Thomas Tuchel has taken responsibility for putting his players at greater risk of injury as a depleted Chelsea squad attempts to cope with dwindling numbers and a hectic festive fixture schedule.
The Blues were hit hard with seven Covid-enforced absences at the weekend, with Jorginho sent home from Wolverhampton on the morning of the game after returning a test result that later turned out to be a false positive.
At the same time, Mateo Kovacic had only just returned from his own 10-day isolation, while N’Golo Kante and Trevoh Chalobah had just come back from more conventional injury issues, which is why the club made a formal request for the fixture to be postponed.
With the pressure on those players that are available growing by the day, Tuchel fears he is asking individuals to do too much, too soon, which could prove particularly damaging in the long run.
Chalobah made his comeback from a three-game spell on the sidelines as a late substitute in our home draw with Everton last week and was used again as an auxiliary midfielder against Wolves, where he was withdrawn at half-time following an earlier impact injury.
In his pre-match media briefing on Tuesday, Tuchel labelled Chalobah ‘a big doubt’ to face Brentford in tonight’s Carabao Cup quarter-final tie and went on to admit the 22-year-old had been thrown back into action ahead of schedule as a result of our unique situation.
‘The injury for Trevoh is a very unusual one because we made him play, so it’s my fault,’ said the boss. ‘We take huge risks and we made him play in an unused position because none of the central midfielders were there so we tried him for his physicality.
‘He comes from an injury and played too early against Everton but he escaped hopefully luckily enough with just a painful injury and nothing worse.’
Tuchel also revealed the challenges were psychological as well as physical, with players and staff understandably anxious over the deteriorating public health situation and the outbreak within such a tight-knit group.
‘I would like to play against us right now,’ he claimed.
‘If people think arriving in a group of 40 people having 10 Covid cases and three days of consecutive positive tests is a good state of mind to produce high-level performance, wherever you work, then fine. I will not try for one second to change your mind.'