Chelsea’s need for a definitive plan B as Thomas Tuchel’s £97.5m dilemma is revealed

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Top of the table, one piece of silverware already in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet, a clean sweep of London derby wins – but then back-to-back defeats by Juventus and Manchester City.

Chelsea’s season so far has been something of a mixed bag at times.

With an international break giving pause for reflection, we asked football.london’s Chelsea correspondent Sam Inkersole to give us his assessment of the Blues’ season so far. And then you have your own opportunity to tell us how you think Thomas Tuchel and his men have fared.

Despite those aforementioned back-to-back defeats, the Blues went into the second international break top of the Premier League table and will be looking to continue that when they return to action against Brentford.

Here, Sam Inkersole gives his seven-game report card, while issuing verdicts on Tuchel, the new signings and what – if anything – Chelsea are missing.

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How has the season gone so far?

I’d give Chelsea a solid 7/10 so far. That might seem low for a team at the top of the Premier League heading into the international break but the campaign hasn’t been without its negative points.

The two defeats on the spin to Man City and Juventus saw questions of Tuchel for the first time but the head coach and the Blues responded by beating Southampton last time out.

Chelsea have been nowhere near their fluent best, in fact they have been fortunate in some of their matches after winning the first two very comfortably against Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

Obviously, it has been a good start with the Blues in first place but there is definitely room to improve.

Verdict on the new signings?

Romelu Lukaku got the season off to a flier with four goals in his first four games but has since gone on a run of four games without one.

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He’s the first name on the team sheet so there will be no huge concerns from Tuchel but he certainly needs to find a way of getting him involved in games more because, still, he is the elite striker the club paid £97.5million for.

The only other signing Chelsea made – discounting Marcus Bettinelli who is yet to feature – was Saul Niguez who has had a poor start. Two games against Aston Villa saw him subbed off twice having struggled with the pace and intensity of the English game.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has already usurped Niguez in the pecking order and Tuchel has admitted he made a mistake in throwing Saul in too early against Villa.



Saul Niguez will hope for further match time after the international break
Saul Niguez will hope for further match time after the international break

How has the manager performed so far?

Everything Tuchel touched has turned to gold before the final week of September, where perhaps questions were being asked of the German for the first time.

He got his tactics wrong against Man City and was resoundingly beaten despite the 1-0 scoreline and then laboured to a defeat against Juventus where his team failed to break down a stoic Italian defence.

Tuchel has rightly been gaining plenty of plaudits this season for how he engineered the ten-man draw at Liverpool and his masterstroke of introducing N’Golo Kante off the bench to steam past Spurs 3-0.

Tuchel usually has the answers but still needs to find a definitive plan B for his squad. Sometimes it is a bit throw things against the wall and see if it sticks.

Biggest surprise so far?

Perhaps sticking with the out-of-form Marcos Alonso with Ben Chilwell sitting on the sidelines was a surprise. Alonso started the season well but tailed off drastically and it’s clear that Chelsea are much better when their wing-backs have pace so Reece James and Chilwell should be the starting pair going forward.

But what has been a surprise and what has paid off is the Chelsea fringe players forcing their way into Tuchel’s plans.

Trevoh Chalobah has been excellent whenever he has played and is certainly knocking on the door for more regular minutes.

Loftus-Cheek has done his own chances no harm with good cameos off the bench and finally getting a start against Southampton where he played well to usurp Saul in the midfield pecking order.

Even Ross Barkley has stood up and been counted when coming off the bench. The likes of Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz have underperformed and their places in the starting lineup are nowhere near secure.

What are the team missing?

Chelsea bolstered their midfield by signing Saul on transfer deadline day but another defensive or central midfielder despite the form of Loftus-Cheek.

N’Golo Kante is picking up niggling injuries again so a bit more depth is needed there. Chelsea’s squad elsewhere is very deep so they don’t need much else.

Do you think they’ll do better, worse or about the same as pre-season predictions?

I predicted Chelsea to be there or thereabouts in all competitions this season and that hasn’t changed after seven games – it can’t as they are top of the Premier League.

The defeat to Man City was a massive reminder that Pep Guardiola’s side are going nowhere and will be bang in the race this season. Liverpool will also be battling at the very top of the table as well.

But so will Chelsea. Their elite coach has come through his first tough period since joining the club and while the 3-1 win against Southampton flattered the hosts a bit, and they were helped by James Ward-Prowse’s red card, it would have been four games without a win had they not got three points heading into the international break.

The Blues need to find an extra ten per cent and they will start swatting teams aside.

Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think …

Source by Football London

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