Blue Mondays: If it Ain't Broken, Don't Fix it!

How Thomas Tuchel’s tactical adventurousness led to a lackluster performance at Leeds.

Dominance under Tuchel:

A week ago today, Chelsea took on Everton at the Bridge, full of confidence after efficiently dispatching their Merseyside rivals and current reigning champions, Liverpool.

Tuchel employed his standard 3-4-2-1 to great effect, with Marcos Alonso overlapping excellently to create chances, and Kai Havertz putting in a man of the match performance as a ‘false 9’, in which he forced an own goal and won a penalty.

Kurt Zouma re-entered the defence to keep a clean sheet in a solid performance against his one-time employers, and Callum Hudson-Odoi put in an electric performance from right wing-back. The team started to look well put together as a whole, dominating possession whilst playing fast paced football in the final third. The victory against Everton extended Chelsea’s unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions, with all of those games employing a variation of a back 3, which begs the question, why would he change it against Leeds?

The change to a 4-man defence: Leeds notoriously struggles defensively, and despite not putting up high goal scoring numbers, Chelsea averaged 6.2 shots on target (per 90 minutes) in our last 5 games prior to Leeds, more than doubling the unacceptably low 3 (per 90 minutes) of the 5 games prior in the infancy of Tuchel’s reign.

Chelsea had begun to create more chances which would hypothetically suit them against a frail defensive unit. On the other hand, in the back 3, Tuchel’s men had conceded just 2 in the entirety of his tenure, so the worries of conceding were relatively low. For the Leeds game, in leeway of the second leg tie against Atlético Madrid and with the knowledge that both Jorginho and Mason Mount were to be banned, Tuchel decided not only to rotate personnel but inexplicably change the formation.

Trouble at the back… and going forward:

In a 4-2-3-1, Chelsea looked very insecure in the defence, a correct offside VAR decision stood between Leeds and taking a very early lead against the Blues.

From there, we were able to secure the point with Édouard Mendy putting in an excellent goalkeeping performance. Chelsea did however concede 4 shots on target, as many as we conceded in our previous 2 games against both Liverpool and Everton. In the attacking sense, we actually managed 8 shots on target, but that was down to Leeds aforementioned poor defence and a regression to the crossing method, perhaps a byproduct of the back 4 and the inclusion of the crossing enthusiast Ben Chilwell.

The attack was very out of sync, leading to situations like this (see Figure 1), where there was an opportunity for Hakim Ziyech to move into the space that simply was not taken.

(Figure 1, credit | @LDNFootball).

Looking forward to Atlético: In the first tie against Atlético Madrid, Chelsea dominated possession and performed excellently in Tuchel’s almost notorious 3-4-2-1, despite creating a lack of chances.

Now that the creativity element is slowly growing back into the team, Chelsea should stick to that formation to secure a place in the Champions League quarter finals.

Another change to be made is the introduction of Marcos Alonso to the squad. His brilliant performance against Everton showcases how Chelsea operate better offensively with him in the squad.

The Atlético team is still in vastly inconsistent league form, securing just one win in their last 5 La Liga games. This could be the chance for Chelsea to rubber stamp their credentials as European challengers, but only if they stick to what has been working for them.


Written by Yendi (@ftblYendi)

Edited by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport)

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