Only one player is set to miss tomorrow’s match against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge, confirmed Thomas Tuchel in this morning’s press conference.
Unfortunately, that player is N’Golo Kanté, and while that’s not a surprise following the hamstring injury suffered against Spurs a couple weeks ago, Tuchel has now confirmed that NG will be out for at least another four weeks, and that’s going to be a problem (just as it was against Leeds United).
“N’Golo is the only one that did not train now this week. [We] are talking about four weeks plus. [...] It’s difficult to replace him, he’s very unique.
“We were full of hope after pre-season because we built his pre-season very individually. He had a long pre-season, a good pre-season, felt good. For many weeks he felt very strong, getting enough rest and build-up to be the player he can be for us. We started with one game a week so the hopes were high that he can play consistently for us.”
This is of course not the first time Kanté has missed time in recent seasons, and perhaps the sad time has arrived to make a few tactical tweaks as a result. Tuchel’s certainly thinking about that at least — not massive changes, but clearly we cannot replace Kanté like-for-like.
“I told you at the end of last season he is our key player normally. He gives something to our team that no other player in the world can give to any other team. That makes him a key player. If your key player is out, it’s a situation you don’t like but have to deal with. It has huge influence.”
“[Whether] we build another system, I don’t know. We have trust in our players. It will maybe be the same system. We played many games, unfortunately, without him in the same structure. It will be slightly different because every player is a bit different. That is the challenge to adapt to this, use different players differently. To change completely because N’Golo is not there, I don’t think so.”
In better news, Mateo Kovačić has returned from his knee injury and come through training this week without any setbacks. While he’s not ready to start, he’s penciled in for 20 minutes off the bench.
As Tuchel says, it would certainly not behoove us in the long run to push Kova too much too soon, so hopefully we stick to the plan.
“Kova is back in the group and ready to play some 20 minutes. We miss him as a personality, his experience and his quality. It’s maybe 20 minutes at the moment.
“Was his first training week without reaction in the knee so we cannot rush things otherwise we will just sabotage our own plans with him. We need him long term. It’s good to have him back and as an option on the bench.”
As always, regardless of who’s chosen to play, we need a reaction after the debacle that was the previous game. While Leeds have been lauded just a bit too much for a victory we practically handed them on a silver platter, that’s hardly the first time we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and none of our strengths on paper and well-thought out (or not so well-thought out) processes will matter one bit if we keep doing that.
Chelsea have lost back-to-back games under Tuchel just three times (counting all competitions), and not once strictly in the Premier League, and while we’ve had a few too many draws at times, we can hopefully count on a proper response this weekend, if nothing else.
“Always, we always see a response. That’s the good thing, we absolutely dislike losing and as painful as it is to analyse these things and look at it again, it’s necessary, we always get a response. The reasons are obvious, the reasons are clear.
“We are in a period, the last week, a full week to prepare the match. We used it, in our opinion, as good as possible to get back in shape and install confidence in what we do. We don’t like these things but maybe in a process like this they are necessary to sharpen your vision and have a clear view on where to put the focus. This is what we did. Now we have to compensate the loss of Kalidou Koulibaly and N’Golo Kante. From there we go. The team is hopefully well; prepared and ready to go tomorrow.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Let’s hope so!