Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel’s honeymoon OVER as problems mount
For the first time in a long time, Thomas Tuchel has very little reason to smile.
Upon his return in January, it was win after win after win to the point that his honeymoon phase led him to the Champions League winner’s medal.
Starting the campaign as a major contender to dethrone Manchester City as Premier League champions, Chelsea have started to stutter.
The Blues have lost twice in the past five days – having only managed one shot on target in total over the two matches.
Successive 1-0 defeats to Manchester City and Juventus can happen to anyone, but the loss to Turin upset Tuchel, complaining about a display he considered “strange”.
Fatigue and a drop in form played a key role in two punishment turnovers and now it’s up to Tuchel to bounce his players back – and quickly.
Sportsmail examines the problems the German is facing in order to get the Blues fired.
Thomas Tuchel faces his toughest moment as Chelsea boss after two consecutive defeats
Excessive dependence on the mountain
How Chelsea misses the creativity and movement of Mason Mount.
Even though questions have been asked against him this season from pockets of support, the downfall of those around him is especially strong in his absence.
And it is no coincidence that Chelsea appeared disjointed with him sidelined, losing the two games he was forced to miss.
Assists between the lines and providing intensity on and off the ball are two huge strengths of Mount’s game. Both traits were missing in the Blues’ roster against City and Juventus.
It’s safe to say that Mount’s goal contributions aren’t particularly impressive – he managed six out of 36 Premier League games last year – but his complete game goes way beyond the Column’s goals.
The absence of Mason Mount, absent from the last two matches, begins to be felt
Juventus, as you might expect, were happy to concede possession, dig deep and use match winner Federico Chiesa as an outlet for the counterattack.
This in turn caused problems for Chelsea, as with Mount no one stepped in to provide the invention needed to break the crafty Italian side.
Mount is brilliant to provide a link between deep midfielders Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic and striker Romelu Lukaku.
Without Mount there, his replacements just don’t offer the same “pace and intensity” – to use Tuchel’s lingo – that are needed to generate wins in these successful matches.
The return of the England midfielder cannot come soon enough, but if he is to be out for the foreseeable future, Tuchel must find a way to maximize his other attacking options or else he risks smelling blood.
Havertz – ‘the new Ozil’
As Chelsea walked down the tunnel for halftime in Turin, a quick glance on Twitter saw both Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz evolve.
No good trend, it must be said. The two were identified as two of the weak links as the attack repeatedly collapsed at their feet.
So much was expected of Havertz this season after a difficult first year in England following his arrival under Frank Lampard from Bayer Leverkusen.
Havertz gave the ball 15 times in Turin, more than any other Chelsea player that night.
Peter Crouch (left) said “technically gifted” Kai Havertz (right) can look “lazy and hardworking”
Peter Crouch was far from complimentary when asked full-time about Havertz by BT Sport, comparing him to former Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Crouch said, “I think Havertz reminds me of Ozil, he does things that are easy for him and he looks technically brilliant, but he can also look lazy and hardworking at times and he can frustrate you.”
Mount’s absence has undoubtedly delayed Chelsea’s attack, but Havertz must take responsibility for his performance in his second season – not stopping his form could see him inactive on the bench for matches to come.
Havertz is an elite talent but struggles to find a home in Chelsea’s top three.
One of the reasons Tuchel was a good match was to make the most of struggling Germans Havertz and Timo Werner. Now is the time to put all of this into practice.
Havertz struggled to create chances against a Juventus defensive side on Wednesday
Lukaku hungry for service
It is no coincidence that Lukaku produced two of his worst performances since returning to Chelsea with Mount out of the squad.
A shot on target for the whole team over 180 minutes sums up perfectly the attacking problems this team is currently facing.
On several occasions in Turin, Lukaku clapped his hands together, frustrated to see his midfielders misplace a through pass or make the wrong decision in the final third.
Against Manchester City, the Belgian had only 21 touches. Against Juventus, he managed to increase it slightly to 28 touches of the ball. Bear in mind that Chelsea boasted over 70% possession at times and yet had created little for their £ 98million star man.
Romelu Lukaku has managed to get under 30 touches in each of the last two games
Antonio Conte, his manager at Inter Milan, was dismayed by the role played by Lukaku, closer to the methods of the former target man of the Blues Olivier Giroud.
“I think he can still do better, especially with his technique,” said Conte. Sky Sport Italy.
“He is already at a very high level, but a player must continue to improve until the day of his retirement.
“During the match there are times when Lukaku needs to be activated, but other than that he is one of the most difficult attackers to face, as he can do damage in any area of the pitch.
“If you have a center forward like that you have to use it and I don’t think Chelsea have quite figured out how to use it yet.
The Belgian is deprived of service and Chelsea must find a way to capitalize on his strengths
“Last season, they didn’t have a proper center forward, so they alternated positions, while Romelu is a real benchmark in attack.
“If they can figure out how to use Lukaku, then Chelsea can become the team to beat in the Champions League this season.”
It might only be two games, but these are Chelsea’s two biggest games, along with the trip to Anfield against Liverpool, and Lukaku hasn’t scored either. In all fairness, he didn’t have the chance.
Tuchel won’t need to say this can’t last very long.
Is it time to ditch Alonso for Chilwell?
Ben Chilwell has had to remain patient for an opportunity this season with Marcos Alonso getting the go-ahead at left-back.
This only added to Chilwell’s frustrations at having been such a peripheral player in the England squad at Euro 2020.
But with Alonso hanging on at halftime in Turin seemingly tired and out of breath, Chilwell got the green light.
It’s a good way to get thrown into the mix at Juventus, but it offered an upgrade from the lethargy Alonso was exhibiting.
The Spaniard was also not at his best against City and will head to Southampton this weekend, Chilwell will now feel he has every chance of making his first league start of the season.
His only start in 2021-2022 came in the League Cup win over Aston Villa last week, which Chelsea won via a penalty shootout.
Alonso’s early replacement in Turin could be a sliding door moment for him. Just when it seemed closed under Tuchel, it opened up and walked through.
Ben Chilwell was sent off at halftime and he’s pushing for his first league start in 2021-22
THE NEXT EIGHT MATCHS
Southampton (H) – Premier League
Brentford (A) – Premier League
Malmö (H) – Champions League
Norwich (H) – Premier League
Southampton (M) – League Cup
Newcastle (A) – Premier League
Malmö (A) – Champions League
Burnley (H) – Premier League
PS – Hope on the horizon
Two games is exactly that, two games.
In the NFL, an investigation is currently underway as to why Superbowl favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs, lost two of their three games to open the season.
But back to Chelsea and a look at their next eight games should reassure any frustrated player or supporter.
Against any of the so-called Big Six teams, Chelsea will face Southampton, Brentford, Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley in the league.
They also have a Champions League double header against Malmö, the worst team currently in the group stage.
There is also a Carabao Cup round to go against Southampton.
And so Chelsea have a lot of winnable games ahead where they can fix any issues.
Fighting through multiple competitions will keep levels high, but Tuchel knows that an inability to quell this early mini-crisis risks asking even trickier questions.