Despite not being at their best, Chelsea take a 2-0 away win into the second leg of the Champions league tie against Porto. This result puts the Blues in a commanding position and overwhelming favorites to advance to the semi-finals of the competition. But what makes this Chelsea side just so effective and what can we expect in the future?
The West Brom result aside, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea reign thus far has been near perfect. However, there are many who are yet to be completely won over. This is largely in part to the style of play. To some, Tuchel’s football comes across as stifling but if you consider this as a work in progress rather than the finished article there is a lot to look forward to.
The best way to describe Chelsea’s style right now is that it is custom made for tournament knock out football and at this point in the season there is no better approach if the club would like to see some silverware being lifted come summer. Chelsea has one foot into the semi-finals of the Champions as aforementioned and look forward to a semi-final against Manchester City in the FA cup. Now would be the perfect time to breakdown Tuchel’s current style and what he hopes to develop by the end of the season. When breaking down a play style it would be best to separate the three sections of the pitch which the defense, midfield and attack occupy.
The defense, easily the biggest improvement under Tuchel beside the calamity of West Brom, Chelsea have shown themselves to have one of the strongest defenses in Europe. In the Champions league, the club boast the best defense having only conceded 2 goals and are yet to concede in the knockout stage this season. In addition to this, Edouard Mendy has 7 clean sheets in the competition more than any other keeper. So clearly in this department Chelsea are thriving, it must be mentioned that during the group stages the club was managed by Frank Lampard so Tuchel cannot take credit for those performances. However, the implementation of the three at the back has been a major reason for the solidity of the side. The center backs at the club are perfectly suited to Tuchel’s use of the formation, the central defender has to be the most comfortable with the ball at his feet which is why Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva have been used in this role, the former producing some outstanding performances. The right and left sided center backs in this formation must be mobile and comfortable in one on one situation which is why Cesar Azpiliceuta has been an ever present rock in the right side and why Antonio Rudiger has been favored too.
While wing backs are part of the defense, in this team it would make more sense to mention them within the midfield as they are major components to Chelsea’s transition of the ball. Three center backs may suggest the manager values defense over attack but this is far from the case. All the defenders are very comfortable on the ball and aim to move the ball quickly so it can transition to the midfield as fast as possible.
The midfield, this area of the team is not as far along in their development as the defense is, this may be down to personnel available but the ideas are clear. Mateo Kovavic is arguably the poster boy of what Tuchel wants in one of his deep lying central midfielders. Comfortable on the ball, superb control in tight areas, press resistant and expert dribbler these attributes were on full display against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Champions league where him and N’Golo Kante ran the show. Due to injury it does seem that Jorginho is sometimes chosen over the Frenchmen but if Chelsea are to win these cup tournaments Kovacic and Kante are must starters. Returning to the wingbacks it seems that Ben Chilwell and Reece James have established themselves as best in the positions both comfortable in defense and attack these two men are vital in this system.
Finally the attack, the area of the team that needs the most improvement and development. While they are not scoring as freely as would be hoped, the front three are implementing the style perfectly. The role of the front three is to press the opposition high up the pitch while the wing backs overlap and create overloads. Mason Mount is easily the best at this right now and undoubtedly will be Chelsea’s player of the season.
However, despite the lack of goals from the summer signings the performances have been good. It’s only a matter of time before the attack gets scoring and Tuchel’s tournament style of football will be in full throttle with a cup double potentially on the horizon.