After a topsy-turvy game in Russia in which Chelsea took a rapid lead, went behind, secured the lead again but were eventually pegged back in stoppage time for a 3-3 draw, Thomas Tuchel said he believes his players are lulled into a false sense of security when they go a goal up.
The one point eventually earned against Zenit St Petersburg was not enough to maintain top spot after our final Champions League group game, as Juventus won their match, and Tuchel likened aspects of this European outing with the Premier League defeat at West Ham at the weekend.
‘We had a very good first 15 minutes and then we stopped doing the things we did in the first 15 minutes,’ the boss said of the performance against Zenit.
‘The feeling was we could smile, the feeling was that this is okay what we are doing as we are in charge and we are the better team. But we were forgetting why we were the better team, which was because the level of concentration and the level of physical investment was high enough to be the better team.
‘Once this drops even 10 per cent, once we start managing results and change our behaviour because of what the score is, we get punished. That happened to us at West Ham and it happened to us today.’
Tuchel added that the reaction to then going 2-1 down was good which shows him the necessary level is there, but it must not be switched off and on.
On the prelude to Zenit making it 3-3, he said: ‘We start playing balls back, we start not attacking with the same aggression, the same hunger as before, and we got punished now twice.’
Our head coach explained the selection of Reece James in central midfield was due to a lack of alternatives there and his intention is to return the England international to the right flank when he can.
He then emphasised that regardless of how the game is going, his players must always play through the pain barrier and not try to conserve energy in the first half of a contest, regardless of how the match is panning put.
‘Otherwise you allow the possibility to get punished when you're unlucky enough, like obviously we are at the moment. The challenge is to close the door to minimise the possibility and it's very easy – you have a higher level of sprints, a higher level of intensity, a higher concentration level. The basics need to be pushed to a higher level.
‘The quality [in the Champions League] is high, the technical level is incredibly high, so you need to do your stuff on the highest level. If you do it, you can have a game like in the first 15 minutes here. If you don't do it and the feeling is this should be okay you get punished because the level is too high, and this is what happened.’