LONDON – Thomas Tuchel is not one of Chelsea’s most expensive rookies, but he showed in Sunday’s 3-0 Premier League win at Tottenham that he is quickly becoming one of the club’s best.
The endurance leap required from Champions League winners to Premier League title contenders requires precisely the kind of management keenness Tuchel provided to turn a close game into a comfortable victory.
Of course, it helps when a player of N’Golo Kante’s caliber is available to you on the bench as a halftime substitute with the scoreless game, but Tuchel sensed an opportunity by pulling Mason Mount out and adjusting. his 3-4 System -2-1 in an intervention from which the Spurs have never recovered.
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Few Chelsea managers have embraced the game’s ruthless culture like Tuchel. After a brutal sacking at Paris Saint-Germain last year – Christmas Eve, no less – he is keenly aware of the nature of clubs built without remorse for success. As such, the 48-year-old has the enthusiasm of someone who isn’t interested in waiting to win, avoiding talk of longevity in order to revel in the here and now.
Against Tottenham, he came, he saw, he replaced. Tuchel spent much of the first half standing in the technical visitors’ zone, visibly frustrated with poor decision-making in the final third. Part of the muddled thinking was due to Tottenham’s relentless early press, who harassed all three Chelsea full-backs and the center-midfielder duo in errors which encouraged a boisterous home crowd.
Mount was at the center of Tuchel’s anger, especially midway through the opening period when checking to retain possession rather than risking a lead to maintain a counterattack. This followed a previous case where the delay in his pass to Romelu Lukaku dulled another breakaway.
It was nonetheless a surprise that Mount was substituted in the meantime, even though it was the second weekend in a row that Tuchel made a halftime substitution after Saul Niguez’s terrible debut against Aston. Villa. Perhaps, however, the most important was the message he sent.
“It looks like we changed the system, but we just played it with more conviction, more energy, more quality, more precise,” said Tuchel. “It was just too sloppy and not precise enough in the first half. We relied too much on our skillful play in the first half. We forgot to bring the right attitude and the right energy to this game.
“That had to change and, well, if you’ve got N’Golo on the bench and you want to progress in those parts of the game, he’s the best player to bring in because he’s unique and can change anyone. momentum, ”the Chelsea manager continued.
“So the change seemed to be, in terms of characteristics, a little more defensive, but we wanted to improve our compactness, our ball gains and our team spirit.” The impact was almost immediate. The midfield reshuffle saw Kante operate slightly deeper than Mount, giving Chelsea a better chance to evade the Tottenham press. Less than four minutes after the start of the second period, the opposing team was in the lead.
Marcus Alonso had just had a brilliant volley overturned by Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, but the left winger’s next corner found an unmarked Thiago Silva to plant a header into the net. It was the highlight of another fine display from the Brazilian defender, who turns 37 next week.
Chelsea were frustrated in their pursuit of Seville’s Jules Kounde over the summer, choosing not to pay the center-back’s € 80million release clause despite Kurt Zouma’s arrival at West Ham, but the move can be justified by their remaining defenders excelling as Silva did here, defying a pace shift with Son Heung-Min Son through exquisite positioning and commanding a reasonably high defensive line.
Kante, meanwhile, is hardly known for his goals – his strike, which resulted in a wicked deflection from Eric Dier, was only his 12th goal in more than 200 appearances for Chelsea – but the space that gave him was granted to line up his shot was further proof of how Tuchel’s tweak, with Mateo Kovacic, shifted slightly to the left, scrambled the home side.
Two goals in eight minutes ended the game as a contest. Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo had been brave in his squad selection and Spurs started with tremendous energy despite a trip to Rennes on Thursday, but Kepa Arrizabalaga, substituting for absent Edouard Mendy, did not not really tested and Nuno then did not react as the game changed around him.
The mitigation can be found in his limited options and the risks he took in sending in a patched-up Dier and two of the three players who spent the week training in Croatia after breaking the rules to play in qualifying for the South American World Cup, Cristian Romero and Giovani. Lo Celso.
This was only Nuno’s eighth game in charge, which he hinted at after the game citing “a lack of time for us to work together”, but while such comparisons should be riddled with caveats , Tuchel won six, made two and kept five clear. during the same period, while implementing a clear change in ideology.
Moreover, while Chelsea were generally clinical to replace club legend Frank Lampard in January, Tottenham pursued a plethora of dead ends and changed their minds at least once before settling on Nuno as a full-time successor. by Jose Mourinho. Improvement is needed quickly, especially in the context of Harry Kane’s desire to be elsewhere.
An afternoon that started united in grief over the passing of Jimmy Greaves, one of the game’s greatest and prolific scorers for both Tottenham and Chelsea, ended in a huge rift between the two teams, which prepares the Blues for the clash of next Saturday with the champions of Manchester. City and leave Nuno with more and more questions to answer ahead of the following day’s North London derby against Arsenal.
“Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again,” sang the traveling Chelsea fans after another victory over their former rivals. This time they had Tuchel to thank.