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Chelsea dropped defensive inconsistency as season in limbo shows no signs of slowing down

In public, Thomas Tuché offered some sort of headline-grabbing statements. The Chelsea manager said he ‘understood’ a Chelsea fan who protested with Cesar Azpilicueta. His team had been so infuriating, because he blamed them for so many mistakes. Tuchel also blamed the pitch for contributing to those errors, in what was perhaps his wildest comment of the evening.

He certainly got the most attention.

“It’s very, very difficult ground here,” complained Tuchel. “It’s not in our favor. The ball bounces awkwardly.

As absurd as that sounds, it probably offers a glimpse of a very frustrated state of mind, where one problem just seemed to overlap another. So it was with Chelsea’s general play.

Because, in private, it is understood that Tuchel is especially blamed for it. He regretted the XI he played, because he knew Arsenal “want more”.

They certainly needed it more, because that 4-2 win revitalized their challenge for a Champions League spot. All of this fueled a game where Arsenal had a much greater intensity than their previous three games, and Chelsea were once again lax.

Mikel Arteta had told his team before the game that if they really wanted to make the Champions League, they had to beat his best teams. They did it, seizing an unexpected opportunity, with impressive opportunism.

Arteta beamed with pride after the game, especially with the character shown by his team. This was displayed mostly by the winners of the match.

With Arsenal already 3-2, Bukayo Saka’s stoppage time penalty may not have had the stakes in the Euro 2020 final, but it had real pressure because of its failure on this occasion . Arteta said it was “hat off” for simply stepping up.

Saka did more than that. He scored.

Tuchel was appalled by more than the decision. He couldn’t believe his team could be so clumsy, when they could have given themselves “another six minutes” to try and equalise.

Chelsea were in this situation because of one of the revelations of the night, Eddie Nketiah.

It is to his credit to have been so sharp after 367 days without a league goal, and so few minutes in the competition.

Arteta later admitted that, if there’s one player he’s been “unfair” with, “it’s Eddie”. He still handled it well by man in those days and has now seen the rewards.

Both goals were fine finishes from the striker. The first was a smart strike from a short pass from Christensen – for which Tuchel seemed to specifically blame the pitch.

The second was smart movement and a neat finish as the ball bounced around the Chelsea box.

There might be something more to it too.

After a torturous series of games against mid tables, where Arsenal struggled and struggled so often to create chances or even momentum, it felt like a release. He is known within the premier league that after half a season of form in a way that tends to happen, opposing teams have now learned how Arteta’s side play. They adjusted and prevented wide players from finding the same space.

Almost counterintuitively, that space has just been offered against Chelsea, but perhaps there’s an obvious logic to it. The best teams will come out against Arsenal feeling it is their responsibility to attack. It means Arteta’s side finally have that space to run in, allowing them the transitions that bring out their best.

He also points out that the general form of the team looks good. There is clearly a central idea that works. In some areas, it really is a question of personnel. Nketiah showed the difference of an attacker who scores. Mohamed Elneny, another hero of the evening, showed the difference of a solid midfielder.

Both are such characters that they’re capable of that kind of performance once in a while, but not consistent enough to be regular starters for such teams.

Again, the other side was that Tuchel didn’t think Chelsea were playing like a top team.

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It was a third consecutive defensive horror show at home, taking it to 11 in three games after Brentford and Real Madrid.

“The number of errors in consecutive games at home, it’s impossible at this level.”

Such an atmosphere would bring questions about Tuchel’s future, down to whether he could go there himself, but it’s hard not to think that all of that in itself is a rare product of circumstances. Chelsea could even find themselves in a strange kind of limbo for the rest of the season, naturally linked to the takeover. They’re about sure enough for the Champions League to make motivation difficult for league games, but they’ve probably got enough to spin them all the way to the main target in this FA Cup.

It wasn’t what we expected at the start of the season, or even a few months ago, but this campaign has been like no other.

Much of this was of course influenced by real-world circumstances much bigger than football, but it still proves a feeling that Arteta himself felt throughout and expressed after the game.

“The guy who invented this game, he wanted to make us suffer, because when you expect something, something else happens!”

This 4-2 victory is the ultimate proof of that.

Just when they thought they were out, Arsenal are back. Meanwhile, Tuchel has so much to ponder for Chelsea.

Chelsea dropped defensive inconsistency as season in limbo shows no signs of slowing down

Source link Chelsea dropped defensive inconsistency as season in limbo shows no signs of slowing down

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