14 min Chelsea win a free-kick down the right and the centre-backs come forward, and when ball isn’t cleared properly, they stay up, Thiago Silva heading Azpilicueta’s cross over the top.
12 min Nice from Chelsea, Kovacic playing a one-two off Jorginho and advancing at shooting lanes open. But a slightly heavy touch persuades him to feed Hudson-Odoi in and a slightly underhit pass persuades his man to come back inside, his shot blocked behind for a corner – which comes to nowt.
11 min Westwood drills a nice ball over to Cork on the far side of the box. It’s hard to read the flight of it through a screen – it looks like Cork could take it down – but he tries to head back across which suggests to the contrary and Chelsea clear.
10 min Brady megs Alonso and spreads to Lowton. He’s got three men in the box but opts not to cross, and the attack breaks down.
9 min Werner is cutting about with decent intention and he takes a ball from Alonso but turns into trouble.
8 min But this is nice, Werner pulling left and darting pass into Mount, who takes two lovely and dextrous touches on the half-turn, beating his man and opening the space for a curler, which he deposits high and wide.
6 min “Think this will be a difficult afternoon for Chelsea and a particularly awkward and excruciating one for Tuchel,” says Nigel Matthews, “particularly if he hasn’t done his homework properly on Burnley. I imagine Sean Dyche will be licking his lips at the thought of Chelsea’s flimsy midfield and makeshift wing-backs – he’ll might never get a better opportunity to improve his sparse record at Stamford Bridge and register a rare (first?) league win there.”
I think so too. I’m sure Tuchel knows much more about football than I do, and could well have the ability to coach his players to play this formation well. But to my uneducated eye, it doesn’t look like the best use of the materials available to him.
5 min Kovacic launches a ball over the top, seeking Mount in behind, but Pope comes to collect.
4 min Wood takes possession in a decent position between the lines, but his ball to Vydra is far too soft and Chelsea bring it away.
3 min McNeill looks to come down the left, playing off Wood, but Chelsea force them back downfield and Mount runs hand through thatch, swept into some kind of fringe.
2 min No they’re not! They’re now settled with three at the back.
1 min Aha! Chelsea are playing a back four, with Alonso at left-back. A 4-4-2 makes more sense than the 3-5-2 I thought they were at; Mount is on the left with Hudson-Odoi on the right.
Tuchel is wearing puffa, beanie and snood, like he’s in the Arctic. Imagine the dressing-room disrespect if he was managing Kieran Tierney.
“As a Chelsea fan,” admits Lee Madden, “my guess is that this line up be a 3-4-1-2 system, with Marcos Alonso and Hudson Odoi providing width and Mount just behind Abraham and Werner. Mount has been excellent this season and fully deserves his place in the team, but we’re still not really sure on the best midfield combination is or if Mount can cut it as a top level ‘between the lines’ player. Our squad really is a bit of a mish-mash (unsurprisingly) with some quality players, but no clarity of overarching approach, which I think has led to so many players being out of form.”
Yes, I agree with pretty much all of that. I’ve not seen as much of Chelsea as those who watch them every week, but I’ve seen a bit and more impressed by Mount that any of the others. I’m not sure he’ll be an elite number 10, but I think he could be a really good number 8. I’d play him there with Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi on the flanks, but then you’ve got to find a way of getting Havertz in too. As you say, it’s a bit of a mess.
“Surely if we’re talking Yiddish,” emails Jonathan Ginzburg, “then the quickest association is תומאס טאָכעס – Thomas Tuchas – and variations thereon.”
BT show us tape of Nick Pope, who I’m absolutely certain is superior to Jordan Pickford. Tangentially, it’s a funny situation for Gareth Southgate, who has so many options; he probably has to settle on some, even if that necessarily excludes others for no good reason.
Sean Dyche, whose sideboards seems to left thicker than his number one all over, says he’s been building back to a fully-fit squad. He doesn’t know what Chelsea will do, but it’s up to his team to respond. His confirms that Brownhill is injured and Rodriguez is rested, but also notes that Vydra has been looking sharp.
Burnley, meanwhile, lack a bit of pace in attack, but I’m sure they’ll be targeting Chelsea’s right side, where Azpilicueta is slowing and Hudson-Odoi is unused to defending. As it goes, the latter’s average position against Wolves was further forward than Giroud, which will be a factor of how the match went, but also of his instruction and inclination. I’d expect a lot of crosses to the front post.
With Werner and Abraham in the side, Chelsea will at least have a threat in behind, which wasn’t the case against Wolves. Against Burnley, though, there probably won’t be much space to attack, and guile might be more helpful than pace.
I guess the problem for Chelsea is that N’golo Kanté can no longer be relied upon to chase about like two men. That’s how Pep Guardiola balanced playing De Bruyne and Silva – two eights – with Fernandinho, and one of the reasons you see Manchester United struggling to balance creation with security.
Easier said than done, I daresay.
When I look at the Chelsea team, I can’t help but feel it’s missing at least one attacker. Their best football this season probably came playing 4-3-3 with two forward-thinking midfielders, but set up like this, there’s a lot of creative onus on Mount, while Hudson-Odoi will have defending to do – especially up against Dwight McNeill. On the other hand, playing in a two might welease Werner to do what he did for Leipzig – I’m just not sure there’s enough creative gumption to give him the opportunities he needs.
There are worse ways to combat 3-5-2 than 4-4-2. Though you’d expect Chelsea to dominate in midfield, two strikers on three centre-backs allows Burnley to look attack the spaces between them and the wing-backs, and full-backs behind wingers means they can target the spaces in the corners that 3-5-2 necessarily allows. I think Chelsea are in for a tough afternoon.
As for Burnley, Sean Dyche makes two changes from Wednesday’s brilliant come-from-behind win against Villa. In midfield, Jack Cork replaces Josh Brownhill, who’s injured, and in attack, Matej Vydra is in for Jay Rodriguez.
By the looks of things, Chelsea are sticking with their three at the back system which, along with Tuchel’s arrival, is good news for Antonio Rudiger, who retains his starting spot. Ben Chilwell, though, does not. He looked surprised to be subbed in midweek, and now he’s sitting at the side from the start, with Marcos Alonso given a go at left wing-back; Callum Hudson-Doi remains on the right.
In midfield, we can also see what looks like a preference, Jorginho and Kovacic keeping their places to do whatever it is they do, with Mason Mount asked to supply the thrust that was missing against Wolves. Whether this is a policy decision, though, is unclear, as Hakim Ziyech is missing from the squad altogether, presumably injured, while up front Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham replace Kai Havertz and Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea (your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine): Mendy; Rudiger, Silva, Azpilicueta; Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount, Alonso; Abraham, Werner. Subs: Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Kante, Pulisic, Zouma, Giroud, Chilwell, James, Havertz.
Burnley (as-if-you-can’t-guess): Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters; Brady, Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Vydra, Wood. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Gudmundsson, Stephens, Rodriguez, Bardsley, Long, Dunne, Benson, Mumbongo.
Your friend and mine: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)
The pro forma for what to do in the first instance after taking a mid-season managerial job is simple and short: not much. Well, no one told Thomas Tuchel.
His name sounds like it’s part of an old Yiddish epigram – “Oy a broch, look at him, swanning about like he’s some kind of fancy Thomas Tuchel” – and it wouldn’t be far off the mark. The team he picked to play against Wolves in midweek wasn’t the team of a manager giving his new squad a chance, but the team of a manager who’s been watching his players closely, forming definite ideas about what it should be and how it should do. Not since Terry Venables arrived at Leeds in 2002, to immediately replace Nigel Martyn with Paul Robinson while sending Harry Kewell up front, has a new arrival seemed to have planned from afar – and that was a close-season appointment.
Maybe Tuchel simply picked an XI he thought would beat Wolves, who play a very particular and very slow three at the back, but that doesn’t seem likely or in character. The side he sends out today will tell us a lot about his plans for the immediate future.
And in Burnley he’ll find a side in decent form, who’ve beaten Liverpool and Villa in their last two league games. But more than that, they’re a side who know exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it; whether Tuchel can impose similar on his will go a long way to deciding how this afternoon goes.
Kick-off: 12pm GMT