Thomas Tuchel has confirmed Mason Mount’s absence from the starting line-up against Manchester City was due to tactical reasons, although he feels the 22-year-old has been suffering as a result of some of the injuries to players around him.
Mount began our 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on Saturday among the Chelsea substitutes at the Etihad Stadium, the first time our number 19 had been left out of Tuchel’s starting XI for a Premier League match since November.
Ahead of our next Premier League fixture, away at Brighton & Hove Albion tonight, Tuchel was quick to confirm the decision was purely down to feeling other players in the front-three were better suited to our tactical plan for that specific game.
He did admit to being on the receiving end of some angry stares from Mount when delivering the news he would be on the bench, though, which is no less than he would have expected.
‘I get them and this is absolutely normal and it’s still within Mason’s character of kindness and being polite and being respectful. So there is no harm in this, but I get the eyes, I get the look, of course,’ explained Tuchel.
‘He is here to play these kinds of matches, but we were simply opting for runners. We thought we could break the line more often with Hakim as a left-footer on the left side and going for Christian on the right side because the arrival of Christian in the box is normally a bit more offensive and he is a bit more of a runner than Mason.
‘We expected the spaces more behind the last line, not in front of the back four of City. So that was the decision.’
However, the German did also suggest he had seen signs that Mount was not quite at his brilliant best, including in our 1-0 Carabao Cup semi-final win at Tottenham last week, even if it was not the main reason behind his decision.
‘I felt Mason not in the 100 per cent zone where he is untouchable, which normally he almost always is. So we took that decision and it can happen from time to time. He is not happy about it, but it will not last long because everybody loves Mason, me included.’
It has been suggested to Tuchel that Mount has been feeling the absence of his friend and team-mate Ben Chilwell since the wing-back was ruled out by a knee injury, given their excellent relationship on and off the pitch.
Our head coach agrees the loss of partnerships like that can hurt performances, for players and the team as a whole, and pointed to other absences which have also robbed Mount of that instinctive and near-telepathic on-field understanding that comes from settled combinations within the team.
‘I think he’s also missing Reece James. Reece, N’Golo and him were so strong together. These things, when you know without even looking when you turn that “he will come now, or I will go and I will get the pass, or NG will come so I will be here”. We are missing this and I think, without asking him now, Mason is missing this. He has this genuine understanding with Reece and with Chilly on the other side.’
Tuchel goes on to discusses the gap between ourselves and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, which has now stretched to 13 points, feeling it is an unacceptable situation but one we just have to deal with and concentrate on winning matches to stay in the fight with City and Liverpool.
‘We would have never accepted it before, never, but this is the reality now. Just because it’s like this, not everything is bad. At the moment we are 13 points behind, but we are in a race of a top three.
‘So this is the situation and from there we go, but I would not have accepted it one year ago. I would not have accepted it four weeks ago and I did not accept it when we arrived in this situation at City.
‘That is who we are and that is what makes us and I am absolutely comfortable to not accept it, because I work for Chelsea and we play for Chelsea so when we play, we play to win.’