Chelsea reach new heights as Tuchel finds an effective offensive trio
Despite a thrashing at the hands of 19th-placed West Bromwich Albion just over a week ago, it seems Thomas Tuchel has finally settled on his favoured offensive trio.
Against Crystal Palace on the weekend, Chelsea put together possibly their best single-half display throughout Tuchel’s reign thus far. During the first 45-minutes, particularly the three-goal opening 30-minutes, Chelsea asserted themselves seamlessly defensively and, finally, combined this with offensive prowess. This is evidenced by their second-highest expected goals tally (2.5; only behind the 2.9 they accumulated in match week 27’s home victory against Everton) and lowest expected goals tally against (0.1) under Tuchel against Palace.By 20-minutes, Chelsea had enjoyed just over 80% of the ball and that figure fell to just below 70% by half-time. But this is something we have already become accustomed to since Tuchel took to the helm in the twilight of January.It was also the first time they had scored more than twice in a game under Tuchel and a lot of that is due to the increasing confidence of the front three and the fluidity they were able to play with. Kai Havertz started in the centre of a front three for the fourth time from Chelsea’s last five games. Accompanying him, on either side, was Mason Mount from the right while Christian Pulisic chimed in with a brace from the left.
However, they did not adhere strictly to their starting positions. Often Havertz would teeter out wide and completely overload the wings along with the full-back, winger and central midfielder. The winger on the other side would then drift in centrally, positioning himself as a number nine would, and the wing-back would essentially become the winger. This interplay is what created the first two goals, scored just two minutes apart.To complement Havertz, who has seemingly locked in that central position – not strictly a number nine or a number 10, something like a 9.5 – Tuchel has inherited a talented crop. Mount has gone from strength to strength, becoming ever-present domestically, as well as internationally. While Pulisic has found his touch again with his brace on the weekend making it three in a week.As well as this trio, two of which have been played into form under Tuchel, the German head coach has a star-studded selection of players. Timo Werner is an excellent, yet currently floundering back-up “9.5”. While perennial super-sub Olivier Giroud sits next to Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham, also on the bench, as spare options.
Yet, it is these three players that Tuchel has chosen – Havertz, Pulisic and Mount. And for good reason; in them he has creativity, flexibility (not physically, but in a football sense, but also maybe physically) and, most importantly, positional nous. For, without it, his system would fail.Against Palace, Chelsea achieved their highest goal and expected goals for tally and their lowest expected goals against tally. They will face much sterner tasks in the very near future, but it seems Tuchel has coached his cards right; he’s found a system and the players to make it work all on a sustainable defensive foundation.With two huge trophies still to play for, Tuchel could have them both in only six months of work – that’s not a bad rate.