Interview

Tuchel on his difficult pre-season decisions

Thomas Tuchel has explained how he has used our friendly matches to try and see as many of his players in action as possible as he gets ready to make some difficult decisions about whittling his squad down to a manageable number for the coming season.

Right from the start of pre-season, Tuchel’s squad has been bolstered by several players who spent last term out on loan, with the number growing further the closer we get to the beginning of the competitive campaign, due to the return of others from international duty at Euro 2020 and the Copa America.

With so many players available for selection to our head coach, he has already had to make some difficult decisions when naming his line-ups for our four pre-season friendlies, as we recorded wins over Peterborough United, Bournemouth and Arsenal before Wednesday’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

That has required some careful juggling to give everyone a fair chance, as Tuchel has made it clear the door is not closed for anyone, as shown with young defender Trevoh Chalobah, who returned from a loan spell in France where he played against the German’s Paris Saint-Germain side with Lorient.

He took his opportunity well early in pre-season and retained his place as the more senior players began to return, starting both matches in The Mind Series against the Gunners and Spurs, even if the competition in the team is only getting tougher as more players arrive back at Cobham.

‘I knew him of course from Lorient and Chalo did very well in the pre-season,’ said Tuchel. ‘We wanted to continue with the back three, so there was some space in the back until Zouma and Toni arrived and now there was one space left.

‘With the arrival of Thiago, Andreas, Reece and Azpi there’s huge competition for him, but he did very well in both games now and it’s within his potential and within his limits. It was nice to see and it was a good match for him.’

It is a similar situation throughout the line-up, as Tuchel continues to evaluate the players at his disposal with one eye on making his final squad selection for the 2021/22 season.

He explains that upcoming decision has informed his selection choices throughout pre-season, balancing the need to see more of the players he doesn’t know as well with rewarding those whose performances have deserved more opportunities.

‘After the Arsenal game we wrote the names down on the sheet because Sunday was the match against Arsenal and Monday the group of players from England, Italy and Brazil came back. So we wrote the names down to acknowledge that we would have 42 players in the building and it’s simply not possible.

‘So from there we had to make some decisions to provide quality and intelligent training for the three groups who have been with us for half a year, while at the same time selecting players who we want to know better.’

Tuchel pointed to his midfield selection against Tottenham as an example of how he is going about that difficult task, as Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater missed out on the squad after featuring regularly earlier in pre-season, with returning internationals N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic starting the match, before Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tiemoue Bakayoko were given a chance in the second half.

‘Ross had his chance to play one half against Arsenal, the same as Danny,’ he explained. ‘We had the impression that Ruben deserved to be on the pitch again after the Arsenal game and we wanted to give Bakayoko the chance to play for the first time for us.

‘In minutes it is maybe anyway unfair to judge them because we don’t know them very well, but at least everybody should have had the chance to show up in a game. We played some friendlies before, against Bournemouth and Peterborough, with Ross and Danny, so we have a clear picture of the two guys and we wanted today to have Baka on the field to see what he’s capable of.’

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