There are few sharper tactical minds in European football than Thomas Tuchel. He has proved that time and time again throughout his coaching career and especially during his nine months at Stamford Bridge. Today’s result doesn’t change that.
Yet there is one area of the game the German takes a back seat: Chelsea’s set pieces. And that was visibly highlighted at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
Whether it was defending a corner or having their own opportunity to swing a dead ball into the penalty area, Tuchel would come away from the touchline and take his seat in the dugout.
THOMAS TUCHEL ON THIAGO SILVA’S FUTURE
Simultaneously, Anthony Barry would rise to his feet, replace Tuchel and then bark out instructions to his players as to how to set themselves up. It worked too, in the first half at least.
In the second, a City corner did lead to a goal, although somewhat indirectly. A short corner was taken and the ball eventually fell to Gabriel Jesus in the penalty area and his deflected effort beat Edouard Mendy.
New midfield hierarchy emerges
Such was the performance of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midweek against Aston Villa, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see him introduced from the substitutes’ bench.
The noteworthy part of the change, however, was that it was ahead of Saul Niguez, who was signed on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid on transfer deadline day.
Saul has started two games for Chelsea since – both against Aston Villa – but has struggled with the intensity of the English game. He will need time to adapt.
Loftus-Cheek is, though, ready. He proved that in his brief appearance this afternoon. His first touch was to beat a man, his second was to win a free kick.
The academy graduate continued in the same vein. There was one run forward in which he shrugged off a City player, beat another and then found Werner. Unfortunately, the chance then broke down but it was yet another reminder of the talents that Loftus-Cheek possesses.
As the season progresses, expect the 25-year-old to be given further minutes. He has showcased he deserves them.
Chelsea supporters’ European reminder
Ahead of the game, there were plenty of reminders about May’s Champions League final between the two sides.
Chelsea, of course, came out on top that night in Porto and the Blues supporters made sure to remind the travelling City support of that.
Ahead of kick-off, a banner was unfurled in the Shed End. It was simple but made the point that Chelsea were the reigning European champions.
Tuchel’s frustration with Werner
It’s safe to say that the Chelsea head coach was not happy with his side’s first-half display. Throughout the opening 45 minutes, Tuchel was an animated figure on the touchline as he attempted to cajole a better performance from his players.
The frustrations the German had were two-fold. The first was his side’s build-up; far too often Chelsea’s players played backward rather than attempt to break through the City press. The second was with his own side’s attempts to reclaim the ball.
Such is the speed that City move the ball, there were few genuine pressing opportunities. Yet when there was a loose pass or touch, it wasn’t pounded upon by the Blues.
That was highlighted inside the opening 15 minutes. A Chelsea attack was fizzling out in the final third but when the ball was played to Joao Cancelo at left-back, there was a chance for Timo Werner to impose himself on the Portuguese.
He didn’t take it and instead allowed the City left-back to play out. That drew the ire of Tuchel, who forcefully clapped his hands together in irritation and then attempted to relay his frustration across the Stamford Bridge pitch, with little success given the noise of the crowd.