A 3-0 win away at Tottenham is usually enough to bring a big smile to the face of a Chelsea manager but Thomas Tuchel admitted he was less than happy with a first-half performance from his side that lacked energy and aggression.
The Blues did not have a shot on target in the first period and the Blues head coach was forced into a change at the break, introducing N’Golo Kante to the midfield to swing the game’s momentum.
It worked a threat and the Frenchman was on the scoresheet, along with Thiago Silva and Toni Rudiger, as three goals secured three points for the visitors and sent us top of the league after five rounds of Premier League action.
After the game, Tuchel assessed what was lacking in the first half and why his side were so much better after the break.
‘I was absolutely not happy with the first 45 minutes,’ he said.
‘There were individual performances that were already great like from Kepa and Thiago Silva, and even more players were good, but in general we lacked energy and being more relentless in duels.
‘I had the feeling that we wanted to impress by pure skills but in a game like this in the Premier League, a derby away at Tottenham, it’s not only about skilful play. It’s also about aggression, winning duels and performing better as a team.
‘We lacked energy and we spoke clearly about it at half-time but the second half was a very good performance and a well-deserved win. It was a very good reaction so I’m absolutely happy with our performance in second half.’
Tuchel was asked about his change at half-time and what was said in the dressing room…
‘Actually we did not change the system but that’s maybe the whole point. It seems like we changed the system but we just played the system with more belief, energy and quality. It was simply too sloppy in the first half.
'With N’Golo on the bench, when you want to step up then he’s the best player to bring on because he’s unique and he can change any momentum. We wanted to improve our compactness and ball wins to put the match in the opponent’s half. That was the idea behind it and I’m happy with it.’
Asked to expand on Kante’s impact, the boss hailed his unique qualities…
‘He’s a top player. If you have N’Golo, you have something that everybody is looking for. You have everything that you need in midfield – work-rate, intensity, ball wins, skikful play, off the ball and with the ball, and even a goal today!
‘I see this every day in training and it’s hard to believe how good he is. He’s a unique player. We were strong in midfield together with Jorginho and Kovacic in the second half but N’Golo is N’Golo. He’s fantastic.’
Tuchel spoke glowingly about the performance of Thiago Silva, who turns 37 next week but continues to defy those years…
‘He was outstanding. He almost scored twice and he’s so strong. The delivery was good for his goal and we are very happy that he was able to score and open the game for us today but his performance even in the first half was outstanding. It was a fantastic performance.’
Finally, there was an update on the fitness of Edou Mendy and Christian Pulisic, starting with the goalkeeper…
‘We tried everything throughout the week and yesterday in training but it was so-so. It comes from the last-minute kick against Zenit in the Champions League so it’s very painful and he felt it.
‘He was not 100 per cent comfortable to go for a full stretch or to land on it so we decided to go for 100 per cent, which was Kepa, and have Edou with us to be supportive and to have a good energy. I’m so happy that Kepa played a crucial role today to have a clean sheet because it’s what he deserved.
‘I think for Christian the game against Aston Villa [in the Carabao Cup in midweek] is maybe a bit too close. I hope that I’m wrong but this is my impression. He’s not in training so far but let’s see tomorrow. Maybe if he had a good progression today, maybe it’s possible. It would be super nice for us to have him but for me it’s a bit doubtful.’