Hakim Ziyech confirmed what Chelsea supporters had been theorising since Thomas Tuchel’s lineup was confirmed an hour before the Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Spurs began.
Thomas Tuchel switched up Chelsea’s formation against Spurs which could pave the way for Hakim Ziyech’s resurgence at Stamford Bridge. (Image: WyScout)
“We had four at the back. Normally we have five, so that gave us more opportunities up front.” The Moroccan told Sky Sports after the convincing victory.
Tuchel admitted the switch to a four-back system was more out of necessity than a choice in his post-match reflection.
“We had last minute bad news with Thiago and N’Golo, who were both set to start. So we decided last night to switch to a back four, and the guys were very focused to play how we played.”
The switch from Tuchel’s usual 3-4-2-1 formation into what looked more like a 4-2-2-2 in the build-up and was more akin to the German’s setup during his time at Borussia Dortmund.
Off-the-ball Tuchel explained in detail post-match that Chelsea would revert to a five in defence to form a natural 3-5-2 shape. With Ziyech tucking into a wingback role to restrict Spurs ability to create overloads with their wingbacks in Conte’s 3-4-3.
It spoke to how well Tuchel had performed tactically. He forced his counterpart to switch to a four-man defence for the second half.
Although Tuchel admitted his players only had one training session to implement this switch, Chelsea transitioned comfortably in what turned out to be a routine victory against Antonio Conte’s pretty dismal Spurs.
“It was good, and it was not always fair to demand performances out of nothing like from Hakim [Ziyech], Saul and Malang [Sarr].
All three were outstanding today. It makes us very happy because it was a well-deserved win against a strong opponent.”
Ziyech was awarded man of the match for an influential evening, veering from a more natural right-wing role in possession to a right-wingback out of it.
His numbers demonstrated as much. In his 79 minutes on the pitch, he achieved a 90% pass accuracy, attempting the most take-ons, creating the most chances, most shots and fouls won.
Ziyech has struggled to find consistency since his 2020 signing from Ajax, but the switch back to a four-man defence with further players forward aided the Moroccan’s performance, producing a level of influence after his initial arrival in Frank Lampard’s 4-3-3.
The unique playmaker was bought in February 2020 for £33m before arriving that July with the idea of fitting into Lampard’s 4-3-3. Against Spurs, you saw the vindication of that, even though Ziyech has consistently felt like a more fringe figure under Tuchel.
There were two marvellous long passes with his left foot like a paintbrush on the Stamford Bridge canvas.
Both deserving goals, one to the head of Romelu Lukaku in the first half, who nodded just wide, whilst Timo Werner failed to lob Hugo Lloris in the second.
It is promising to see the level of pressing in Chelsea’s game remaining similar across two games. Tuchel’s side achieved a PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action) of 7.75, almost identical to their Liverpool performance of 7.72.
Chelsea have rediscovered their intensity as we enter 2022, and reviving the form of creative players like Ziyech will only aid Tuchel during such an intense month.
The new formation used in last nights victory could provide a glimpse into Tuchel’s future plans whilst offering some of his fringe figures the chance for reintegration.