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Home Forums Sport Life “I don’t call them defenders” – How Tuchel transformed Chelsea’s wing-backs into goalscorers

last updated by Bernard 1 month ago
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    “I don’t call them defenders” – How Tuchel transformed Chelsea’s wing-backs into goalscorers

    “I don't call them defenders” – How Tuchel transformed Chelsea’s wing-backs into goalscorers

    Chelsea’s great Premier League and Champions League performances can be attributed to their defence.

    After ten games, the Blues are three points clear at the top of the Premier League and need only one more point to reach the last 16 of their Champions League defence. So far, Thomas Tuchel’s team has kept 10 clean sheets in 17 games in all competitions, surrendering only seven times. But that’s not what we mean when we say they owe this season’s success to their defence.

    Chelsea’s goal distribution has been extremely well-balanced throughout the team. For the 35 goals scored so far in all competitions, seventeen different players have found the back of the net (excluding one own goal). As things stand, Reece James is Chelsea’s equal top scorer in all competitions, with four goals in 11 games, tied with Romelu Lukaku. With three assists, the Englishman has been directly involved in more goals than any other Chelsea player this season.

    Ben Chilwell, his wing-back partner, has been as impressive and is now just one goal behind James in all competitions after scoring in three consecutive Premier League games.

    What’s more amazing about their return is that neither could have been Tuchel’s first option in their position in the early stages of the season. So, what went wrong?

    Tuchel’s first half-season at Chelsea was more conservative, from replacing Frank Lampard at the end of January to winning the Champions League in the closing days of May. Chelsea’s three-man centre defence was implemented to address the club’s most serious problem: goal conceded. As a result, the wing-backs did not push as high, with the average position being about the halfway line.

    Even when the personnel changed, James, Chilwell, Cesar Azpilicueta, Emerson, Marcos Alonso, and Callum Hudson-Odoi were charged with similar flank duties. Chelsea’s attackers were largely responsible for scoring goals with this style, which may explain why the squad only scored 38 goals in 30 games and failed to score at all on seven occasions.

    However, for 2021/22, this was altered without jeopardizing defensive stability. Chelsea has scored 35 goals in just 17 games (as indicated before), averaging slightly over two goals per game. They’ve only failed to score twice, and the wings have been a major threat.

    Chelsea’s wing-backs are more advanced in the Premier League and the Champions League, adequately covering the gaps left by their inside forwards and giving the breadth Tuchel’s side requires to break down dense defences. This can’t be explained only by James and Chilwell’s rising notoriety. Tuchel’s favourites at the start of the season, Alonso and Azpilicueta, were anticipated to play greater aggressive roles as well.

    “I would not call them defenders but they have to defend in some moments like defenders, but they are freer to attack the opponents’ box than they are in the role as a full-back,” Tuchel said of his wing-backs recently.

    “So it is necessary that they are included and we bring them to the box at the end of our attacks and increase the goal threat. I am happy when we create chances, and I’m happy when we have five or six players in the box to be dangerous.

    “In this system we play, it’s true that the wing-backs are there and have the freedom to be dangerous.”

    Many were startled to see James’ name among the replacements when Chelsea’s first starting XI of the season, in the Super Cup versus Villarreal, was announced. He was expected to start in Belfast after deputising as a centre-back towards the conclusion of the 2020/21 season, but he had to wait until the second Premier League game of the season to be named in a lineup.

    James had a fantastic game, scoring twice and assisting in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal. Another assist came in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, and despite being sent off for a second yellow card, James scored on his next Premier League start (Chelsea’s 7-0 triumph over Norwich).

    Then there was the 3-0 triumph over Newcastle, in which James scored two goals with either foot, effectively playing as a winger for huge stretches of the game as Chelsea battled to break down their opponents.

    This season in the Premier League and Champions League, James has averaged 1.12 goal involvements per 90 minutes, 1.87 shots per 90 minutes, and 2.43 opportunities created, all of which are significant improvements over his debut season under Tuchel in the league and Europe. James took 1.14 shots per 90 seconds and created 1.59 opportunities, but he did not score or assist.

    One of the key reasons for this increase is that James has been given more time to play higher up the pitch in the EPL, thus making the opposition half his own. Last season, James’ attacking contributions were mostly crossing from deep, but this season he is more active closer to the opposition area, looking to beat his man before setting up a teammate. James is helped by his understanding with Azpilicueta, who provides the overlapping run when he advances from the right-centre-back position, which he enjoys.

    James’ positioning paid off against Newcastle, as he scored two goals with his ‘horse-like’ shooting. It’s a strange analogy, but it’s not ours. Tuchel was the one who made the comparison.

    “We don’t need exercise shooting with Reece… he shoots like a horse!”

    Thomas Tuchel on Reece James’ brace vs Newcastle

    On the left-wing, Chilwell has undergone a similar change, although he had to wait even longer than James to receive his chance in Tuchel’s new system. Chilwell played in the 2021 Champions League final, but was unable to represent England at Euro 2020 due to a Covid infection, and had to wait until October to make his first Premier League game of the season. Chilwell’s only start came in the League Cup triumph over Aston Villa as a rotation option, along with substitute outings in the Champions League against Zenit and Juventus.

    Chilwell, on the other hand, began against Southampton after Alonso’s troubles in Turin and has since become almost unstoppable. In three Premier League appearances in a row, he scored against Southampton, Brentford (the winner), and Norwich City. Chilwell has started five of Chelsea’s seven games since his comeback, coming off the bench in the League Cup and being rested fully in the Blues’ 1-0 win over Malmo in midweek.

    Unlike James, Chilwell had to fight for a place in Tuchel’s team last season, despite Alonso’s natural wing-back status.

    Under Tuchel’s tutelage, the Englishman averaged 0.19 goal involvements per 90 minutes in the Premier League and Champions League, taking 1.1 shots per 90 minutes and creating 1.17 chances. Those figures, like James’, have been blown out this season. In the Premier League and Champions League, Chilwell averaged 0.56 goals or assists per 90 minutes, 2.26 shots, and 1.88 opportunities.

    The main difference is that Chilwell isn’t as tethered to the wing as he formerly was. Last season, under Tuchel, he hugged the touchline as if his spot in the team relied on it. It worked at times. Especially as a builder of attacks for Edouard Mendy. Consider Chelsea’s Champions League final victory, in which Mendy-Chilwell-Mount was a common passing combination that led to Havertz’s goal. However, it restricted Chilwell’s offensive ability.

    Now, thanks to fresh instructions from the head coach, Chilwell is free to move centrally and can be found in a No. 8 or even a No. 10 role when the game allows it, as long as they have a wide colleague on the flank.

    Chilwell is more dangerous from this position, and he can assist compensate for his offensive partners’ shortcomings. The goal against Brentford, for example, came from a central run, with Chilwell darting unnoticed to the edge of the box before slamming the ball home.

    Over a quarter (28.6%) of Chelsea’s 35 goals in all competitions have been scored or assisted by James and Chilwell combined. However, as Tuchel stated, they are not solely defenders. “They now have the freedom to be dangerous,” says one of them.

    Read Also: Chelsea’s young talent is something to be feared indeed


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  • Author
    • #27928
      John Adeleke

      manager of the year no doubt, his impact on those players is not quantifiable..

    • #27947

      lol, so u dont call them defenders but you call them strikers?? this man dan kolo shah

    • #27948

      when u sabi ball too much sote u turn even keeper to attacking midfielder, ur head dey dier Tuchel


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