Chelsea came from a goal down to beat Lille 2-1 in the champions league round of 16 second leg away in France last night to seal a 4-1 aggregate win.
Lille took a first half lead through Burak Yilmaz from the spot following a Jorginho handball but the midfielder eventually redeemed himself with a defence splitting pass for Christian Pulisic to score a Chelsea equaliser on the stroke of halftime.
Mason Mount and Cesar Azpilicueta later combined to seal the win for Chelsea in the second half in what was a hard fought win for Chelsea. 2-1 on the night, 4-1 on aggregate.
Of course the scoreline doesn’t suggest an easy win for Chelsea as it was an underwhelming performance from the defending champions especially in the first half. So what are the lessons Tuchel might have learnt from this one?
3-5-2/5-3-2 Formation Not Feasible:
Against Lille last night was probably the third time this season Thomas Tuchel tried to play with a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation.
It was experimented earlier this season against Tottenham and Man City and it failed against Tottenham until changes where made, while it was a total failure against Man City.
The problem with the formation is that having a midfield 3 of Kanté, Kovacic and Jorginho looks exceptional on paper but it inadvertently sets the team up to defend and not to be on the front foot as it leaves the front two isolated and outnumbered against the opponents’ defence.
This was very much the story of the first half in the encounter against Lille as Havertz and Pulisic just couldn’t get into the game without another partner in attack who could help link midfield and attack. Thomas Tuchel was quick to spot this and he made the change at halftime which saw Mason Mount, a more attack minded player replace Matteo Kovacic and that was clearly the difference maker on the night.
Andreas Christensen A More Preferable Option In Defence Than Trevoh Chalobah For The Meantime:
Chelsea were dealt a potential injury blow last night as Andreas Christensen was substituted in the first half for Trevoh Chalobah after picking a knock.
Christensen looked very calm and assured at RCB and there was very little or no threat coming from Lille’s left hand side until his forced withdrawal. His replacement, Chalobah looked shaky especially in the early stages and he gave away a free-kick from a dangerous position that led to Jorginho’s hand ball for Yilmaz’ penalty.
Since returning from his knee injury, Chalobah has looked devoid of confidence and his 1v1 marking has looked questionable in recent games. Struggled against Liverpool’s Diaz in the Carabao Cup final, gave away a penalty at Norwich and lucky not to give away another against Newcastle on Sunday after Murphy made a meal of him in the box.
Of course, Thomas Tuchel has realized that Christensen is a more preferable option when fit.
Marcos Alonso With Big Defensive Reminder For Tuchel:
Marcos Alonso returned from illness to start at left wing-back for Chelsea yesterday.
The Spanish wing-back whom Thomas Tuchel refers to as a ‘specialist’ has proven to be a useful tool in that position but it is a known fact that the defensive side of his game has always been very poor.
Against any skillful and pacy winger, Alonso always struggles and Jonathan Bamba had a pretty nice time against him on the Lille right flank last night, forcing the Spaniard into unsolicited dance moves.
With Ben Chilwell out for the rest of the season, it is another hard reminder for Thomas Tuchel that he would have to find a solution if Chelsea get drawn against teams like Bayern who boast of the likes of Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry on the flanks in the quarter-final.