Thomas Tuchel believes his squad options can only get worse with every game as he faces another fixture with severely depleted ranks due to Covid and injury, admitting it may force him to protect his players by fielding an inexperienced side against Brentford.
The toll the recent outbreak of Covid has taken within the Chelsea squad was clear in our 0-0 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, when the Blues arrived with only 14 outfield players available for selection, three of whom had been rushed back from injury earlier than Tuchel felt was safe, as well as two players going off with injuries during the match.
That means our head coach is once again expecting to make the short trip to Brentford on Wednesday evening for our Carabao Cup tie with a drastically reduced squad, pointing out that the need to throw people straight into the team after injury and inability to rest players when fatigued means he is concerned for the health of players he does have at his disposal, as well as those suffering from Covid – concerns that are only going to grow as the situation continues.
‘First of all it’s 10 days out, it’s not like having little injuries or a little concern and you’re out for one match,’ explained Tuchel about the problems caused by players being absent with Covid. ‘The players are out for 10 days and in these 10 days we have three matches and the problem is still there.
‘Our squad is a very strong squad but it’s not the biggest squad and when we miss nine players we have a problem. To have a team with 13 or 14 players, you can handle these situations for one match, we can do it and we can fight, but then the problem is still there.
‘We did it at Wolverhampton but we took huge risks with some of those players and now we are paying for it. They cannot start three matches in one week, it’s simply not possible. So the problem will increase, the situation will increase, and we cannot let players suffer because other players are not there.
‘So at some point it will catch us and it will backfire on us. It’s a given even if we try hard not to accept it. We will keep trying not to accept it and we will fight against all odds and this is what we will do tomorrow.’
While Tuchel insists his instincts – and those of his players – is to fight to win every match in every competition, the current situation is forcing him to reconsider his priorities. Having included a number of Academy players in his training sessions over the last couple of days, he confirmed he may need to player an inexperienced team at Brentford to protect his senior squad members and keep them available for the games which come after.
‘We are just disappointed that we don’t have the players to fulfil our goals and to play competitive football on the highest level,’ he continued.
‘We are so competitive, that’s why we work here. The players are so competitive, that’s why they signed for Chelsea, that’s what made them Chelsea players. So we are fighting for every competition and I absolutely don’t like judging the importance of games. This is totally against our nature but maybe we are forced to do it and this makes me sad, because this is not what sport is about and it is not what we are all about.
‘But it could happen that tomorrow we prioritise the health, not the game against Aston Villa, and do not take any risk for some of our players. We have to protect our players and protect their health and that’s why we brought in the Academy. It’s no secret and we think about playing with them.’
However, the German conceded that even he can’t be sure of what his plans will be for the game against Brentford, as the daily wait to find out if he has lost any more players to Covid makes it difficult to know who he has available for the next training session, let alone matches.
‘It is like a lottery. Every day we do flow tests, we do PCR tests, and only then you are allowed to be in the building. So this is the first lottery, you go to work but you don’t know if you can actually make it to your office. Which is good, because then it is safe at least for this day and then the next day you get tested again, but you never know who else is going to test positive and be out, which is the second lottery.
‘We planned now with a squad and we had some plans with Lewis Baker from the Academy and now he tested positive, so then we start from scratch, and this is what we do now. Right now we prepare for the match to be played, but even to plan training is pretty exciting because until the very last hour you don’t know how many players will arrive.’