With a solitary 24 hours as the official Head Coach of Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel took charge of the Blues. The first match was never going to be fully reflected of the intense, tactically astute and meticulously planned manager he is.
It did provide some intrigue though. The German in charge labeled picking the starting 11 as “impossible and unfair” after just one training session. Subsequently, the experience was the order of the day. The 11 that took the field shouldn’t be thought about too much as Chelsea’s season moves on. Above all else, this was designed to get a result on the night.
Although it may not have worked out as Tuchel may have dreamed, as he cut the figure of an excitable kid on Christmas Eve, there was a lot to learn about the Blues new man in charge.
Here’s the five things we learnt from Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Wolves in Thomas Tuchel’s first game at Stamford Bridge.
Expect the unexpected
If you hadn’t seen the reports before the game, nothing too much would have been a shock. Tuchel went with assured quality throughout his team. The older heads, the leaders in the team. With the names given, most would have usually laid the Blues out in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Not Tuchel.
His innovation and desire to exploit the opposition was clear an hour before kick-off. Callum Hudson-Odoi, the only academy graduate to start the game, was deployed as a right wing-back. In design, it was to push Wolves’ own wing-back, Rayan Ait-Nouri, back.
As the game played out, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had no desire to do anything other than sit and soak up Chelsea anyway.
The decision to play Hudson-Odoi in that role still worked, nonetheless. In a team that totally dominated the ball, having a wing-back play very high meant even if Wolves wanted to, they couldn’t get out. The orthodox winger was able to play just like that, still with the cover of three centre backs.
Chelsea face Burnley at Stamford Bridge next. What Tuchel will play is no easier to predict than his first line-up was. Maybe the only thing to truly expect is the unexpected.
No Mason Mount
This was probably the biggest talking point from the game. Chelsea’s captain in their last match, a 3-1 victory over Luton Town, was benched. Mason Mount, the player that thrived more than any other under Frank Lampard, was made to watch Tuchel’s first game from the side-line.
An early sign that the new boss isn’t interested in letting a previous coaches’ thoughts influence his own. It is greatly believed that Mount still has a massive part to play for Chelsea this season, but will be part of a bigger picture.
Under Lampard, there is no doubt that so much relied on Mount. Not only because of his ability to endlessly run and tirelessly give his all for the team. Also because he recognised, perhaps more than most, what Lampard was trying to do.
Tuchel went instead with experience. The duo of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. The pair didn’t do much wrong last night, but their simple pass playing under no pressure perhaps typified a lack of adventure from Chelsea’s deeper midfielders.
There shouldn’t and largely isn’t any worries that Mount didn’t play. This was a side picked on experience. Mount, though not inexperienced, is just 22. There is an outside chance as well, that he could have been hit harder by Lampard’s exit than most, that is just my thoughts though.
The Englishman’s cameo was just what his team needed. The extra drive, burst of life and freedom to express. Most Chelsea fans won’t be surprised that the Blue’s best spell of the game came with Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, and Mount on the pitch. An early indicator that the manager will have plenty to ponder over before Burnley visit Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel is a thinker
Well, if you’d read up on Tuchel, this would be quite clear. He is an engineer of a football team. He thinks deeply about the mechanics of the game. The German, straight out of the school of Ralph Ragnick football, is obsessive in his nature.
He typifies a meticulous foreign coach in the way he spoke post-game as well. Not relying on the more typical British football answers to questions. Instead, picking about Chelsea’s tactical game, almost to show off.
“We played with excellent energy high up the pitch, good intensity, many ball recoveries in the last third, a lot of ball possession, many half-chances, created a lot of good opportunities in the second half and were simply unlucky. We did not allow counter attacks, we closed the space. It was a good performance.”New Chelsea Head Coach Thomas Tuchel, speaking after his sides 0-0 draw with Wolves
Though not the be all and end all of management, Tuchel’s words helped put his philosophy into something more tangible than desire, passion and “the basics”.
He was presented with an unambitious opponent and set out to squeeze them out of the game. Though it didn’t work, Tuchel’s game plan was quite obvious. This, despite just one training session with his new team.
Passes, passes, passes with no penetration
In all honesty, this wasn’t the most enjoyable game to watch, that’s clear. The Blues racked up an impressive 433 first half passes. Nearly double what their opponents accumulated in the whole match.
They ended the game with a mountainous 820 passes at a success rate of 78.9%. The most a new manager has had since the stats were recorded. Now, this isn’t necessarily typical of Tuchel’s football. In full flow, his teams play quicker on the ball and exploit spaces. Wolves simply didn’t gave any.
They sat with the lowest of low blocks and didn’t shift for most of the game. This isn’t an excuse, it’s context. Although most of Chelsea’s passing was too slow and aimless, they were forced into it by a rock solid Wolves defence.
If this wasn’t Tuchel’s first game, an earlier introduction of substitutes would have been welcome and expected. However, given the nature of the game and Tuchel’s appointment, it would be harsh to criticise too much.
Though, from an onlooker, if Mount was playing in the midfield instead of one of Kovacic or Jorginho, he would have had the time to play a lot more forward passes.
Going forward, this will be something Tuchel looks to implement. As his high full backs and attackers perfect their runs with the trigger movements of the deeper play makers, Chelsea will look more threatening as the season progresses.
This is just the start
There really isn’t much we can truly draw from this game in isolation. There’s no need to panic or worry. Chelsea will get better week on week as Tuchel spends more time with the players.
Also, we already know that established first-teamers in Mount, Reece James, and Abraham will all feature much more as their quality shines through.
Even Timo Werner didn’t get a look in. This, despite Tuchel being tipped to get the best out of the German striker.
This is just further proof that nothing is set in stone yet and it really will progress game by game.
Written by Tom Coley @tomcoley49
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5