Europe in a little over a week, after which we will have just two weeks left before the start of the season. Here’s hoping we can all hit the ground running, vaccination status notwithstanding.