What were Thomas Tuchel’s first impressions of Chelsea?
Thomas Tuchel took charge of his first game as Chelsea manager on Wednesday night as his new side were held to a 0-0 draw by Wolves at Stamford Bridge.
The former PSG man was only named Frank Lampard’s successor on Tuesday and only had one training session with his new team ahead of his debut in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
But what kind of impression did Chelsea make of Tuchel?
One word: possession.
Chelsea de Tuchel loved possession. If the German had been brought in to increase the Blues’ possession statistics, it would already be a job well done.
Chelsea had 79% of the ball – including a staggering 94% possession in the final five minutes of the first half. They attempted 887 passes – nearly four times as many as Wolves. They were very, very good at keeping possession. Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho have been deployed in both deep midfielder roles and they have made Chelsea perform well with their composure, poise and ruthless efficiency on the ball.
But possession was really all they had. Chelsea was like a nervous teenage boyfriend meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time and trying to make a good first impression by simply saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all night long. Polite, simple, safe, but ultimately really boring.
Despite all their possession, Chelsea barely threatened and had only half the chance to show their efforts. Ben Chilwell soared wide and on either side of half-time, while Callum Hudson-Odoi brought a stretch save from Rui Patricio.
In the end, it was Wolves who had the best opportunity of the game, with Pedro Neto cutting the bar with a scoop effort when he is net on goal.
Hudson-Odoi was Chelsea’s brightest player, one of the few men in blue to ask questions at the Wolves backline or attempt to get behind. The England international operated from the back of the right wing as Chelsea lined up with a fullback three, matching Wolves’ roster – the same form Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had lined up against Chorley in the FA Cup this weekend.
It remains to be seen if this is Tuchel’s lineup of choice for Chelsea, or if he went as he did with Wednesday night’s opponents.
For Hudson-Odoi and Chilwell, the focus was on the “wing” rather than the “back” as they spent much of the game pinning the Wolves wingers in their own half. As under Lampard, it was the full-backs who carried much of Chelsea’s threat.
As a result, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech operated as inside attackers instead of squeezing the sideline. However, neither player was ever able to quite reach the Wolves backline or have a revealing impact on the game as the visitors put on a purposeful and disciplined defensive performance.
It’s only 90 minutes of football after a training session with his team. So far Tuchel has possession nailed down, while the point in the final third was missing a lot.