As Chelsea fans have been calling for playing time for one of their super star player, Thomas Tuchel’s big headache about two world-class players have been revealed.
Two things have become strikingly clear about Chelsea since Tuchel took over. The first and foremost is that the Blues have become a rock solid unit in defence.
Since TT’s appointment, Chelsea have shipped in just two goals in seven Premier League games, with one of those an own goal scored by Antonio Rudiger against Sheffield United – indeed, Takumi Minamino is the only opposition player to find the back of the net against Tuchel’s side. In addition, Tuchel’s record of two goals conceded in his first nine games in all competitions is the joint best in the history of the club, matching the dominant 2004-05 team led by Jose Mourinho.
In short, Chelsea have become a defensive behemoth.
But the second thing which has become clear about Chelsea under Tuchel is the poor state of the attack. While the defence has been spectacular, the attack has been blunt. Indeed, Chelsea have failed to score more than two goals in a single game since Tuchel took over, and have found the back of the net twice in a single game on only three occasions. This poor record is even more shocking, considering the caliber of attacking talent the club parades.
Perhaps this is due to a lack of balance. Tuchel’s focus has obviously been to stabilize a leaky defence, hence his switch to a back three. He has done this excellently, but his focus on the defence has negatively affected the attack. To be fair, it’s not as if Tuchel sets his team up to be conservative. On the contrary, they tend to boss possession. But this means opposition teams respond by sitting deep, making it hard for the Blues to break then down.
As the games go by, it is becoming clearer that Tuchel is starting to have a new problem – and it involves Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount. What is this problem, you may ask?
It’s simple really. Ziyech is, by a fair margin, Chelsea’s best and most creative player. Mount is, also by a fair margin, the most efficient presser out of all the attackers, while his dribbling and halfturn make him a key part of the transition from defence to offense. Unfortunately, the strength of one is the weakness of the other – Mount, for all his qualities, lacks the incisiveness and creative nous of a top level playmaker, while Ziyech, while a master creator, is not a very efficient presser of the ball.
These two skill sets are important to Tuchel. The Chelsea boss wants his team to press very effectively in the opposition half, shutting down opposition attacks and counterattacks before they even begin. This is classic counterpresssing, and no attacker leads the press better that Mount. Also, Tuchel requires an attacker to be adept at receiving the ball on the half turn and moving towards the opposition penalty area, effectively linking the midfield with the attack. Mount’s dribbling and half turn ability make him prefect for this.
But his indecisiveness in the final third means that the attack suffers a bit with Mount as the attacking midfielder. This lack of creativity is what Tuchel faces at the moment.
Ziyech provides an instant solution to this. But the problem with Ziyech is that he isn’t an efficient presser – at least not as efficient as someone like Mount. So with Ziyech leading the press, the opponents are likelier to break the press.
So what should Tuchel do? Should he bench Mount for the creative Ziyech, or should he stick with the efficient Mount, knowing the attack of the team would be better off having Ziyech in it?