The Tteam, which had previously been prone to counterattacking errors, has now regained its footing. They controlled the ball and a 3-4-2-1 formation with two midfielders in front of the defensive line provided a solid structure. Champions League winners demonstrated that it was possible to play pressing football without exposing yourself to transitional danger.
The Premier League has never been a problem for Manchester City, but top European competition has been a constant source of anxiety for the Citizens, as they conceded six goals to Leicester City last week. As intimidating as the Death Star was, they had a fatal exhaust port that allowed them to be destroyed with ease. Pushing high creates space behind the defensive line, so protecting against balls played into that space while maintaining press aggression was a challenge.
The City has clearly worked on that issue. When they have the ball, they’re often surrounded by five players. Compared to when Pep Guardiola first arrived in England, they are more measured in their approach. In the end, it was Tuchel’s Chelsea who seemed to have found the right balance, defeating Manchester City three times in the final seven weeks of the season, including the FA Cup semi-final and the Champions League final.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have lost that sense of control as City has only dropped 10 points in the league this season. After allowing four goals in their first 12 league games, they’ve now allowed 12 in their last nine, with only one clean sheet in the process. Only one of their five games has ended in a loss, and they’ve won just three of them. And, as is so often the case, as soon as the rot begins, it quickly spreads.
Romelu Lukaku will meet with the club’s hierarchy again on Monday after suggesting he was dissatisfied with Tuchel’s return to a 3-4-2-1 formation. Even though he cost £97.5 million and ideally would not be talking about how he misses Inter eight league starts after leaving them, it is significant because he seemed to be the solution for that slight toothlessness that was the only real doubt at the end of last season.. In addition to being a prolific goalscorer, he is a player whose movement seemed ideal for Chelsea: why wouldn’t the same drift out to the right to create space for Kevin De Bruyne that has worked so well for Belgium work also with Chelsea’s inside-forwards??
Chelsea’s entire forward line has come under scrutiny as a result of his inability to make an impact, including Christian Pulisic ($58 million), Kai Havertz ($71 million), Timo Werner ($47.5 million), and Hakim Ziyech ($34 million). Injuries and illness have hampered some of the players, but the total of £308 million spent on five players over two and a half seasons, none of whom can be considered a slam-dunk success. Mason Mount has replaced Jorginho as Chelsea’s top scorer in the Premier League this season.
It was widely expected that Tuchel would have an unflattering reputation due to his tendency to have run-ins with the media and the players he worked with, but it has turned out that the opposite has been true. It wasn’t until the Lukaku interview and its subsequent fallout in the last few weeks that things started to change. Chelsea desperately need a Lukaku figure to score goals and lead the line, but also because the history of Chelsea managers who are unable to accommodate large signings is not good, so resolving that situation feels vital.
In the end, however, it all comes back to that feeling of helplessness. Keeping clean sheets didn’t matter as much as scoring more goals than the opposition when Chelsea was winning games; a high-profile player’s grumbling didn’t matter as much when you are winning. Chelsea have conceded three goals in their last two games after Tuchel admitted that Mateo Kovacic was rushed back after suffering a hamstring injury and then being replaced by Covid. This has cost Chelsea a lot of time and energy.
It has put additional pressure on Jorginho, who has looked tired at times, most notably in the defeat at West Ham, while N’Golo Kanté struggles with a knee injury. There is no future for Sal guez and Ross Barkley at Chelsea after the deadline-day loan signings of 154 and 164 minutes, respectively, for the two players.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell are the most notable absentees in the back five due to injury. With Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen’s contracts expiring this summer and Thiago Silva finally agreeing to a contract extension on Monday, there is some uncertainty. Since last week’s announcement of losses of £145.6 million, a team that appeared ready for years of dominance has come to appear fragile.
The fact that things can spiral out of control so quickly shows just how quickly things can change. Now that Chelsea has lost the quality that defined them in the second half of last season, the entire endeavor is in jeopardy. Chelsea need to get back in control of their own destiny, even if it means dealing with Lukaku first.