Ahead of this lunchtime’s return of Premier League football to Stamford Bridge, manager Thomas Tuchel has been discussing three of his players facing varying challenges in the final seven weeks of the season…
When the German took charge in west London at the end of January, there was one player in particular he brought from the fringes straight into a key role in his 3-4-3 system. Marcos Alonso had not featured for Chelsea since our 3-3 draw against today’s opponents West Brom four months earlier yet Tuchel saw attributes in the Spaniard that he was keen to tap into.
In his first appearance under the new boss, Alonso rounded off the scoring in a 2-0 victory over Burnley and neither the Blues nor the left-sided defender have looked back since. Tuchel has admitted that their relationship stretches back way before this year, which made it easier for him to ignore the noise surrounding the 30-year-old when he arrived at the club.
‘It’s not easy to fully ignore it but I tried to,’ explained Tuchel. ‘Maybe he was simply lucky because I knew him since he played in Fiorentina and I was in contact with him a little so I followed his career a bit.
‘Marcos is an intelligent and calm guy, full of self-confidence but he’s well aware of what he can do and what he cannot do. We decided in the first game to play a back three and to have the wing-back positions, which suits his profile perfectly. He was experienced and I had pictures in my mind of what he could give to the team in this position.
‘He showed his quality and from then on every day is a pleasure to have him because he’s a top professional guy. I’m very happy that he took his chance. He never lost faith in himself and when we arrived he was physically ready to play at the highest level so it’s a credit to him and now he has to keep on going.’
Another player who keeps going and going is Mason Mount, who played all three games for England during the international break. If he is involved against the Baggies, it will be his 50th appearance of the season for club and country, the second year running he has hit that landmark.
In fact, no Chelsea player has more than the midfielder’s 2,230 Premier League minutes so far this campaign, yet Tuchel is not concerned about burnout in the 22-year-old ahead of the run-in.
‘Once I see him without that big smile on his face or without the sparkle in his eyes then maybe I’ll have to think if the moment has arrived where he plays too much but right now I feel he is very excited about the situation,’ he continued.
‘He is very mature, which is quite impressive, and that’s why I’m not worried at the moment. He’s a super reliable player for us, shows top quality, is very strong under pressure in the games and he can deliver every three days.
‘I don’t want to talk too much about him being tired because I can feel him very relaxed. Even if he’s physically tired, I feel him mentally totally clear and that is what’s very impressive for me.
'This is maybe the key factor that he can have a big career because he has both feet on the ground. At the moment, he’s in a good place.’
Timo Werner’s form in front of goal has once again become a talking point following a missed opportunity for Germany in a high-profile defeat to North Macedonia this week.
Yet Tuchel has reiterated his own belief that his countryman is bringing a lot to the team at club level and the key to an upturn in fortunes is simply not to overthink the situation.
‘I’m happy that he’s back here because here he is protected,’ added Tuchel, who also confirmed Werner would start against West Brom. ‘We demand a lot from him and we get a lot from him.
‘He’s in a moment where he lacks confidence and things are not too easy but this is the most criticised point of his career so far but look at the statistics - he scores for us, he is getting assists for us, he is winning decisive penalties for us. This guy scored since he was five years old and he never stopped so he can trust that his brain and his body remembers how to do that
‘Now is not the moment to think about it or read about it or even train extra. I sent him in from training [on Thursday] because he wanted to do some finishing with us but I told him he doesn’t need that. He needs to have his head up and a smile on his face and to work his way out of the situation.’