Saturday’s loss at Manchester City may have hurt Thomas Tuchel as much as anyone, but he chose to point to the way the Chelsea players have kept fighting despite the recent obstacle they have faced, to underline why he feels so privileged to coach this group.
We were unable to take the chance to narrow the gap at the top of the Premier League table when we travelled to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat as Man City extended their lead to 13 points with a 12th consecutive home win.
However, while we may have suffered defeat, Tuchel couldn’t fault the effort or desire to fight for the team his players showed during the match, despite the continuing problems caused by their team-mates being absent through injury and Covid.
That was evident again as our head coach was left without an available defender among his substitutes in Manchester, and he feels some other players may have dropped their dedication levels in similar situations, taking pride in the fact his squad are still as committed to the cause as ever.
‘I love the ambition and I love the attitude and I love the hunger with which we are playing,’ said Tuchel. ‘We are still brave and we are still up for a good fight and you can trust anybody that you put on the pitch. It is a pleasure to be on the sideline.
‘It makes a difference if as a player you have to fight every single day for your place, every single match for your place, and this is not the case in our team for too long. If you have a negative Covid test and you’re fit and you’re not injured, you have a huge chance to be in the line-up. For that I give huge credit and for me it is proof how good the attitude and the mentality is in our team and in our club.’
With those problems in mind, Tuchel was asked after the game if he feels his squad needs reinforcing with new additions during the transfer window, but the German insists the only thing he really wants right now is to have all the players already at Chelsea available for selection, pointing to last season’s title race as an example of how much these absences can affect a team’s chances.
‘I think we just need our whole squad. Our team is a strong team, and even now on Saturday it was a strong team.
‘Was Liverpool able to compete last year for the title? No. Maybe the only real difference was that they were missing Virgil van Dijk. I’ve said it many times, key players are key players because they are key in everything that they do and everything in how they behave.’
He went on to discuss the situation further, insisting he doesn’t want to seem like he is complaining about our injuries and other absences, as they are outside of his control, but feels it is important to make things clear to prevent his players receiving unfair criticism.
‘To compete, to do what we want to do and what we did on Saturday also for 90 minutes, we need everybody and we struggle from long-term injuries, we struggle from Covid. This is the circumstances and still we are reliable and still we push ourselves and still we will not make a big thing of it. It is just to explain the situation.
‘As you saw on Saturday we still believe in ourselves and that we can come up with a performance that can hurt even Manchester City. We did and like I’ve said many times before if we play the same game again, maybe we get a draw and it would not be completely undeserved.’