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OPINION: Chelsea’s crippling flaw proved by Liverpool and Man City tactic Thomas Tuchel cannot replicate

Chelsea’s xG score after the 0-0 draw away to Wolves on Sunday of 0.79 was the fourth-lowest of the Premier League season so far, only bettered (or worsened) by the draw away to Liverpool, win at Brentford and defeat to Manchester City.

The Blues one shot on target was their only clear cut look at Jose Sa’s goal amid the fog looming over Molineux, with Christian Pulisic’s smart run and effort well saved Portuguese keeper. But other than that, you were really stretching to find much else to excite on a pretty turgid afternoon in the midlands.

Contrast that with title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool who had no such issues finding the back of the next on the same day.

Man City were rampant at St. James Park, netting four against a hopeless Newcastle who look set for relegation, whilst Liverpool were involved in an enthralling four-goal thriller in North London with Spurs.

 

In both games, the Citizens and Reds proved why they have become two of the most potent attacks in European football over the past five years.

Despite Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola having different methods of attack, both teams are risk-taking and regularly flood the opposing box with players to gain a numerical advantage.

 

Some Chelsea supporters may bemoan the fortune of a ball dropping favourably to a Man City or Liverpool shirt consistently inside the box, whilst the opposite appears the case for Tuchel.

However, this is less to do with fortune and more the risk-taking to commit bodies forward to increase the chance of this happening in the final third.

For instance, Ruben Dias’ eventual free header is due to a terrible Newcastle error, however, the ability to benefit clinically from such mistakes is a regular feature for City who consistently commits high numbers into the box for cutbacks.

Liverpool does similar, this time from open-play in the lead up to their second at Spurs.

Comparing that approach to Chelsea at Wolves feels very damming, not only in the number of bodies the Blues commit to similar attacking situations but also in the quality of delivery from out wide.

With Tuchel’s options clearly limited, Christian Pulisic was again field as the central attacking player with Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount forming the attacking trio.

It was at set-pieces where Chelsea did get more options to hit from a wide position.

And it is little surprise Tuchel looks to rely on these situations given Chelsea scoring 13 from them in the opening four months of the 2021/22 season.

Depressingly Pulisic’s cross is majorly overhit, looping harmlessly from a Wolves perspective out of play.

That was a persistent trend of Sunday’s game and sadly has been something we have seen from a number of Chelsea teams over recent years.

It is not the first time the question of Tuchel’s risk-averse approach potentially limits Chelsea’s attacking threat. Given both their title rivals regularly use a 4-3-3, whilst Tuchel very rarely diverts from his three centre backs

There is also a strong case that a lack of a holding midfielder that can cover wider ground alongside Kante also means Chelsea would be left exposed to opposing counter-attacks as was seen regularly under Frank Lampard.

The loss of Ben Chilwell has also majorly hurt Tuchel’s attacking play, given the England international’s movement being key to unlock opposing defences in the earlier part of the season, something Alonso cannot offer.

Though with their title rivals starting to create a gap to them over Christmas and the desperate need to rediscover form, more risk-taking might be the only option Tuchel has to keep Chelsea’s dwindling title hopes alive.

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