If there’s one thing you could criticise Thomas Tuchel for after a sensational start to life at Chelsea, it’s his performance against the weaker sides.
The draw against Brighton at the weekend followed a defeat to West Brom, and in contrast with his astonishing record in the big games, the smaller sides seem to present his Chelsea team with more problems.
The 343 system he’s introduced allows the team to be incredibly solid defensively and threaten on the break. But when faced with a deep and organised setup like the Seagulls on Tuesday night, it doesn’t fare as well.
Given our remaining fixtures, maybe that’s a good thing.
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We’ve got 3 teams breathing down our neck in the race for the top 4, and we’ve got a real fight on our hands to stay ahead of them. This weekend we play West Ham, who are level on points with us.
Then we have to face a desperate Fulham, a rampant Manchester City, a tricky Arsenal side and Brendan Rodger’s classy Leicester who brushed us aside earlier in the season.
Our final game is the only easier looking fixture – against an Aston Villa side that appear to have run out of impetus. Nevertheless, they’re a technical and well-drilled side who won’t make things easy for us.
Muddled among all those matches of course, we’ve got two huge semi final games against Real Madrid, and an FA Cup final against Leicester. So it’s not even like we’ll be able to focus on our league matches.
It will require a superhuman effort to keep up the pace on all three fronts, and the two dropped points from Tuesday will really sting – to say nothing of the 3 we dropped from a winning position against West Brom.
But we’ve got the squad for it, and it seems like we’ve got the manager too. Tuchel has impressed so far, especially in the big games. Now we’re into the single digits from fixtures remaining, he can truly treat each one like a one-off playoff game, and make sure we’ve got the right starters fit and fresh for each one.
We don’t envy him spinning all these plates, but his record against strong sides is superb so far, and if we can just scratch out another string of 1-0 wins, we will make it over the line – and could potentially end the season with a European Cup to boot.