3. How do Chelsea’s strikers impact the match?
At this point, it seems pretty clear that Tuchel has three extremely different options at striker, who push the team to play in three distinct ways. With Olivier Giroud, you know he will be there in excellent positions when the ball comes into the box, and he can finish in just about any way you can dream up.
In Timo Werner, Tuchel has someone who can keep the defensive line on its heels with his ability to beat any player to any spot in a dead sprint. None of Everton’s defenders are particularly exceptional athletes, and all of them should be at least slightly nervous at the prospect of having to deal with Werner in open space. Lastly, there’s the suspiciously absent Tammy Abraham, who is a pure striker by position, but has the passing and athleticism to be effective when slipping out towards either flank.
There’s a time and a place for all three.
Everton’s defense is just about bang average. There’s nothing particularly intimidating about them, nor are they a bunch of pathetic walkovers. Of course, that might be doing them a bit of a disservice since they’re riding a streak of three straight clean sheets, but the combination of Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey doesn’t exactly scream mid-90s AC Milan. That said, they’re certainly a better pair than Fabinho and Ozan Kabak were for Liverpool on Thursday.
In that match, Werner was able to use his pace to keep the two centerbacks somewhat off-kilter as they struggled to communicate and move as a cohesive unit. Against Everton, there won’t be that awkwardness between the pair to take advantage of, so the Blues will need another way around or through. Abraham seems like the best choice, assuming his ankle is healed and he’s out of whatever timeout chair Tuchel seems to have put him in. Abraham has the ability to occupy the centerbacks with both his positioning and his athleticism, and can also drift wide to take up the space left by Everton’s fullbacks, who like to push up and get forward when attacking. Keane is the prototypical English centerback of yesteryear, so anything Abraham can do to drag him away from his usual spot in the middle of the defense will go a long way towards opening some space for Chelsea’s other attackers.
Beyond the actual tactical reasons, there are plenty of other reasons to hope Tuchel gives Abraham at least some sort of run out. With the rumors of Chelsea’s interest in Erling Braut Haaland and Abraham’s resulting disinterest in renewing his contract, there’s certainly a bit of perceived tension between the striker and the new manager. A good performance by Abraham would go a long way towards quelling some of the narrative surrounding him. If one thing is clear, it’s that Tuchel will make decisions that are in the best interest of winning matches. There’s good reason to think that Abraham is the best choice to win this particular match. It will be worth watching to see if Tuchel feels the same way. If not, then hopefully whoever he does choose performs well enough to validate Abraham’s exclusion.