It is always fun to laugh at rivals failure, especially when an ex-player of theirs makes a silly claim in the media that is quickly disproven within days.
This time it was the turn of Paul Scholes to drive the clicks for Sky Sports in The Overlap which invited a host of fan content creators from the Premier League to debate the current issues with some of the broadcaster’s biggest pundits in Gary Neville, Scholes and Jamie Carragher.
When the discussion turned to the issue of this year’s Premier League title race, the Manchester United great made a bold claim regarding Chelsea’s current defence.
Doubting the Blues personnel in the backline compared to their closest rivals Scholes felt assured that presumed weakness could be their downfall in an expectedly tight race for Manchester City’s crown.
“I also don’t think you’re great defensively.”
Being asked by Chelsea Fan TV’s Lewis Gebreselassie why the ex-United felt this he responded: “I think [Antonio] Rudiger’s been really good but, other than that, you’ve got Thiago Silva who’s 36 or 37, Andreas Christensen’s a young player… I think in the middle of the pitch you’re alright. Jorginho and [N’Golo] Kante are really good players.
“I’m just not sure that you’ll score enough goals and that you’re defensively good enough.”
Lewis’ retort was to claim Rudiger, Christensen and Silva were three of the best centre-backs in the league but Scholes seems puzzled at this suggestion.
“Really? Well, Liverpool have got the best centre-backs, [Manchester] City have got two great ones, I think United have got two really good ones.
“I think Chelsea are probably the weakest out of the top four defensively.”
I can only come to the conclusion Scholes has barely watched Chelsea this season, maybe even since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival in January.
Sadly for Scholes, the numbers simply do not back up his claim.
A brief glimpse at the Premier League table after eight games not only has Chelsea top but shows the Blues have conceded the least joint with Manchester City. Also boasting the stat that they remain the only club in Europe’s top five leagues yet to concede a goal from open play via WhoScored.
Scholes concerns further up the pitch are less baffling given Chelsea’s issues to create a consistent flow of high-quality opportunities, with Romelu Lukaku remaining isolated at the front of Tuchel’s attack.
But if there is one thing that Tuchel’s team have been consistently strong at since his arrival has been the defence. Switching to a back-three has helped transform Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen who have both produced the best form of their career’s under the former PSG boss.
Chelsea have collected 25 clean sheets in 42 games under Thomas Tuchel across the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. A quite staggering amount given the squad’s defensive frailties under Frank Lampard and Maurizio Sarri in the years preceding.
Delving into the xGA numbers in the knockout stages of the Champions League-winning run facing the likes of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Manchester City further proved their quality – even if the names of Christensen, Rudiger and club captain Cesar Azpilicueta are not as glamorous as Raphaël Varane.
Tuchel has fundamentally built a defence capable of withstanding the threat of great attacks, proven by their resilience in the second half at Anfield back in August following Reece James dismissal. Limiting Liverpool’s dangerous attack to very little and walking away from Merseyside with a valuable point.
It makes Scholes comments all the more ironic as the Premier League weekend unfolded on Saturday afternoon with Manchester United collapsing away to Leicester City 4-2. In one game Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side conceded more goals than Chelsea have all season in the Premier League. United are already into double figures of goals against in the league, seven more than the Londoners.
This was compounded more by Chelsea picking up another clean sheet in a resilient 1-0 win away to Brentford where the European Champions survived a late onslaught from The Bees.
Manchester United certainly have got talented defenders in Raphaël Varane and Harry Maguire, but the lack of a coherent defensive structure set by Solskjær means United are consistently exposed and prone to conceding, whilst Tuchel has shown his tactical nous to implement a rigid structure to limit space and give Chelsea a strong platform to build from.
Scholes claim was equally baffling for some Man United fans as they watched their side fall to a second defeat in three league games whilst Chelsea moved five points clear of United with a comparatively tougher set of fixtures for Tuchel to navigate.
I’d suggest the famous midfielder watches a bit more of Chelsea before making such flippant comments, a footballing mind as smart as Scholes should be better than that.
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Source by Football London