Chelsea look knackered and their head coach needs a spark too
Chelsea were lethargic against Arsenal in midweek and even worse on Saturday in the cup final when they could have played until Christmas and not scored, if you pardon the cliché.
Tuchel has not got a lot wrong since he arrived in west London but he got his team selection wrong against Arsenal and something just didn’t seem right against Leicester either.
The club’s leading scorer in the competition in Tammy Abraham didn’t even make the squad, while Reece James was superb as a right centre half it meant Chelsea desperately lacked an outlet down the right side.
Ben Chilwell offered more in 20 minutes than Marcos Alonso did in the previous 70, while Timo Werner again came up short when Chelsea needed him the most.
On top of all that, the Blues players looked tired. Perhaps understandable given the relentless schedule they have had since January, this was their 27th game played under Tuchel since he arrived at the end of that month.
Tuchel is relentless himself, very full on, expressive and has constantly talked about giving his team energy. Maybe they are just starting to run out of steam. Tuchel has recognised it, making numerous changes throughout his reign and naming an unchanged lineup just once but his spine of the team is looking battered.
Mason Mount tailed off badly after half time, so did N’Golo Kante who is also carrying an achilles injury, Thiago Silva can’t play two games in quick succession, Werner also gassed pretty quickly on Saturday.
Tuchel said after the game: We are disappointed and not angry with our performance from the boys. I think the performance is enough to win it.
“I think today we were unlucky and we’ve never hidden that we need to have that to win at this level. You need momentum, decision making, little details, the referee. I think we defended well, counter-pressed well, and didn’t allow counter-attacks by one of the best counter-attacking sides in Europe.
“Our decision making in the first half was too hectic, we tried to force the solution. We created two against two and three against three situations that were more promising than we made of it.
“We had a big chance with Azpi and in the second half we controlled the game. We conceded a goal from nothing. It’s a fantastic goal and a lucky goal. We had a chance from Mason, an offside goal that was very close. We were unlucky today.”
Tuchel’s words might not be agreed with by Blues fans watching the game. While the VAR call certainly went against them and Schmeichel was in inspired form, did Chelsea do enough over the game to warrant a win?
Chelsea’s final issues
The Blues have lost eight of their last 11 finals since 2015 including the Community Shield, and the last two in the FA Cup in successive seasons.
Victory in the 2015 League Cup final, 2018 FA Cup and 2019 Europa League are all that the Blues have to show for their cup exploits.
That’s a poor record but it also goes to show the regularity with which this team gets to finals. They put themselves in the position to win but too often for a club that has had a very successful time since Roman Abramovich took over, that’s not good enough.
Kapser Schmeichel was outstanding at Wembley in the Leicester goal, denying Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell with brilliant stops, but the Blues players just didn’t turn up in a final – again.
Also, take nothing away from Youri Tielemans’ wondergoal which was fit to win any final, let alone this one. Chelsea complained of a handball on Ayoze Perez which led to the Foxes breaking and who knows what the rules are these days but the strike to win the game was world-class from the best player on the pitch throughout the 90 minutes.
Frank Lampard said when he was in charge of the club that this group of players was not ready to compete: “We are not in the position of a Chelsea that we were in periods when we were winning leagues,” he said just nine days before he was sacked.
“I took this job knowing that there will be difficult times because it’s not a club ready to compete.”
Was the former manager right? Maybe.
Chelsea do at least have a just to put right this wrong on May 29 in Porto when they face Man City in the Champions League final. It’s a mammoth game for more reasons than one.
Chelsea need to get over this very recent hump of flopping in finals, while for Tuchel, he will want to get over his own final struggles that he has encountered in recent years too. A victory over City could prove Lampard wrong and Chelsea right to take the German on after they ditched their club-record scorer.
Why Mount was angry with Werner
It was not Timo Werner or Mason Mount’s day at Wembley as Chelsea were beaten by Leicester. Mount was denied by a super stop from Kasper Schmeichel in the second half, while Werner’s decision-making all game was very poor.
One such moment arrived in the second half with Chelsea behind and chasing the game. They had livened up after Tielemans’ wonder goal and countered, having a man advantage as well as Leicester had committed too many players forward before N’Golo Kante nicked the ball back.
Werner, whose pace was a constant threat throughout the game but he just didn’t utilise it in the right way.
He ran at the Foxes defence and had Mount on his inside. Werner passed the ball outside instead and Mount was nowhere near in the right spot. Mount looked at Werner with his arms held out, exasperated and said “Timo!” with a look of a player who knew it was not going to be his day.
Mount has looked incredibly weary the past two games after a very busy season where he has barely missed a game. It might be time for the young England star to be given a break despite the enormity of the games that are coming up for Chelsea.
Reece James’ new role
The usual right wing-back or right back for Chelsea had a new position as a right sided centre half against Leicester, a job he is not unfamiliar to having done so plenty of times for the Academy team as he made his way through the age groups at Cobham.
But this was the first time we have seen Tuchel put him there in senior football and after saying on Friday it was not the time to make tactical tweaks, the head coach did the exact opposite.
To be fair to him, it worked as James did an excellent job on Jamie Vardy throughout the game. Vardy still has a good turn of foot and James’ own pace was needed more than once to snuff out danger around Leicester’s marksman.
Defeat in a final will hurt all the Chelsea players but perhaps more for the likes of James, Mount, Callum Hudosn-Odoi and Tammy Abraham, who didn’t make the squad, as they all came through the ranks at Cobham.
James showed though that he does have a bit more versatility to his game than some might have initially thought – a right back or wing-back but not much more.
It gives Tuchel another option, especially with the workload that Cesar Azpilkiocueta has had to get through since January, to potentially play as a third centre back. Who starts at wingback remains to be seen, it could be Hudson-Odoi, but does Tuchel trust him there?
One player that did emerge with big credit from the game was Chelsea defender James. Tuchel said of his player after the game: “We changed the position because we knew about the position of Jamie Vardy.
“We wanted Reece’s power and acceleration to eliminate the threat. He did fantastic today. I’m very happy.
“If Azpi had scored the goal it would’ve been a great decision. It was a decision for tactical reasons and I’m very happy with how we defended in general today.”