Tuchel on Chelsea's title chances
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It may have taken a run of five draws and one defeat in their last nine Premier League matches, but Thomas Tuchel has once again found the solution. Reece James’ injury against Brighton and Hove Albion confounded the issue, but the Blues became lop-sided and unbalanced when Ben Chilwell ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during the Blues’ 4-0 Champions League victory against Juventus.
Scintillating in attack and ferocious in the defence, Chilwell scored three goals and contributed one assist in his first six Premier League matches. James reciprocated Chilwell’s brilliance on his respective flank, finding the net on three occasions and assisting two goals within the same period.
Tuchel deployed Alonso in place of Chilwell, but the Spaniard is not the like-for-like replacement he initially appears to be. Chelsea’s rock-solid defence became brittle, their slick attacking football stuttered, and the west Londoners only won three of their next ten matches after Chilwell’s season was cut short.
But the Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund manager dipped into his trustee thinking cap and found a solution to their troubles, reverting to a 4-2-2-2 system for both legs of their dominant League Cup semi-final triumph against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, the German’s moment of genius may well have left him with a conundrum which could affect all of their current plans.
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Chelsea have desperately been trying to re-call Emerson Palmieri from his loan spell at Lyon, but the French giants’ obstinance is proving to be a very difficult hurdle to overcome.
Malang Sarr, the young Frenchman who has often been forgotten about by Tuchel, played his best game for the Blues when deployed at a more unfamiliar left-back.
While not a natural attacker, his defensive work and aggression was excellent against Antonio Conte’s side, who barely dented the left-side of Chelsea’s defence.
Moreover, a reversion to a back four would mean Tuchel only needs four strong central defenders instead of six.
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Antonio Rudiger appears to be on his way out at Stamford Bridge, but there is plenty of hope that Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta will commit to new deals.
If new deals are agreed with the Chelsea duo, then Tuchel would only need one central defender to replace the outgoing Rudiger and fill the void left by Zouma.
However, when one gap at defence is filled, another one appears in their midfield or forward line.
With Timo Werner still struggling, a new striker may need to be brought in to partner Romelu Lukaku.
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The Belgian sensationally chastised the Blues system in his infamous interview with Sky Sports Italia, and clearly stated his preference to play alongside a partner.
Tuchel has deployed Lukaku and Werner together on a few occasions this season, but their partnership was hit and miss at the best of times.
Kai Havertz has led the line on multiple occasions this season, but the German’s ability to drop between the opposition defence and midfield could make him more suitable to one of the inside midfield positions.
Sevilla defender Jules Kounde was the main transfer target in the summer, and the Blues’ contract uncertainty with Rudiger, Azpilicueta, and Christensen, suggests he is still at the top of the transfer wish-list.
But if Tuchel decides to stick with the 4-2-2-2 system that worked so brilliantly against Tottenham, then he, and Marina Granovskaia, may have to dig deep into his trustee thinking cap once again.
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