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Tactical Analysis: Tuchel’s First Game as Chelsea Boss

Chelsea began a new chapter at Stamford Bridge last night with new coach Thomas Tuchel taking over the side for his first game in charge of the club.

The German was announced just one day prior to facing Wolves, following Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s sacking on Monday. Tuchel has shown promise as the manager for Paris Saint-Germain, leading the club to a Champions League final in 2020.

All eyes were on Chelsea’s new boss during their Wednesday night encounter against Wolverhampton Wanderers which ultimately ended in a stalemate 0-0 draw.

Despite only having one training session with the squad, Tuchel’s tactics were apparent in the opening minutes of the match.

Chelsea began the game with energy and enthusiasm, completely dominating possession. This was largely due to the creative movement and crisp passing from Chelsea’s midfielders.

Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho formed the base of the midfield, connecting the most passes out of any two players on the pitch, with Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech operating in free attacking midfield roles.

These four players were responsible for the majority of Chelsea’s touches and possession of the ball. Tuchel’s width in attack relied on Ben Chilwell on the left and more often Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right.

Chelsea’s passing chart in attacking shape (thickness of arrow indicates quantity of passes between players, the blue name indicates the player was a substitute)

The best chance of the first half came from Hudson-Odoi, delivering a promising ball toward Giroud who failed to meet the ball. Hudson-Odoi was undoubtedly one of Chelsea’s better players on the day, constantly creating a spark on the right side of the pitch in an unfamiliar wing-back position and testing Wolves’ defender Nelson Semedo on the dribble.

Throughout the match, Chelsea players rarely found themselves defending for long periods of time, but when they had to, Hudson-Odoi and Chilwell would drop back into outside wing-back roles with Ziyech and Havertz filling the central midfield area and helping Giroud press up top, leaving Kovacic and Jorginho to cover the passing lanes behind them.

Chelsea’s attack did an outstanding job of winning the ball back with intensity and swarming the ball after losing it, especially in the first half.

Despite having 79% possession, Chelsea failed to carve out many concrete chances on goal, only managing five shots on goal and none that truly tested Rui Patricio.

A clean sheet and dominant possession are certainly signs pointing in the right direction, but if Chelsea are to score more goals Chelsea’s forwards need to focus more creativity in the final third.

Firstly, Chelsea’s attack needed to connect with Giroud or Tammy Abraham on a more regular basis in their build-up play or with crosses into the box from the goal line.

In addition, quicker passing combinations are needed in and around the penalty box from Chelsea’s creative midfielders with quick switches of attack and more overlapping runs in behind the defence to produce several avenues towards the goal.

Team selection is something that Frank Lampard struggled with as Chelsea’s former boss and is certainly one of the major talking points for Thomas Tuchel, inheriting a squad with significant squad depth and abundance of talent fighting for only eleven starting positions.

One of his more notable decisions against Wolves was giving Havertz the full 90 minutes while limiting Werner to a role on the bench. That being said, Tuchel did mention that he had hardly any training or time with the players to base his starting eleven on.

Tuchel will be looking to build on his first game as Chelsea’s head coach in the following days leading up to his team’s next Premier League match against Burnley on Sunday. This is another opposition defence that is difficult to break down but with more time to work with his players, eyes will be on Chelsea’s attacking stars to score the opening goal in the Tuchel area at Chelsea Football Club.

Article by Shawn Spurrier.

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