Thomas Tuchel’s tactical alteration pays off
Since the appointment of the German coach at the end of January, Chelsea have predominantly been set up in a 3-4-2-1 shape. Yet there was a notable change against Fulham.
With Mateo Kovacic ruled out with a hamstring injury and Tuchel keen to give N’Golo Kante and Jorginho a break from the side ahead of the second leg of the Blues’ Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, Tuchel altered the shape of his side.
Billy Gilmour was brought into the midfield and played in the first half as a single pivot. Ahead of the young Scot, was Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz regularly rotated in the attacking line.Thomas Tuchel Makes Ruben Loftus-cheek To Michael Ballack Comparison
It meant Chelsea often ending up in a 3-1-4-2 shape, with the two Germans both pushing high up the pitch and Mount and Ziyech exploiting the space created in front of the Fulham defence.
Chelsea fashioned several chances in the opening 45 minutes, only one of which was taken by Havertz. The alteration did mean, however, the Blues were more open than usual and Edouard Mendy was also forced into action on more than one occasion.
With an advantage to protect in the second half, Mount dropped deeper and Chelsea settled into their usual 3-4-2-1 shape. The damage had already been done at that point, though.
Hakim Ziyech loses his cool
There were several nearly moments for Chelsea in the opening period. The Blues, either through elegant passing or by reclaiming the ball, got into good positions in the Fulham defensive third on several occasions only for a poor final pass to end the attack.
Hakim Ziyech was guilty of that, as were Chelsea’s other attacking stars. Yet on one occasion when the Morrocan star got his pass right, Timo Werner was guilty of wasting the opportunity.
The German forward set off on a run when Ziyech received the ball in the middle of the pitch but he started to slow just as the former Ajax star released the ball.
It resulted in Werner’s touch being loose and running through to Alphonse Areola. And that saw Ziyech clenching his fists and screaming into the air in frustration.
Timo Werner = the assist king
Make no mistake, Chelsea spent £49.5million to sign Timo Werner from RB Leipzig last summer because of his goal record. But the German hasn’t been able to maintain his output in English football.
Werner has struck only three goals for the Blues over the past three-and-a-half months and yet he has continued to be a regular in the Chelsea side.
The reasons why at myriad. Werner works incredibly hard; he presses well and is a constant threat behind opposing defences. He has also proved himself an excellent facilitator for those around him, as again highlighted against Fulham.
It was Werner who played a perfectly weighted through pass for Kai Havertz’s second goal of the game. In the process, he claimed his tenth assist of the campaign, the most of any Chelsea player.
Andreas Christensen maintains record
It’s been quite a turnaround for the Dane at Stamford Bridge over the last three months. From the moment Christensen stepped into the side after Thiago Silva picked up a thigh injury against Tottenham, he’s been nothing short of exceptional.
The majority of Christensen’s flawless displays have come in the centre of defence. But since Silva returned from his injury, the academy graduate has also been used on the right of the back three.
That was again the case against Fulham and Christensen was once more composed, effective on the ball, and unafraid to step forward when needed.
The 25-year-old helped Chelsea keep another clean sheet, which is the eighth in succession the Blues have kept when Christensen has started in the Premier League.
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Chelsea reach defensive landmark
That wasn’t quite the case against the Cottagers as Edouard Mendy was forced into action in the opening period; the Senegal international produced one brilliant stop from an Ola Aina shot that deflected off the ankle of Reece James on the stroke of half time.
The second period was more comfortable for the Blues as, after Havertz’s second of the game, the belief drained away from Fulham.
That ensured Chelsea kept another shutout – their 30th of the campaign in all competitions. That is a figure unmatched by any other top-flight side in European football this term.