Thomas Tuchel’s trust in his squad is repaid
Ahead of Chelsea’s match-up with Brentford when Tuchel named a very surprising and makeshift line-up in defence, the head coach insisted he trusted Malang Sarr on Premier League debut and Trevoh Chalobah, who was making just his fourth top flight start.
“There are no easy games where you can try this, you either trust or don’t trust and Malang was strong in the cup game, Andreas played not many games on the highest level, Trevor has been strong in every match we played in, absolutely no doubt about him, Andreas like I said and Malang its his debut, he has strong players around him and that’s it,” the head coach said at the Brentford Community Stadium prior to kick off.
Tuchel could have easily done what he did in his very first match in charge back in January and go with experience. This time around, he could have played Cesar Azpilicueta as a left sided centre half with both Toni Rudiger and Thiago Silva absent, perhaps starting Reece James at right wing-back as well.
But he didn’t. Chalobah played well against Southampton and was given the nod and Sarr benefited from being at Cobham across the international break, no doubt being drilled meticulously in how to play as a left sided centre half in a back three.
For 70 minutes, it worked perfectly. Led expertly by the senior man in Andreas Christensen and with Azpilicueta playing an incredibly disciplined role as a wing-back, Chalobah and Sarr had a pretty comfortable three quarters of the game.
That all changed when Brentford boss Thomas Frank introduced Marcus Forss to effectively stand on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and mark him out of the game. He did that, Chelsea were then penned in their own half and were, for want of a better word, battered by Brentford.
Chalobah and Sarr then, unsurprisingly, became jumpy. Ivan Toney latched onto Chalobah and gave him a roughing up, with Bryan Mbeumo tagging on Sarr and doing the same. Brentford had 12 shots on goal in the final 11 minutes of the game but didn’t score.
It was always going to be a case of bending and not breaking with the absence of two key players in Silva and Rudiger but their replacements more than held up their end of the bargain.
Sarr said post match that he was “ready to fight” on his Premier League debut. “I prepare for the games like I’m coming to play anyway, I was ready and today the coach said the starting eleven and I was really happy and ready for that, ready to fight,” the Frenchman said post-match
Both Chalobah and Sarr have had to fight in their Chelsea careers so far, Chalobah coming through the academy and loan system at the club and Sarr arriving as a highly-rated free agent and then sent immediately on loan to Porto which didn’t have the effect the Blues or the player would have wanted.
When Silva and Rudiger are ready, they will almost certainly return to the fold. But one thing Tuchel will have discovered about his squad is that when he says he trusts them, his players can back that up.
Should we be concerned about Romelu Lukaku?
The Belgian had a flying start after making his return to the club, scoring four times in his first four games but he has now gone five without one for his club and was hauled off midway through the second half for Kai Havertz against Brentford.
Lukaku once again looked a very isolated figure up front with Timo Werner, he played the full 90 ahead of the club-record signing.
Lukaku made plenty of runs but wasn’t found; some of the passing into him was poor as well but he also blazed over from point-blank range when he should have scored. His blushes were only spared when the offside flag went up, but even so he should be burying chances like that.
Lukaku’s place in the team is in no danger at all despite his barren run in front of goal for his club and Tuchel admitted he felt his star striker was tired after his exploits of not just this season but playing 70 games for Inter Milan in 2020/21.
“I felt him a bit tired today,” the head coach said.
“Altogether we did a very strong 60 to 75 minutes, including Romelu and Timo. I am not concerned as I felt him a bit tired and then isolated because we were defending as a block too deep.
“Both of them, Timo and Romelu, were too far away to help us and escape the pressure. That was the problem today. But I have no concerns.
“Normally, the best thing is he scores but he is very unselfish at the moment, looking for Timo in good situations, and when we had him in the situation it was a close offside decision.”
This run of seven matches between the previous and the next international break should give Lukaku plenty of opportunities to rediscover his goalscoring touch with games against Norwich, a double header with Malmo, Newcastle, Southampton in the Carabao Cup and Burnley rounding off the fixtures before he joins up with Belgium again.
Tuchel needs to find how to get the best out of Lukaku. Despite his flying start, he has hit the skids in the last five games. The striker is looking more and more isolated and his tandem with Timo Werner isn’t quite clicking as the head coach will have hoped it would.
He’s tried Lukaku in a front three and in a front two in the last five matches with mixed results. Sometimes it works with Werner, sometimes it doesn’t. Kai Havertz was once again named on the bench while Mason Mount continues to be eased back into action.
Tuchel has said previously that Mount’s partnership with Lukaku is one of the better ones in terms of their understanding and perhaps the next few games will give the head coach a chance to experiment in games that the Blues should be picking up victories in.
Edouard Mendy – best goalkeeper in the world?
It’s not a ridiculous statement at all and when you see how he basically won the game for Chelsea on Saturday night, it’s not hard to see why.
Since Thomas Tuchel arrived in SW6, Mendy has catapulted himself into the conversation as one of the games best in his position after a truly heroic final 11 minutes against Brentford.
Mendy kept out efforts from Toney, Mbeumo, Forss and Christian Norsgaard as a Brentford onslaught yielded yet another shutout for Mendy.
The keeper has now kept 20 clean sheets in 38 games since joining Chelsea from Rennes last summer as part of Frank Lampard’s spending spree. When Gianluigi Donnarumma was rumoured to be leaving AC Milan on a free transfer, there were some calling for the Italian to come to Stamford Bridge and usurp Mendy.
But now? No chance.
As Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said after Chelsea’s win on Saturday night, having a top-class goalkeeper can make the difference between a top-four finish and a Premier League title shot.
“[Mendy] has made that difference,” the former Manchester United defender said.
“If you think about Kepa part way through last season under Frank, goals were a problem, it was in the middle of his net and he didn’t even dive for it, two metres off the post.
“It’s a lot more difficult to score against Chelsea when they move to a back-five, which Tuchel brought in, but with Mendy in goal.
“You need your goalkeeper to deliver for you at certain points in the season, the three or four he’s saved have been vital.”
Only Petr Cech (26 games) took less starts to get to 20 clean sheets than Mendy’s 38 and that was when he was in between the sticks at Stamford Bridge. It was Cech who pushed and masterminded the move for Mendy from Rennes when it was clear that Kepa Arrizabalaga was not going to remain the Blues number one.
Chelsea’s technical and performance advisor has pulled off a worldie with Mendy, much like the keeper did himself at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Source by Football London