Mason Mount was the one who lost out to a collectively poor first 45 minutes from Chelsea against Tottenham yesterday, but in reality it could have been a number of players.
Thomas Tuchel hooked Mount at half time and replaced him with N’Golo Kante, which proved to be an excellent decision and a tactical genius.
It made Chelsea more compact in midfield and closed the spaces that Spurs were exploiting in the first 45 minutes. So tactically it was a great switch.
But actually, Tuchel himself has explained that it was about way more than just the tactics. He wanted Kante on the field to win more 50/50s and give them more energy and spirit, which he says was lacking in the first half and was why they were playing so poorly.
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Tuchel talks about mentality a lot, and it is clearly so important to him and he believed it was missing from his players in the first 45 minutes at Spurs yesterday, as reported by Football London.
“Actually we did not change the system but that is maybe the whole point. It seemed we changed the system but we just played it with more belief, more energy, more quality, sharper. It was simply too sloppy and not sharp enough in the first half.
“We relied too much on our skilful play in the first half. We forgot to bring the right attitude and energy to this game. There were individual performances at a high level.
“For example, Thiago Silva and Kepa. But as a team, we allowed too many chances, way too many easy ball losses, not enough ball possession, and every 50/50 duel went against us.
“This had to change and, well, if you have N’Golo on the bench and you want to step up in these parts of the game, it’s the best player to bring on because he is unique and can change any momentum.
“So the change appeared to be, in terms of characteristics, a bit more defensive but we wanted to improve our compactness, ball wins, and spirit as a team.
“We wanted a higher intensity and work rate in our match to win balls actively and put the match in the opponent’s half. Then we can rely on our skills, that was the idea behind it. The reaction was absolutely needed but we showed it and played a very strong second half to deserve this win.”