Thomas Tuchel and Jose Mourinho

The Thomas Tuchel era is off to the perfect start after seven points from nine in his first week at Chelsea as he won the first managerial meeting with José Mourinho.

The new Chelsea boss had overseen dominant performances against Wolves and Burnley but faced the ultimate test in José Mourinho and Tottenham in his first London Derby. Chelsea fans would have been pleased with the manner of control over their rivals despite a modest 1-0 scoreline.

Tuchel has deployed a 3-4-3 system in his three games and tweaked with a change of the attacking dynamics which allowed Callum Hudson-Odoi to pair Timo Werner in attack with Mason Mount slightly behind in the number 10 role. 

This allowed Reece James to add his defensive expertise at wing-back with Hudson-Odoi previously filling in at right wing-back to devastating effect.

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Mourinho’s men were expected to soak up the pressure but the absence of Harry Kane diminished their counter-attacking threat. They showed little inventiveness in the first half as Chelsea utterly dominated the ball across the centre of the pitch. 

Chelsea were gifted a first-half penalty from Eric Dier’s rash Challenge on Werner which Jorginho dispatched with consummate execution.

Jorginho’s well-taken first half penalty was the decisive kick of the London Derby. (Getty Images)

Football Castle provides three major talking points from Tuchel’s first big win after his first week as Chelsea manager.

Tuchel’s Tactical awareness

Chelsea’s shape offers them control of the ball as well as defensive balance with Tuchel’s philosophy dependent on ball possession. The system allows the wing-backs to fly forward and provide the width while the back three and midfield pivot form a five-man shield from counter-attacks. 

Bringing back Reece James negated any Mourinho ploy to test Hudson-Odoi’s defensive awareness at wing-back and the Englishman was superb creating overloads with Cesar Azpilicueta across the right channel. 

Although Tuchel has been keen to deflect the praise onto his players.

“It’s not about my methods. I’m happy with the attitude, the squad, the potential,” Tuchel said. “They are fine guys, it’s a nice group and they are open. It’s a pleasure to be around them. We have a lot of support in the whole club. It was a quick start but an easy one because I feel very welcome.

“We defended very actively and brave.”

The control which his side showed against a deflated side was impressive as Tuchel handed Mourinho his third consecutive defeat, the first of his illustrious career, and became the first manager to keep a clean sheet in his first three Chelsea games since Mourinho himself.

“It is not only about tactics, it’s about how we play and live it,” Tuchel told BT Sport. “They lived it 100 percent with full power and intensity. We never lost the belief, faith or courage to push high and for that you have to be brave and we were.”

Squad Harmony

Tuchel’s early success and the absorption of his ideas is largely due to the squad harmony he has worked on in his one week in charge. The 47-year-old went back to the basics and put trust in his most experienced players to lay the foundations of his system at Chelsea. 

Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Toni Rüdiger, Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić have been given key roles since Tuchel was handed the reins and they have been responsible for most of the balance Chelsea are showing. Azpilicueta is performing his role as captain, in perhaps his most comfortable right centre-back position, and the same system has allowed Rüdiger and Alonso more protection from defensive lapses. 

Needless to say, it was a shape which brought out the best in some of these players in Antonio Conte’s title-winning 2016/17 season. 

Mateo Kovacic

Jorginho and 2019/20 Chelsea Player of The Year Kovačić share a telepathic understanding which has been key behind the control under Tuchel as both are responsible for progressing the ball into dangerous areas. They also form an aggressive shape with the three centre backs when Chelsea are attacking which allows them to effectively defend breaks and recycle possession. 

Mason Mount was the Blues’ most-consistent player under Frank Lampard this season and is now a sure starter due to his all-action displays. He produced a man of the match performance in the derby as he linked defence to attack in a hybrid false nine/number 10 role.

Mount’s form and place as the brightest academy graduate will resonate across the young squad members who currently find themselves on the bench due to the experienced look of the side. Pertinently, the 22-year-old personifies the hard work and dedication needed to get into the side.

Mason Mount

A change of attacking dynamics?

Tuchel’s three games in charge have been marked with heavy Chelsea possession. Although they ultimately laboured to score twice – from defenders – against Burnley, they lacked a cutting edge in attack at the Tottenham stadium.

The new system ensures control and balance in both phases of play but the lack of an extra attacker combined with Werner’s barren form has hampered the Blues thus far. Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz were unused against Spurs while Christian Pulisic was a second-half substitute.

Tuchel would observe the lack of extra quality in attack and must perhaps change shape which ensures an extra body in attacking areas. Indeed the current shape allows five players to attack while five keep the defensive shape but he could well morph it into a four-man defence when everyone is abreast of their roles.

A defensive four would see Chelsea’s best defenders this season; Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Ben Chilwell, and Reece James all play in their comfortable roles while the fullbacks can equally bomb forward with the midfield pivot providing security. This would mean an extra attacker can influence the forward areas and be a difference-maker.

Be that as it may, Silva’s muscle injury means that must be shelved for now as the defence is overwhelmingly weakened without its leader. 

Tuchel has little preparation time for the game against Sheffield on Sunday, he should stick with what has worked so far but would be cautious of the lack of ruthlessness in attack.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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