It was a late late show at Stamford Bridge yesterday as Kai Havertz rescued all three points for Chelsea right at the death against Newcastle United.
When it was looking like both sides would just settle for a goalless draw, Jorginho found Kai Havertz with an exceptional pass over the top of the Newcastle defence and Havertz made no mistake with a delightful first touch and a pretty finish.
It was a very difficult game for Chelsea as the scoreline suggests with Newcastle limiting the Blues to very limited clear-cut chances in the game by playing with three centre-backs and two wing-backs.
Chelsea on the other hand played with a back four comprising of four centre-backs across the defence line with Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr having to fill in at right-back and left-back respectively.
Playing centre-backs at the full-back positions was clearly as a result of necessity due to the unavailability of Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta who are more naturally equipped to man the right hand side of the defence line, and playing a defensively suspect Marcos Alonso who has just returned from Covid at left full-back was understandably a risk Tuchel didn’t want to take.
Playing with four centre-backs across the defence line of course did shore up the Blues defence but it was only at the expense of creativity and posing a threat at the other end of the pitch.
Chalobah and Sarr are not natural full-backs. Hence, their combination play with the wingers on both flanks, Ziyech and Werner was very minimal and it is always very difficult to break down a side who had set up defensively with five defenders without quick movements, intricate passing and unpredictability. Even overlapping runs and crosses were lacking from a full-backs which means the attackers were left isolated in trying to break down a strong wall.
Timo Werner as we all know is not the most gifted of players in terms of beating his marker on the ball and playing against low blocks, and Mason Mount was unable to really assert himself in the game while the trio of Dan Burn, Fabian Scharr, and Jamal Lascelles did a good job in keeping Kai Havertz quiet.
Thomas Tuchel obviously studied the situation and then decided to take Mount and Werner off for Mateo Kovacic and Romelu Lukaku in the second half which of course gave the Magpies defence a more physical and experienced threat to deal with and a ball carrier who could run them ragged and penetrate whatever screen that was placed in front of their back three.
With the introduction of Lukaku, Kai Havertz had to drop deeper and most times he operated through the flanks but off the ball, he made runs alongside Lukaku into the Newcastle box which meant the trio of Burn, Scharr, and Lascelles had to cope with the presence of two harmful predators.
Thomas Tuchel of course did risk it all in the end by introducing Christian Pulisic for Malang Sarr which meant Chelsea ended the game in a 3-5-2 formation with Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech at wing-back while Havertz gave Lukaku company upfront.
Tuchel had his best three midfielders on the pitch in Jorginho, Kanté, and Kovacic, experts in ball retention, and this made Newcastle get pegged back in the latter stages also because they had to be mindful of the creative threat of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic. The former had once created a big chance for Havertz after Tuchel’s first set of substitutions with a trademark cross while the latter could cause havoc on his day with his dribbles and off the ball runs and any team would be running a risk leaving isolated with only one defender.
At the end of the day, Thomas Tuchel’s tweaks worked out as Jorginho found the run of Kai Havertz with a great ball over the top of a switched off Newcastle defence with Dan Burn the major culprit.
Lukaku as he always does had two centre-backs pegged which meant Burn was tasked with tracking the less physical but more intelligent Kai Havertz who dropped deep to make his marker switch off, and that pass from Jorginho was the deal breaker. Dan Burn wasn’t alive enough to the pass and before he could realise, Kai Havertz who was making a run from deep had gained a yard or two off him and the defender’s reaction immediately the ball went in says it all.
Massive credit must be given to Thomas Tuchel once again as he’s just led his side to another three points despite the limited resources at his disposal.