Thomas Tuchel suddenly has reasons to be cheerful as Chelsea end worrying slump with win over Brentford

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·4-min read
Thomas Tuchel suddenly has reasons to be cheerful as Chelsea end worrying slump with win over Brentford
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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player

Thomas Tuchel had, by his own admission, a “pretty s****y” Christmas last year, having been sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on the eve of the big day and, up until last night, his mood heading into this one can’t have been much better.

Dealing with a Covid outbreak that has decimated his Chelsea squad and played a part in the sloppy run that has seen them lose ground on both Manchester City and Liverpool in the title race, the German has cut a frustrated figure of late.

After Chelsea’s request to postpone a trip to Wolves was rejected by the Premier League, he spoke of anger as well as genuine concern for the welfare of his staff and players, and gave the impression that the virus has brought an understandable unease to the Blues’ camp.

Throw in the lack of external sympathy for his predicament, owing to Chelsea’s vast resources, and the criticism he has faced for not following Jurgen Klopp’s lead in engaging on the subject of vaccination among players and it has been an awkward few days.

Last night’s 2-0 win at Brentford in the Carabao Cup will, then, have provided welcome relief, particularly as it was achieved without the overexertion of most of the Covid-free first-team regulars upon whom he will rely to get things back on track in the league at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger will all be fresh after a night off, while Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Jorginho, Reece James and N’Golo Kante only featured as second-half substitutes and Mateo Kovacic was withdrawn at half-time.

Add in that Tuchel revealed afterwards that Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi have returned negative tests and could be back in contention at Villa Park and the picture is beginning to look a little rosier, which is just as well seeing as the likes of Ross Barkley and Saul Niguez again did little to bolster their cases.

Nor did the three teenage debutants - Xavier Simons, Harvey Vale and Jude Soonsup-Bell - do a great deal to suggest they are ready to make their emergency summons to the first-team set-up permanent, though there are mitigating circumstances, particularly in the case of Simons, who had a difficult night played out of position at wing-back.

“The three boys did well,” Tuchel said. “They did not train for a week because the academy was closed, then we invited them to train with us for two days.

“They listened carefully and did their job. And the seven guys that played with them supported them. They did well and were involved in a good performance.”

There was, however, genuine reason for a bit of New Year optimism in the performance of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who again used a competition with which he has a peculiar relationship to show he will be able to fill the boots of Mendy when he heads to the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal next month, boots that may not feel quite as big as they did earlier in the season, given the 29-year-old’s recent drop in form.

“I’m very happy, I’m super impressed with Kepa,” Tuchel said, after watching his goalkeeper make three crucial first-half saves before Pontus Jansson’s own goal and Jorginho’s penalty sent Chelsea into the semi-final.

Thomas Tuchel was delighted with another impressive showing from Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Carabao Cup (Getty Images)
Thomas Tuchel was delighted with another impressive showing from Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Carabao Cup (Getty Images)

“It’s not a surprise anymore because he’s in that state of mind as a person, character and sportsman where he just delivers because he does what he does best. This is what he shows every single day in training and it’s why he gets the rewards. I’m absolutely sure that this is the reason he has these kind of performances.”

If, as Tuchel surely fears, their recent run of only three wins in eight league games does prove fatal to Chelsea’s title hopes - as it may well do should either one of Liverpool or City continue their relentless winning form - then the importance of this competition grows.

The Carabao Cup alone will not be enough to satisfy Roman Abramovich’s insatiable desire for success, one which Tuchel has faced head on from his very first press conference, but the semi-final lineup tells you it is a trophy that will take some winning.

An intriguing meeting with former boss Antonio Conte and Tottenham comes next for Chelsea, with the prospect of a final against either Liverpool or an improving Arsenal - who, like Spurs, do not have Europe to juggle in the New Year - to follow.

Before then, Tuchel can look forward to a Christmas more cheerful than the last one.

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