It has taken over two months of Thomas Tuchel being in charge at Chelsea before he had to speak about a loss, but when that moment came on Saturday afternoon, it was an emphatic one that needed dissecting.
The last result on most people’s minds when Christian Pulisic gave the Blues the lead on 27 minutes was a 5-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion, but when Thiago Silva was sent off soon after the opener, the tide began to turn, and having restored the Brazilian to the team after two months out and starting with others from his most regularly selected players on the bench, the boss began his thoughts by addressing the team selection.
‘You have to accept that you will never know what would have happened if you choose your team in a different way,’ Tuchel said.
‘It is my responsibility clearly and like my players with this loss, I am very disappointed because we hate to lose, and we went for this selection because we had an excellent training session yesterday and we had the guys on the pitch today who finished this training session yesterday. We had a lot of players yesterday who could not do the full training because of the Wednesday [international] games and the travelling, so I trusted this line-up and I think this line-up was strong enough to win this game.
‘But we were rusty, we were sloppy in the build-up in our own half, we did many unforced errors, we did not adapt our positions well under pressure and we gave away easy ball losses that led on to a red card and that cost us the game today.’
Tuchel analysed what he labelled as the two games, the one before Thaigo Silva’s dismissal and the one after…
‘The game that was 11 v 11 which was not our best game, I was not super-happy, but I did not expect too much after the international break and an early kick-off, so that was still okay for me. But 11 against 11 we were sloppy in the counter-attacks, we had big chances with those and we were again not precise enough and again we missed a lot of opportunities to finish this game early.
‘Then the second story of the game is that we were not able to adapt to going one-man down. There is absolutely no need to concede five goals if you are one-man down with our quality, and our defending was clearly not on the level it used to be. For the tactical choices it is of course my responsibility. There is no other solution than to accept it and move on forward to tomorrow.’
The head coach considered whether this result can be considered a wake-up call…
‘If we look at this game in four weeks, hopefully we call it a wake-up call because that will mean that we really woke up and started a new series [of games without defeat].
‘I didn’t feel us over-confident, I didn’t feel us arrogant or without the effort. West Bromwich started to defend very deep, we had high ball possession and we were better and better in the game and we created good moments, good ball recoveries high up the pitch, but still when it was 11 v 11 we had crucial ball loses in our own half, which produced two set-pieces around the box.
‘So I was a bit more concerned about our positioning, everything seemed a bit rusty and more rusty than yesterday and the day before in training. That is why I was surprised.
‘But I could accept it because after two weeks and a lot of travelling and the first game on a Saturday at 12.30, I did not have the highest expectations. I thought if it takes us a while to come into this match I will accept it and I will push and then we had the goal, but to give a yellow card and a red card away like this straight after a goal, it was like we did not feel the risk. I will have to talk to the players about this but the attitude in defending was clearly not like before.’
As usual, a big game comes quickly to move the focus on, with our Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday…
‘After 14 or 15 matches unbeaten we cannot lose our head now and we cannot take away the trust that we have in these players,’ said Tuchel. ‘We have to accept it now as our first loss together and it is important to find a way to deal with it all together.’