Thomas Tuchel’s words come back to haunt him with injury blows
Wednesday night’s win over Malmo was a comfortable 90 minutes for Chelsea, who looked revved up from the get-go to put some dodgy performances in recent weeks behind them and make a statement against a side who were winless in the competition so far.
The Blues dished out a walloping we don’t see too often under Tuchel, especially this season. The wins over Crystal Palace on opening weekend and subsequently at Arsenal were comfortable but this was a thrashing.
The Blues dominated from minute one, as they should have done with the team the head coach sent out which took many aback.
Aside from perhaps Ruben Loftus-Cheek, that was Chelsea’s best side on current form if Tuchel were to pick his strongest eleven.
Romelu Lukaku started despite the head coach saying on Tuesday he felt that the striker was overplayed after 70 games for Inter Milan last season, a run to the EURO 2020 quarter finals with Belgium, a few weeks off then back into it with his new club and ten more games for the Blues after making his club-record move from the San Siro to Stamford Bridge.
Yet despite that claim, Tuchel decided to start his number nine in midweek. He perhaps alluded to that on Tuesday when he said that it might be best to get Lukaku back into goalscoring form after six matches without one for the club by continuing to play him despite his heavy workload.
Tuchel said after Wednesday’s win that he didn’t regret his decision despite the striker being forced off in the first half. In fairness, it wasn’t a muscle injury (that fell to Timo Werner instead) but an ankle problem caused by a scything tackle from Lasse Nielsen in giving away the penalty for Chelsea’s second goal.
“If I knew before I wouldn’t have done it,” the head coach said.
“But you can’t know it before and it was necessary that he was on the pitch and he started very strong. I spoke with him about the situation, that I think he carries a bit of mental fatigue around with him. I think that is also normal but he is our number nine and is our reference upfront.
“The best thing against mental fatigue is a goal and we knew we could be the dominant team. We knew we wanted to build our attack today with Mason and Timo around him and him as the reference.
“I had the strong belief that in a Champions League match he could turn things around in terms of scoring and being decisive, which he did because he was super strong in our start. He took the foul and without him maybe it’s not 2-0.”
The win has come at a cost for Tuchel with the injuries to Werner and Lukaku but if he were to pick a run of matches to miss, ones against Norwich, Southampton, Newcastle and the return to Malmo might not be the worst, if that’s how long both are out for
Much-needed confidence for Kai Havertz – especially with the injuries to his teammates
Kai Havertz was pressed into action at a rainy Stamford Bridge a lot earlier than both he and Thomas Tuchel anticipated on Wednesday night.
The German star was once again named among the substitutes for the game having dropped out of favour with Tuchel following a sluggish start to the season that culminated in a desperately poor showing in the defeat to Juventus a fortnight ago.
Timo Werner has been the favoured option for Tuchel since then and had responded with three goals in two games for club and country before drawing a blank in the win over Brentford in that backs-to-the-wall win in west London.
Werner was again preferred against Malmo as Tuchel picked what was, arguably, his strongest side on paper though you can make a claim that on current form, Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be among that cohort.
Havertz’s first piece of play after coming off the bench in the first half was to wildly overhit a square pass to Antonio Rudiger on the slick surface at Stamford Bridge that had been drenched with rain water.
It was a moment that saw Tuchel leap from his seat in the dugout to castigate his countryman, flailing arms everywhere and shouting no end of obscenities.
He did it again not long after when Havertz miscontrolled a ball in midfield and it looked as if the attacker was set for another toil. But, as the game progressed, he got better and more comfortable.
Malmo were struggling to pick up his runs from deep, in the number ten or through the middle as a false nine when countryman Werner went off as well.
Havertz got the goal his confidence desperately needed when he latched onto Hudson-Odoi’s through ball, beat substitute stopper Diawara to the ball and dinked a fine finish over the Malmo man and into the far corner.
It was a goal that was emblematic of Havertz. He showed searing pace to catch up with a ball that looked overhit by Hudson-Odoi and was destined to run out of play but he caught up with it and showed incredibly deftness to flick the ball past the on-rushing Malmo goalkeeper and into the net.
More minutes are likely on the horizon for Havertz as a result of the injuries to both Lukaku and Werner sustained in the first half and Tuchel will be hopeful that after scoring, the Havertz of the final months of last season will come back.
The head coach said post-match: “Always, always a chance and it is always necessary to prove a point. They [Havertz and Hudson-Odoi] can prove a point now so we will have some games without Romelu and Timo so everyone is invited to join the race for minutes on the pitch.
“When they are on the pitch, they need to show their hunger and determination to be decisive and be in the box.
“This is how it is and they did it today but there’s still room to improve and on Saturday we need the same hunger and determination from whoever starts for us because we need goals to win matches.
“We need to find solutions without Romelu and Timo, that’s clear. Everyone will join the race to be decisive for us.”
That includes Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic if and when he’s fit as the two first choice frontmen look set to be sidelined for at least the next game depending on the severity of their injuries.
Chelsea get the job done in style and can only beat what is in front of them
Malmo still haven’t scored a goal in the Champions League this season and they looked every inch the whipping boys of the group in midweek as they offered next to nothing.
The gap in class between the two sides was evident, Chelsea totting up 20 efforts on goal compared to Malmo’s two. Edouard Mendy didn’t have a shot to save in the game in what was probably the quietest 90 minutes of his career.
Malmo coach Jon Dahl Tomasson noted in his post-match chat with the press about the gulf in quality between a side that were Swedish champions last season and the reigning European champions and it was brutally exposed here.
As soon as Andreas Christensen steered/scuffed Chelsea into the lead just ten minutes in the match as a contest might as well have been over, Malmo were never going to come back from the early blow.
The look of resignation on Lasse Nielsen’s face after he gave away a stonewall penalty on Lukaku, converted by Jorginho, to make it 2-0 painted a thousand words as well.
Tuchel picked a very strong side, stronger than many anticipated, for the game and it was a team that on paper should have handed out a tonking to Malmo, and it did.
The head coach said after the game: “The guys on the pitch deserve to start, there are no gifts or resting players because the next game is more important.
“We pick the best line-up in our belief to have the best chance to beat Brentford and then we pick the best line-up on this day to beat whoever arrives in a Champions League match.”
That team was more than good enough to beat a side like Malmo and after a few dodgy performances from his team, they found some good rhythm and got back on the goal trail ahead of the visit of Norwich to Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime.
Source by Football London