Chelsea’s shortcomings came to light in the defeat of West Brom ahead of a pivotal period for the club
Saturday’s game against West Brom would become routine for Chelsea. They were unbeaten in 14 and had only given in twice during that period. A game against Sam Allardyce’s 19th seeded squad wouldn’t be too difficult.
And they led 1-0 after 27 minutes when Christian Pulisic scored his first goal under Tuchel. But it all went wrong two minutes later when Thiago Silva was sent off for a second bookable foul.
Given their recent form and their defensive track record, you’d still expect 10 men to be able to take on a West Brom squad that had only won three games all season. But the 5-2 hammer brought back old habits reminiscent of Frank Lampard’s side who won just eight of the season’s first 19 games. And it happened at the most crucial part of their campaign.
Thomas Tuchel’s undefeated 14-game streak in his Chelsea tenure came to an embarrassing end
And Tuchel has to fix it quickly. Their situation is so delicate that they could be eliminated from two tournaments and from the top four of the league in the next four games.
So which areas left Tuchel’s side exposed and in real danger of the worst-case scenario occurring in the next two weeks?
While it may have been risky to start 36-year-old Thiago Silva after a two-month layoff, it’s hard to defend the way he took yellow that saw him leave the field after just 29 minutes.
But it’s just as hard to defend why, even after Andreas Christiansen came in at the expense of an attacking player, they got five goals, and it’s the way they would have caused sleepless nights.
To give context to the enormity of that failure, it is only the second time in Chelsea’s Premier League history that they have scored five goals at home.
It was the first time Chelsea had scored goals at Stamford Bridge under Tuchel’s tenure, and Mbaye Diagne’s goal that brought the score to 4-1, with five Chelsea players behind the ball, was of particular concern.
Chelsea won 1-0 when Thiago Silva was sent off for a second bookable foul
LACK OF TARGET THREAT
Chelsea has scored the fewest goals in the top six, but it’s not surprising if your star striker has only scored twice in his last 32 appearances.
Timo Werner already came into this game with a lack of confidence after missing a sitter in Germany’s shocking 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia, and it’s now just five goals in 24 league games for the 25-year-old.
Once again he turned down a seemingly straightforward opportunity to throw the ball into the back of the net in the 71st minute against West Brom, and much more would have been said had he failed to set up Mason Mount in front of goal .
But where else could the goals come from? Olivier Giroud was in excellent shape in the Champions League, but he was used sparingly in the competition, starting only eight times.
Tammy Abraham is another Tuchel doesn’t seem to have won – he was completely left out of the squad over the weekend, and he’ll be scratching his head on how to work his way back into the fold.
German striker Timo Werner has scored only two goals in his last 32 appearances for club and country
NO PLAN B
Speak to the BBC after the game, Tuchel said that ‘we couldn’t adapt to the situation … we normally have enough confidence to defend’.
Despite going down to 10, Tuchel chose to keep the same form and stick with three center-backs, and stuck to that plan despite trailing 2-1 at half time.
The lack of tactical imagination suggested that there is no escape plan when things don’t go well.
DEPENDENCE ON SIDE
What was not surprising about Saturday’s defeat was that N’Golo Kante was sorely missed. The midfielder was injured during international duty for France and could be out in the next three games.
Kante has found some of his best, title-winning forms in recent months, but the same cannot be said for the likes of Jorginho, who gave away the ball that led to Silva sending away, as well as making the mistake that led. to West Brom’s second goal.
N’Golo Kante could have been eliminated from Chelsea’s next three games due to a hamstring injury
Player clashes preceded Frank Lampard’s departure and Antonio Rudiger had to deny that he played a role in his dismissal, but it’s rearing its ugly head again, with reports that Rudiger was asked to end his training session early on Sunday after a clash with Kepa. Arrizabalaga.
A bust-up as public as this is an unwelcome distraction for Tuchel, who will no doubt be asked to explain at the Porto press conference ahead of the game on Tuesday.
According to the Athletic, Tuchel did all the talk during his debriefing session with the players, highlighting numerous individual mistakes at length. Only time will tell if that self-confidence has been affected so badly that it will affect future performances.
Antonio Rudiger was asked to leave training early on Sunday for a clash with Kepa Arrizabalaga