You can always have one great game, but to maintain continuity with performances and to keep the high standards of every player is the hardest thing. This what the team - the players and the coaches together - are achieving. And that is why it’s a pleasure to watch Chelsea at the moment.
A complete performance
On Tuesday we played an Italian team, one that is historically the best there and has great experience in European football. It is never easy to score four goals past an Italian team because they know how to defend. They are organised and know how to control the rhythm of the game.
But what was clear from our performance was we dominated the game from the first minute to the last. We deserved to score four goals. We had other chances – their keeper made three or four great saves – and we limited them to one chance.
They were happy to defend, and they were well organised, but we wore them down with our intensity and relentlessness, and the attitude to go and score goals really put them under pressure. Everybody contributed, which is really nice. It was a team effort with unbelievable intensity and quality. A complete performance.
It was the 31st clean sheet of Thomas Tuchel’s 50 games, one more than we achieved in Jose Mourinho’s first 50 games in 2004/05, when I was in goal. It’s an amazing achievement.
The biggest strength of this current Chelsea team is they start defending from the top. If you want to be defensively solid, you need every player on the pitch to contribute to that. We play with real high-intensity pressure. As soon as we lose the ball, there is a huge desire to win the ball back. It starts with the attackers, and then everybody follows.
At the same time, when it’s not possible to do that, the defensive unit is organised enough to protect the box, and when the opponent gets through, you need the goalkeeper to be ready to help and make a big save. At the moment, everyone is doing their part. This is why the team is successful and we collect so many clean sheets. It’s down to the effort of the whole team, and each player’s individual quality.
New manager bounce?
We have a saying in Czech: ‘the new broom sweeps better’. It’s always tricky when you play teams with a new manager. That’s what our next opponents Manchester United will be hoping for on Sunday: when you get a change of manager, you always have a reaction.
Suddenly, everybody starts from the same spot again. The new manager brings new ideas, about the team, about the tactics, about the strategy, but only when he gets involved in training does he start choosing his team. Even if it’s only the manager who has left, and everyone else has stayed in place, you still get the sense of a fresh start.
For players who maybe haven’t played as many games, they suddenly feel like this is their opening, their chance to get in the team. For players who have been playing, they know if they don’t have a good week, the manager might pick someone else. It gives everybody a new incentive and new motivation to perform well. There is a change in energy, and this is what creates difficulty for the team who is facing them.
In the Premier League, you know your opponents well, what kind of team it is and what players are there. So, while tactically you can also expect some differences - because every coach has his own idea of how to approach a game - because of the team they have, you know more or less what to expect.
You can always get surprised, of course, but the main part is about you: your game, your preparation and what you do on the pitch. If you dominate and control the game, you don’t have to really worry about the other team. The only worry is you might find a team who is more motivated, and gets a bit more confidence at the beginning. Otherwise it’s up to you how well you play, how well you adapt and how well you control the game. If you do that, it doesn’t matter who the opposition is. Just look at the Juve game.
Sense of bitterness
I remember during my career when we sacked a manager it could sometimes have a negative impact on certain players. You feel a sense of culpability because you didn’t get the results as a team. Sometimes, you must look at yourself and ask if you have done enough for the manager. That leaves a disappointment for the players, especially if it was a manager you personally liked or you enjoyed working with, and you knew you had his trust.
When you start a season, the last scenario you want is the manager leaving. It means things have gone really badly. You never want to end up in that situation, so you feel a sense of guilt that the situation reached that point. It leaves a bitter taste. But a new chapter starts, that mix of emotions within the team creates a new kick, and you have to go back to work and go again.