Chelsea is currently in the middle of one of its best runs over the last few seasons. The Blues are unbeaten in their last 13 matches—including all 12 under new manager Thomas Tuchel. Tuchel has helped patch up the leaky defense at the back, as Takumi Minamino remains the only opposing player to score on the back three. The Blues have allowed just two goals in the 12 games the German has taken charge of, but the performances aren’t as consistent as supporters would possibly want.
Roman Abramovich invested a lot of money last summer to ensure the Blues would be in the title race sooner rather than later. His team is in fact out of the title race with nine games to go; however, it is in the hunt for the top four. In order to secure a Champions League spot though, the Blues must begin to click in the final third.
Chelsea has played 12 matches under Tuchel, as previously noted. In those contests, the Blues have scored just 13 goals and of those, four have been from the penalty spot. Following the latest draw against a mediocre mid-table side, questions are being asked about the problems in attack. Are Tuchel’s tactics to blame or is it the players?
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Why is Chelsea struggling to score goals?
In the end, it’s a bit of both. It’s a chicken and egg conversation that nobody truly has the answer to—not even those inside the dressing room. Tuchel has put a lot of emphasis on ball retention, pressing high up the pitch and playing from out of the back since he implemented his 3-4-3 formation at Stamford Bridge. While Frank Lampard’s staff preached a possession-heavy style, Tuchel’s tactics are more similar to that of Maurizio Sarri. To put it into perspective, Chelsea fans have referred to the German’s ideas as Antonio Conte’s formation with Sarri’s style.
For one reason or another, the Blues struggled to score under the Italian who preceded Lampard. Sarri-ball was ultimately a failure and although its core has been largely rotated, especially up front, the struggles remain. Tuchel’s 3-4-3 has tried a number of things to get the front three going, it’s just not happening at the moment. This includes trying attack-minded individuals like Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic at wingback. Unfortunately, the problem may be the formation.
The 3-4-3 requires technically sound, well-rounded midfielders. Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and even Billy Gilmour are all perfectly capable of playing in the midfield pivot. However, none possess any end product. Between the four of them, Jorginho (7) is the only one to score a goal, and all of those came from the penalty spot. Kai Havertz has moved to a No. 9 role and Mason Mount is playing higher up the pitch, so the Blues lack any goalscoring presence in the middle of the park. The only solution seems like playing Mount alongside one of the aforementioned individuals in the midfield pivot, but it’s too risky to try at the moment.
The lack of offensive production isn’t the fault of the players—we’ve known for years that those players cannot score. Therefore, it’s seen as a tactical sacrifice Tuchel is willing to make due to the defensive excellence of each. Tuchel’s tactics may hold the Blues back in midfield a bit, it’s hard to look past the inconsistent personnel as the main problem though.
Chelsea has largely struggled to get goals all season long. The unbeaten streak under Lampard was the exception to this, but as soon as the scoring dried up, the club legend lost his job. The Blues have relied on unlikely scorers throughout the entirety of the campaign—specifically defenders. A plethora of goals have also come from the penalty spot or through own goals.
The Blues’ three center forwards—Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud—are leading the team in scoring across all competitions. Still, none have mind-blowing tallies. Behind them is Jorginho, the team’s designated penalty taker, and Mount. We’ve all witnessed the struggles from Werner, Abraham is frozen out of the team at the moment and Giroud is an inconsistent starter. Factor in the injuries to Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Havertz, and the Blues have prepared the perfect recipe for disaster up front.
There is no easy answer as to how Tuchel can fix this problem either. His constant rotation of the team certainly doesn’t help though. The 47-year-old did make it clear when he came in that everyone would get a shot after a few individuals were shut out by the previous manager. That being said, too much rotation leads to chemistry issues like the ones we saw at Elland Road on Saturday. The managerial staff needs to quickly work out its best front three, or at least rotate in units.
Chelsea’s offensive struggles are going to take some time to fix. Nevertheless, Tuchel needs to get his team scoring quickly if he wants to reach his goals. That begins on Wednesday when the Blues host Atletico Madrid, clinging on to a 1-0 lead in the Champions League tie.