N’Golo Kante is unavailable for today’s game against Southampton, as the midfielder continues his isolation following a positive Covid test, but the good news is his physical condition is okay Thomas Tuchel has confirmed.
Near the start of the pandemic, Kante had concerns over the virus which led to him being granted compassionate leave from some training sessions in May 2020, prior to the resumption of matches the following month in which he was involved.
‘N’Golo has symptoms but not a lot of symptoms, so he’s okay,’ is Tuchel’s latest update a year-and-a-half further on.
‘I don't want to go into more details. He's okay. He's doing well.
‘He was concerned about it [in the past], and he did everything not to get it. Unfortunately, he tested positive but we care about him, like we care about every player. We're in touch with him every single day. The doctors are in touch with him and he has our advice and our support, and he is in a good way.’
Looking at Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku however is in the squad to face the Saints at Stamford Bridge and Tuchel has been asked to comment on the assessment by former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who was working as a pundit during TV coverage of our 1-0 defeat by Juventus midweek, that Chelsea had not quite figured out yet how to use Lukaku, who was managed by the Italian at Inter Milan.
‘He [Conte] was obviously not on the telly after the Tottenham game,’ began Tuchel’s response.
‘Of course, if you watch this game against Juventus isolated, he is right on that point and he's obviously in the TV studio to analyse this one game so he's right, no discussion about it, but it's not a general thing. If you watch the other games he's maybe not right.
‘I don't feel offended, don't get me wrong,’ stressed the Blues head coach. ‘He has every right, he is in the TV studio to do so. I even saw it while I was showering before the match in the hotel.
‘I saw him talking about us, and I saw all the pictures that they showed of Romelu and our other players from the Tottenham game, and they were talking how good the link-up play is from Romelu and how strong he is and how much he's scored, so they were praising him.
‘After the Juventus game, they have the right to say that he was too isolated. Juventus made him isolated. It felt like seven players around him all the time in the box. They did it good and they did it in their style, and we have to accept it, but it's not a general problem.
Tuchel emphasised that a big part of football is the link-up play and the connections between players, and feels such understandings already exist between Mason Mount, back from injury now, and Mateo Kovacic with Lukaku. For others it may take more time and repetition in training and matches.
‘We need to look at the games very individually,’ the boss continued. ‘Any striker in the world would be isolated if we defend so deep, or we play so poorly in transition, like we did against Man City.’
Tuchel believes that in the wake of our success at the end of last season, and our good results at the beginning of this one, opposition sides are preparing differently and more carefully for facing us. Whereas previously they would arrive with a plan for how to beat us, they are now more concerned with stopping our method of play first and foremost.
This was to be expected and it is the natural scheme of things that Chelsea must now evolve to meet this challenge.
‘I saw Zenit St Petersburg play a back-five for the first time in the last 200 matches of theirs that we watched,’ points out Tuchel. ‘I saw Aston Villa play a back-five against us and they had not played a back-five before.
‘It is on us to find answers and we're in the middle of the process. Teams are looking also for solutions to close down Romelu and to bring him into spaces where he does not feel so comfortable.
‘We are on it and there's always a solution with a positive approach. The solution is to try to play free no matter what, and don't think too much about what we have to lose.’