Chelsea did what in the United States is called, “winning ugly”. The Blues had to scrape together a win against a bottom of the table team, forcing fans to sweat again until the end of the game against an inferior opponent. Chelsea once again had lots of possession and lots of completed passes but their possession or passing was without much purpose or production against Sheffield United in the first half-hour. Their best player far and away was Timo Werner who was the only player who even had a sniff of goal until Mason Mount opened the scoring finally, finding a goal after a brilliant pass and assist from Werner in the 43′.
Olivier Giroud at center-forward got almost no service whatsoever from anyone and played rather poorly, as well. The midfield double pivots of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic continue to be fine in passing back and sideways but are not producing traditional good opportunities in transition for the forwards. In addition, they themselves have trouble initiating anything themselves (Kovacic at times excepted) and they certainly cannot shoot. That’s an understatement. They are not good on the shot, to say the least.
While the early results for Thomas Tuchel have been positive points-wise, the same problems that plagued the Frank Lampard-led side are still evident in the Tuchel version. The side is not producing good chances on goal. Almost at all. Today the poor transition in the midfield was accompanied by the same by today’s choice of wing backs, Reece James and Ben Chilwell both of whom had forgettable games. The attack was dull, unfocused, and unproductive for much of the game. Again, as earlier in the season, teams that are far less talented than Chelsea, but tough and attentive like the Blades continue to give the Blues lots of trouble with their attack.
As pointed out in a previous article, the forwards are getting no results and that will prove the side’s undoing against the best teams in Premier League, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool who will carve up the Chelsea midfield and overpower them while providing few chances whatsoever to the Blues forward line. It seems that if Tuchel is determined to go with a 3-4-3 formation the answer is to secure two midfield pivots who can both advance the ball themselves and actually shoot the ball and score as well as passing the ball forward quickly in transition. Tuchel needs two Bruno Fernandes or Ilkay Gundogan types if this attack is to progress.
Tuchel is giving Mason Mount too many opportunities on corners and free-kicks and some should clearly go to Werner. All the free kicks should go Werner’s way. He just needs a spark to ignite his scoring talents and Tuchel isn’t giving him the opportunities. And as for corners, Mount isn’t impressing nearly at all. And, it seems that the Blues never saw a shot that couldn’t be blocked by an opposing defender. Their attack is languid and they are little threat at the moment to grind their way to anywhere near the top of the table by playing their game of meaningless possession without gaining any good chances on goal.
If this sounds familiar, it is. It’s what plagued the Frank Lampardled Blues and continues under Tuchel. Werner is as Tim Howard noted on NBC is a “world-class player”. There’s no doubt about it. He’s beginning to carve up Premier League defenders but he’s not getting the service or attention from his teammates that he should. Tuchel’s No. 1 Priority has to get his best attackers involved in the game. And that means Werner. Two of his other best, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi started the day on the bench. Hudson-Odoi came on in the second half. Pulisic didn’t.
Happy Christmas! Antonio Rudiger gifted an own-goal “scoring” in the 54′ to allow Sheffield to go even with the Blues in a pitiful example of lackadaisical play from the central-defender. Shortly thereafter Chelsea took the lead on a penalty. Yet, once again, Tuchel made the wrong decision giving Jorginho the penalty kick. He didn’t allow Werner, his great center-forward who again drew a penalty for the second game in a row to finish off the play. I’ll again fault Tuchel for that decision which turned out well short-term, but in the long-run was a poor one. Tuchel needs to get Werner going and once again he didn’t give him the opportunity on the penalty. I’ll take issue with that as long as it continues.
The rest of the game was boring with Chelsea fans just hoping that the poor Sheffield squad didn’t find an opening to get the equalizer in a nail-biting finish, as usual. It again was a poor exhibition only reprieved by the three points. But against Manchester City et al, don’t expect much. This Chelsea squad is not anywhere near their league. The more things change, the more they stay the same, they say. The good results against poor sides, as they did for Lampard continue, but they are still as ugly as they were then. Hope for a fourth-place finish. Frankly, it seems that’s as good as it’s going to get this season. Maybe.