Mentality has been an operative word this season for Thomas Tuchel, even during preseason, when he was worried about where his players were after some sad showings during the USA Tour.
But things have improved in that regard, and it was the one thing that Tuchel was not concerned with in last weekend’s 3-0 debacle in Leeds. He was fully confident that his players would produce a response, and they indeed delivered.
However, the other things he’s been concerned about, chance conversion, individual decisions, and set pieces, largely remain an issue. All three played a role in today’s hard-fought win, wherein better chance conversion could’ve (again) settled the game before any trouble arose — trouble that arose from individual decisions and set pieces. The second yellow card for Conor Gallagher was a result of a poor choice from the youngster, but he was faced with that snap decision only because of a very sloppy pass from Marc Cucurella gave Leicester an easy counter.
Afterwards, the Chelsea boss, who was banished to the stands to serve his one-match touchline ban, said he was happy enough with what he had seen, but tempered those comments with some constructive criticism as well.
“I think we were in total control, 20-25 minutes of total control. We had big, big chances, more than a chance with Ruben, a penalty overturned with a marginal offside that looked a bit strange because on our mobile devices it looked not offside but ok.
“Suddenly, we’re one man down with Conor [sent off] from an opportunity for us to score and open the game with a set-piece goal. We were sloppy again with set-pieces and concede a huge counterattack. It was a bad decision from Conor and gave us a massive disadvantage in these conditions where we come from a defeat and it’s so hot.
“[We] lack belief and precision [and] it’s not good enough how we take set-pieces at the moment and on top of it, we give chances away. We are sloppy on the coverage, bad with the decision making how we cover the set-pieces. We have to stop doing this and improve immediately. We are on it with the team and I don’t know why it happened again.
“At the end of this chain is a decision that brings such a huge disadvantage after 25 minutes. It’s a very, very bad decision from Conor and, of course, he is upset. Everybody was upset in this moment because it almost kills the whole football match.”
But credit to the players, it did not kill the match. Thanks in part to a half-time tactical tweak of shifting back to a back-three after a surprise back-four to start the game, Chelsea scored twice and hit the post twice in a 25-minute spell either side of the break.
Of course we had to make uncomfortable for ourselves by conceding not three minutes after going up 2-0, but we dealt with the waves of Leicester pressure well enough in the end for a big three points.
“I’m happy we hung in and showed the mentality that was needed to have at least the chance to get away with a win. To keep the clean sheet as long as possible, or throughout the match, was the target for the second half. We conceded a goal – totally not needed – and therefore we were under a lot of pressure in the last minutes and conceded two chances.
“We were lucky in the end not to concede the equaliser but we did everything to have the chance and the mentality was very good. [We] can see individual behaviours. It’s difficult to analyse the team performance tactically when you’re a man down for 65 minutes, that will not make much sense in terms of physical data. But individual behaviour, who protects who, how we compete in challenges, we can always analyse.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
On a day when Liverpool put nine (9!) past Bournemouth, Manchester City came from two goals down to win, and Arsenal came from one down to do the same, Chelsea’s showing might slide under the national radar, but it’s one from which we can take great heart and great confidence. Armed with those, we can surely find the necessary improvements to make this a successful season indeed.