Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea allowed the opposition very few meaningful shots on goal last season, but that has not been the case in the past two league fixtures with Edouard Mendy a much busier goalkeeper than usual.
In fact, in our four domestic games this season the Senegalese has already made 16 saves, a joint-high figure in the Premier League. In 16 appearances under Tuchel in the league last term he made 28 saves.
Of those 16 stops so far in 2021/22, 11 have been from shots taken inside the box, in contrast to just 10 such saves under Tuchel last season.
So it’s safe to say Mendy is being forced into more action than he and Tuchel are accustomed to. He was outstanding against Liverpool and Aston Villa, and has still only been beaten by a Mohamed Salah penalty in our four league outings to date.
‘I don’t like it too much when he’s in the spotlight,’ acknowledged Tuchel of his first-choice keeper.
‘I like it more when he gets the praise from us for one-and-a-half saves, for being concentrated, for pushing the line up high, and clearing some situations as a sweeper. If he is more or less invisible to the spectators in the stadium then I’m super happy. It means we did not allow many chances.
‘He’s been in the spotlight the last games and on one hand that’s not the most satisfying feeling for a coach. On the other, it is because we can rely on him. We have to accept things are not too easy at the moment. I even like these tough matches and tough moments because it sharpens our mentality.
‘It’s a good part of the season to struggle a little bit. It’s better than having everything in place and then suddenly in November or December not knowing what’s going on. Now we can progress and get better.’
Focusing more on Mendy’s current status rather than the defensive shortcomings that are giving him more action than usual, Tuchel needed no second invitation to heap praise on our no.16, who is approaching the first anniversary of his move to Chelsea.
‘I’m super happy with him,’ said Tuchel.
‘He’s an outstanding guy with a fantastic personality, super humble, super calm. His development from the first day has been outstanding. He plays with so much confidence. It’s so hard to score against him in training.
‘Our goalkeeper coaches and the second and third goalkeepers did a fantastic job, because only if they are a top team and push each other to the limits can a number one perform like he performs. He is calm because he feels safe in his environment.
‘Every top team needs a top goalkeeper, and we have one.’