Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola are two of the sharpest tactical minds in world football. So when they deliver their analysis of a game, especially one as big as the Champions League final, a lot of people listen. That was the case this afternoon.
The Chelsea head coach and Manchester City boss conducted simultaneous press conferences ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League clash between their sides at Stamford Bridge. Naturally, both faced questions about their last meeting: the Champions League final.
It was Chelsea who lifted the trophy in May’s showpiece game after securing a deserved 1-0 victory. Kai Havertz was the match-winner, his first-half goal coming from an expertly crafted long, incisive through ball from Mason Mount.
There was plenty of excellent defending from the Blues too. Tellingly, City were able to complete just seven passes into the 18-yard box, per FBRef. By contrast, Chelsea managed to do so on ten occasions despite having 20% less of the ball.
That victory in Portugal was the third in succession recorded by Chelsea over Man City since Tuchel’s appointment. And ahead of tomorrow’s clash at Stamford Bridge, Guardiola was asked what lessons he could take from the Champions League final defeat. His response irked the Blues fanbase.
“We play a great final,” the Catalan said. “We lost but played a great final. We lacked a bit of precision in the last part of the game, we lost the second balls and their transitions are so, so good. They regain the ball, they regain again, and make a quick transition.
“Their structure defensively is so good: the physicality, the movement, the quality in the short spaces. They control all departments which is why it was difficult in the final of the Champions League against an exceptional team.
“I had the feeling in the game and when I saw it again, is that we played with a lot of courage with personality but, unfortunately, we could not do it as with the counter-attacks, long balls, second balls they were much better than us they beat us.”
It was the term ‘long balls’ that ruffled the few feathers of Chelsea supporters. Many felt it unfair, a cheap shot taken by a coach scorned by a painful defeat. That City attempted more long passes (76) than Tuchel’s side in Porto (71) certainly gave that theory credence.
Of course, there was verticality to Chelsea’s game; Havertz’s goal highlighted that perfectly. Edouard Mendy played the ball out to Ben Chilwell, he laid it inside to Mount who threaded his 40-yard pass through to Havertz, who rounded Ederson to score. From one goal to the other in seven touches.
So yes, long passes. But as Tuchel was asked in his own press conference, that alone wasn’t enough to overcome Man City, was it?
“If you play against Manchester City and these kinds of times, you need a very complex performance,” the Chelsea head coach said.
“It is not only about long balls and second balls, it’s also about long balls and second balls. It’s about escaping the pressure with your passing ability but also with dribbles, with courage, intensity, and winning second balls.
“It’s also about suffering, defending, never becoming too passive. It’s about everything, really. It’s a huge, huge challenge and they [Man City] put you under so much pressure. They have so much belief in what they do and Pep’s teams bring out the very best in you.
“This can be an endless debate I think. You will find there are people with the same feeling and belief that we may have slightly deserved to win [the Champions League final]. You will find people who argue that it could’ve gone the other way and I think everybody is right.
“When I analyse the last three games, I still feel that these games could have gone either way. If City scores the first goal, we maybe have a whole different talk about it now.
“So it is about the first goal, the reaction, defending, tackles, a shot hitting the bar or the back of the net, it’s about details. We can never, never lose intensity or focus against Pep’s teams, it’s simply impossible. That’s what I mean.
“I expect another 50/50 match tomorrow and we know how tough they can be. We want to make it very tough for City again.”
Source by Football London