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Furious Thomas Tuchel ends Chelsea charm offensive in bid to arrest alarming slump

·3-min read
Thomas Tuchel could not hide his frustration after Chelsea failed to beat Zenit in Russia  (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Thomas Tuchel could not hide his frustration after Chelsea failed to beat Zenit in Russia (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The mask slipped for Thomas Tuchel on Wednesday night as he finally lost it with Chelsea’s stars.

A 3-3 draw with Zenit St Petersburg left the German fuming as the European champions now face potential clashes with Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the next round of the Champions League.

This was a step too far for Tuchel, who has rarely shown signs of the spiky reputation he earned working in Germany and France before arriving on these shores in January.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain manager had been known as a fiery character at previous clubs, but he has been on a charm offensive since taking over at Stamford Bridge.

In truth, he has had little to complain about after conquering Europe within four months of taking the job and leading the way in the Premier League for the majority of his first full season in charge.

But his players have been left in no doubt as to his feelings after a recent slump that was extended in Russia.

An injury-time wonder strike from Magomed Ozdoev cost Chelsea top spot in Group H and marked the second game in succession they have conceded three goals. It also saw them give away a lead for the fifth time in their last three matches.

As far as Tuchel is concerned, there is an attitude problem within his squad.

“Maybe we are forgetting why we are the better team because the investment, the concentration, the level of physical investment was not high enough to be the better team,” he said. “Once this drops, once we start managing results, we get punished. It happened at West Ham and today.

“My analysis is very clear. Our behaviour changes when we have a lead and this is something we never did and should never do. We do the things we want to do on the highest level and we push ourselves until it hurts and it has to hurt.”

Tuchel is clearly hurting. He has barely put a foot wrong in 11 months at the club, but it is impossible to ignore the problems running through his side right now.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

They have now relinquished top spot domestically and in Europe to dent their title challenge and hopes of retaining their Champions League crown.

For Tuchel to publicly question the attitude of his players suggests he is running out of ways to drive the point home. He refused to lay into them after wasted chances cost them points against Burnley and Manchester United. Even against West Ham, he was measured in his criticism.

But the softly-softly approach is yet to rouse a response, leading to Wednesday night’s calling out of his side.

On a positive note, two goals from the excellent Timo Werner and a first since September for Romelu Lukaku could prove a turning point for the strike pair.

But unusually for Tuchel’s Chelsea, it is the other end that is proving so problematic.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

A 3-2 defeat to West Ham on Saturday was followed by another three goals conceded against Zenit – and it could have been much worse if not for the brilliance of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who saved two one-on-ones in the first half and pulled off a wonderful reaction stop after the break.

But he was still beaten by Claudinho and Sardar Azmoun in the first half, who gave Zenit the lead after Werner’s second-minute opener.

Lukaku equalised just after the hour, with Werner looking to have scored the winner on 85 minutes – until Ozdoev’s spectacular late equaliser.

It was the least Zenit deserved on the night – and Tuchel’s fury was the least his Chelsea players deserved.

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