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Can Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel find a solution to his problems and keep pace with Man City and Liverpool?

·4-min read
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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player

A few short weeks ago it was a question of who could stop Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea juggernaut.

Now we know the answer. Chelsea.

Tuchel’s side have become their own worst enemy – and only have themselves to blame for losing further ground on Manchester City and Liverpool after Thursday’s 1-1 draw with a depleted Everton.

It would be easy to point to the absences of Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi as the reason for their failure to take a host of chances that could have killed off this game by half time.

But the truth is, it was an all too familiar story for Chelsea – regardless of who leads their attack. That is before the fact that Everton were missing 12 first team players is even taken into account.

There have been more than enough occasions over the past 11 months of Tuchel’s reign when his rotating cast of forwards have been guilty of blowing it in front of goal. Be it £71million Havertz, £97.5m Lukaku or £45m Werner – the common denominator is Tuchel, who is yet to resolve an issue that now looks like the biggest threat to Chelsea’s title ambitions.

It was just a month ago when the German sarcastically dismissed criticism of his forwards after Burnley’s smash-and-grab draw at Stamford Bridge.

Back then Chelsea were still flying high and Tuchel could afford to take a mocking tone. But it is no laughing matter now.

Not after a near carbon copy performance against Everton and a raft of dropped points that have seen the one-time Premier League leaders slip to third and in danger of being cut out of a two-horse title race.

Tuchel maintains that now is not the time to panic. Chelsea are only four points adrift of City and between injuries and Covid their squad is being stretched to the limit. That is true – and the extended absences of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic have severely impacted their once near-impenetrable defence.

But the problems going forward are long-standing to the point that, even without a quartet of attackers, it was hard to put forward a good enough excuse for the manner in which they let another two points slip.

Mason Mount and Reece James were both guilty of wasting chances when one-on-one with Jordan Pickford in the first half.

From just short of 80 per cent possession and 23 attempts on goal, Mount’s 70th-minute strike was all they had to show for their dominance.

By contrast, Everton scored from one of only five chances.

Compare that to City, who fired seven past Leeds on Tuesday. Just a few days earlier Chelsea had required two second-half penalties – one in stoppage time – to scrape a win against Marcelo Bielsa’s team.

Before that Tuchel had openly criticised his players, who he claimed “stole” a 2-1 victory at Watford.

Days later they were brushed aside by a rampant City.

It is an imperfect science to compare like-for-like, but the concern is that Chelsea are failing to learn from their mistakes and it is becoming increasingly costly.

When Jarrad Branthwaite equalised four minutes after Mount’s strike there was not even a sense of shock within stadium – rather a depressing case of deja vu.

The problem for Tuchel is two-fold.

While his forwards continue to let opponents off the hook, his defence is proving just as generous of late.

A goal from a set piece will hurt Tuchel – but so does the catalogue of errors that have now seen his side concede in each of their last six games and win just three of their last seven in the Premier League.

For so long, his expertly-drilled rear-guard over-compensated for Chelsea’s shortcomings up front. Now they are exacerbating them.

With every missed chance comes the fear of being punished for it at the other end.

While the sudden fragility at the back can still be considered an aberration - the problems up front cannot.

The question is, if after 11 months Tuchel is still unable to instil a ruthlessness in his attack, will he be able to produce a team with the cutting edge to fend off City and Liverpool in the title race?

City have actually only scored one more than Chelsea in the league this season – but it is the wastefulness of Tuchel’s team that is the issue.

They currently sit four points adrift of Pep Guardiola’s champions, having dropped six points in their last four home games after dominating each opponent.

Would City and Liverpool let off opponents in the same manner?

The winners of the last four Premier League titles combined have done so with a relentless and merciless power that has raised the bar for what is expected of champions.

In recent weeks Chelsea have looked a long way short of that.

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