Thomas Tuchel sounded as surprised as anyone when it was put to him ahead of facing Arsenal on Wednesday night that he had made seven changes to his side.
“Seven? Seven (changes) to the City game. It didn’t feel like so many changes but some of them are out for just one match, so they have two matches in a week.”
For a head coach and deep thinker like Tuchel, that came as a surprise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially if you are looking back on a defeat which is exactly what Chelsea are doing after their 1-0 reverse to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in midweek.
One of those changes was enforced with Andreas Christensen missing out through injury, replaced by Kurt Zouma in Tuchel’s five-man defence.
Also coming in from Saturday’s win at Man City were Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Jorginho and Kepa Arrizabalaga. Out went Antonio Rudiger, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kante, Edouard Mendy and the injured Christensen.
Chelsea produced a lethargic, insipid and flat display in west London as Arsenal inflicted just a third defeat on Tuchel since he took over from Frank Lampard in late January.
The race for the top four is still in Chelsea’s hands, even with Liverpool seven points behind them and with two games in hand. The FA Cup final is in their hands, so is the Champions League final. It is not all doom and gloom but this is arguably the first bump in the road for the German since he arrived in England.
Plenty have been waxing lyrical about the former PSG coach in the aftermath of the 2-1 win at the Etihad and rightly so as he transformed Chelsea since replacing the floundering Lampard.
All the changes over the last two games, while it worked against City in the second half, have come back to bite Tuchel. It’s an entirely fair thing to do however considering the Blues will have one eye on Saturday’s final at Wembley and then the showpiece in, we believe, Porto later this month against Guardiola’s side in the biggest game of the lot.
But Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal has left them in danger of allowing others to catch up in the race for the top four. While winning the Champions League will guarantee a spot in next year’s competition, that’s not something the Blues should be relying on and no-one knows that more than Tuchel.
Liverpool head into Thursday’s rescheduled visit to Old Trafford seven points behind Chelsea with two games in hand. West Ham are six points back and have, on paper, a much easier run-in to the season.
Chelsea will be confident of getting the job done in their final two games despite Wednesday’s setback though the visit of Leicester to Stamford Bridge next Tuesday has taken on added significance.
Tuchel has to balance his squad for their two remaining Premier League matches against the Foxes and the final day trip to Villa Park, while also having the two cup finals on his mind.
The head coach said post-match after the defeat: “For me, maybe it was too many changes from the last match and I take responsibility for that. Maybe it is a wake-up call.”
Tuchel also added he saw something he didn’t like in training on Tuesday. He stopped short of saying what that was.
Tuchel has had to take this one on the chin. He hasn’t got much, if anything, wrong since he was parachuted in to rescue Chelsea’s season which was in danger of collapsing when Lampard left the club reeling in tenth place in the table.
But as well as Tuchel owning up to his mistakes, he will want to see his Chelsea players respond as well. Reece James admitted post-match there was no-one to blame but themselves for the dire showing in midweek.
With a massive final three weeks of the season coming up, Tuchel has hit his first bump in the road. If anyone can get their team back up and running quickly then it is the affable German, and winning the FA Cup would be the perfect tonic for what is to come.
Source by Football London