Tuchel’s “toughen up” message to defense
Thomas Tuchel has not been subtle about his issues with Chelsea’s defense lately. Can newly-signed Wesley Fofana be the difference-maker they need?
“It’s too easy to push us off the track, it’s too easy to win challenges, and it’s too easy to bully us.” This was the takeaway of Chelsea’s head coach Thomas Tuchel after their 2-1 loss to Southampton on Tuesday.
That loss was the second consecutive away game loss, the first time that has happened under Tuchel. The Blues have had an awful start to their season, with just seven points and two wins in the first five games.
In the game against Southampton, Chelsea had the lead after 23 minutes on a score by Raheem Sterling. It wasn’t long before Romeo Lavia tied it up again though, with a goal by Adam Armstrong giving Southampton the lead before halftime and keeping it the rest of the game.
Tuchel criticized his defense for not being “tough enough”.
“Soft, soft, soft defending,” he said. “What stops that? Pure mentality. Stop it by pure mentality. Stop it with defending mentality. There is no superiority for the opponent. There is no need to give shots away, there is no need. Just toughen up as a team and show a different mentality. It’s my assessment.”
This is only the second time Chelsea has had a negative goal difference after the first five games - the last time was in the 2015-16 season when they went on to finish 10th. Eduoard Mendey’s mistake in Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Leeds makes Chelsea just one of five clubs to have committed an error that led to a goal in the competitions this season.
“In Leeds, I thought we had answers in just the first 15 minutes of the second half, today we scored, so everything was okay, but one set-piece again, one sloppy piece of defending again and we are off balance, we did not react to it,” said Tuchel. “We were lucky not to concede a third goal in the second half and we were not tough enough to react or to push it over the line.”
Is Wesley Fofana the hero Chelsea needs?
Chelsea confirmed the signing of Wesley Fofana for $81.3 million plus bonuses from Leicester on Wednesday, and Tuchel is hoping he can help change the direction the season is going in currently. Fofana is one of the world’s most expensive defenders in history.
Since Fofana made his debut in the Premier League in 2020, he’s been one of just three players with a tackle success rate of over 70% in the competition (minimum 50 tackles). The 21-year-old center back missed most of last season with an injury and has never played in the Champions League, but brings a lot of potential and the possibility to be a long-term component to the team.
In his 37 league appearances with Leicester, they conceded an average of 9.9 shots per game compared to a over 14 shots per game when Fofana wasn’t on the field. Since he started in 2020, he has notched more progressive carries than any other Leicester player in the Premier League.
“He’s been absolutely brilliant, Wesley, since the very first day he arrived here,” said Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers. “The club really stuck by him when he was injured and then he’s come back at the tail end of last season and shown the top young talent he is.”
Will he be the hero that Chelsea needs to return to the defensive threat they once were?
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