Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea honeymoon is OVER… players already look tired and out of form, the side is over-reliant on injured Mason Mount and £98m man Romelu Lukaku is being starved of service
- REPORT: It’s back-to-back defeats for Chelsea as they are beaten by Juventus
- Thomas Tuchel was left bemoaning the conditioning of his ‘slow and tired’ stars
- He is facing a testing period having been a monumental success since arriving
- Tuchel must ease the over-reliance on Mason Mount and has a full-back issue
For the first time in a long time, Thomas Tuchel has very little to smile about.
Arriving back in January it was win after win after win to the point that his honeymoon phase carried him all the way to a Champions League winner’s medal.
Starting the campaign as a major contender to dethrone Manchester City as Premier League champions, Chelsea have started to stutter.
The Blues have lost twice in the last five days – mustering only one shot on target in total across both matches.
Successive 1-0 defeats to Manchester City and Juventus can happen to anyone but defeat in Turin had Tuchel irked, moaning about a display he saw as ‘strange’.
Fatigue and a drop off in form have played key roles in two chastening turnovers and the onus is now on Tuchel to get his players to bounce back – and quickly.
Sportsmail looks at the issues the German faces in a bid to get the Blues firing.
Thomas Tuchel is facing his toughest moment as Chelsea boss after two straight defeats
How Chelsea are missing the creativity and movement of Mason Mount.
Even if questions have been levelled against him this season from pockets of the support, the drop-off from those around him feels particularly steep in his absence.
And it is no coincidence that Chelsea have looked disjointed with him sidelined, losing both of the two games he has been forced to miss.
Decisive passing between the lines and providing intensity on and off the ball are both huge strengths of Mount’s game. Both traits were lacking in the Blues’ line-up against City and Juventus.
It can be argued that Mount’s goal contributions aren’t particularly impressive – he managed six from 36 Premier League games last year – but his all-round play goes well beyond the goals for column.
The absence of Mason Mount, who has sat out the last two matches, is starting to show
Juventus, predictably, were happy to concede possession, camp themselves in deep and use match-winner Federico Chiesa as their outlet on the counter-attack.
That in turn caused problems for Chelsea because with Mount out nobody stepped up to provide the invention required to break the wily Italian side down.
Mount is brilliant at providing a link between deep-sitting midfielders Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic and striker Romelu Lukaku.
Without Mount there his replacements just don’t offer the same ‘rhythm and intensity’ – to use Tuchel’s parlance – that is needed to engineer wins in these blockbuster matches.
The English midfielder’s return cannot come soon enough but if he is to be out for the foreseeable then Tuchel must work out a way to maximise his other attacking options or he risks lesser sides smelling blood.
Havertz – ‘the new Ozil’
As Chelsea headed down the tunnel for half-time in Turin, a quick glance at Twitter saw both Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz trending.
Not good trending, it should be said. Both were being pinpointed as two of the weak links as time and time again the attack broke down at their feet.
So much was hoped for Havertz this season following a rocky first year in England after arriving under Frank Lampard from Bayer Leverkusen.
Havertz gave the ball away 15 times in Turin, more than any other Chelsea player on the night.
Peter Crouch (left) said ‘technically gifted’ Kai Havertz (right) can look ‘lazy and laboured’
Peter Crouch was less than complimentary when quizzed on Havertz by BT Sport at full-time, likening him to ex-Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Crouch said: ‘I think Havertz reminds me of Ozil, he does things where it comes easy to him and he looks technically brilliant but he can also look lazy and laboured at times and he can frustrate you.’
Mount’s absence has undoubtedly stunted Chelsea’s attack but Havertz needs to take accountability for his performances in his second season – failure to arrest his form could see him idle on the bench for games to come.
Havertz is an elite talent but is struggling to find a home in Chelsea’s front three.
One of the reasons Tuchel was a shrewd appointment was to get the best out of ailing Germans Havertz and Timo Werner. It’s now time to put that all into practice.
Havertz found it difficult to create chances against a defensive Juventus side on Wednesday
Lukaku starved of service
It feels no coincidence that Lukaku has produced two of his worst performances since returning to Chelsea with Mount out of the team.
One shot on target for the entire team across 180 minutes perfectly encapsulates the attacking woes currently facing this team.
On multiple occasions in Turin Lukaku was slapping his hands together, frustrated at seeing his midfielders miscue a through ball or make the wrong decision in the final third.
Against Manchester City the Belgian had just 21 touches. Against Juventus he managed to increase it slightly to 28 touches of the ball. Remember that Chelsea boasted more than 70 per cent possession in periods and yet created next to nothing for their £98million star man.
Romelu Lukaku has managed to get less than 30 touches in each of the last two games
Antonio Conte, his manager at Inter Milan, was dismayed at the role Lukaku was playing, more akin to the methods of former Blues target man Olivier Giroud.
‘I think he can still do better, above all with his technique,’ Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
‘He is already at a very high level, but a player must keep improving until the day he retires.
‘During the game, there are moments when Lukaku needs to be turned on, but other than that he is one of the toughest forwards to play against, because he can do damage in any area of the pitch.
‘If you have a centre-forward like that, you need to use him and I don’t think Chelsea have quite figured out how to use him yet.
The Belgian is being starved of service and Chelsea need to find a way to play to his strengths
‘Last season, they didn’t have a proper centre-forward, so they rotated positions, whereas Romelu is a real reference point in attack.
‘If they can figure out how to use Lukaku, then Chelsea can become the team to beat in the Champions League this season.’
It may be only two games but they were Chelsea’s two biggest games, along with the trip to Anfield against Liverpool, and Lukaku hasn’t bagged in any of them. In fairness, he hasn’t had the chances.
Tuchel won’t need telling that that cannot go on for much longer.
Is it time to ditch Alonso for Chilwell?
Ben Chilwell has had to stay patient for an opportunity this season with Marcos Alonso getting the nod at left wing-back.
It only added to Chilwell’s frustrations having been such a peripheral player in the England squad at Euro 2020.
But with Alonso hooked at half-time in Turin, seemingly tired and out of steam, Chilwell got the nod.
Quite the way to get thrown into the mix away to Juventus but he offered an upgrade on the lethargy that Alonso was exhibiting.
The Spaniard was also not at his best against City and heading into Southampton at the weekend Chilwell will now feel he has every chance of making his first league start of the season.
His only start in 2021-22 came in the League Cup win over Aston Villa last week, which Chelsea won via a penalty shootout.
Alonso’s early substitution in Turin may be a sliding doors moment for him. Just when it appeared closed under Tuchel it has flung open and he walked right through.
Ben Chilwell was sent on at half-time and he is pushing to win his first league start in 2021-22
NEXT EIGHT GAMES
Southampton (H) – Premier League
Brentford (A) – Premier League
Malmo (H) – Champions League
Norwich (H) – Premier League
Southampton (H) – League Cup
Newcastle (A) – Premier League
Malmo (A) – Champions League
Burnley (H) – Premier League
PS – Hope on the horizon
Two games is exactly that, two games.
In the NFL there is currently an inquest being made into why Superbowl favourites Kansas City Chiefs have lost two of their three games to open the season.
But back to Chelsea and a look at their next eight games should perk up any frustrated player or supporter.
Facing none of the supposed ‘Big Six’ sides, Chelsea face Southampton, Brentford, Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley in the league.
They also have a double header in the Champions League against Malmo, the worst side currently in the group stages.
There is also a Carabao Cup round to fulfil against Southampton.
And so Chelsea have plenty of winnable games coming up where they can iron out any issues.
Battling across multiple competitions will keep levels high but Tuchel knows an inability to nip this mini-slump early risks even trickier questions being thrown his way.
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