Tuchel's damning assessment of Chelsea's draw at Zenit
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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is reportedly working hard in training on a midfield solution after the Blues were cut open by Zenit in midweek. Reece James, who is most often seen flying down the right flank, was deployed in a central-midfield role which backfired as Juventus stormed through to take top spot in the group.
After looking imperious at the start of the season, Chelsea have now won just one of their past four games in all competitions.
On Wednesday evening, a midfield injury crisis forced Tuchel to start with an unfamiliar pairing of Ross Barkley and Reece James which ended up backfiring.
A brace from Timo Werner and a strike from Romelu Lukaku would normally be enough to ensure victory, but the Blues shipped three of their own, including a stoppage-time equaliser as they were forced to leave with only a point.
That allowed Juventus to storm through and take top spot in Group H on the final matchday.
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According to The Independent, Tuchel is working hard at Cobham to put together a midfield masterplan ahead of this weekend’s date with Leeds United.
The German is still believed to be seeking a duo, as is common in his preferred system, and he is aiming for back-line protection coupled with the ability to progress the ball at pace.
Unfortunately, he has a severely depleted toolkit with which to put such a plan together.
Tuchel’s preferred midfield pairing of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are side-lined with injury, while third-choice Mateo Kovacic was recently struck by COVID-19.
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To make matters worse, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who could debatably be classed as fourth choice due to a recent improvement in form, was injured during the warm-up out in Russia.
Even Trevoh Chalobah, who has played in midfield plenty of times during his young career, was confirmed by Tuchel as injured before their tie with Zenit.
As Reece James’ midfield cameo saw the Blues ship three goals out in Russia, Tuchel could be working on alternative arrangements at Cobham this week.
One wildcard, who curiously started at left-wing-back on Wednesday night, could be Saul Niguez.
The Atletico Madrid loanee sees himself primarily as a central-midfielder, but his performances since switching to west London have left plenty to be desired.
Nevertheless, Tuchel could be left with no choice but to put his faith in the Spaniard, with options looking bleak ahead of Saturday’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
Unless the boss has another trick up his sleeve, similar to James’ surprise appearance in midfield on Wednesday, Ross Barkley could be the only other orthodox central-midfielder at Tuchel’s disposal.
The likes of Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz could also potentially be dropped back as Tuchel looks to solve his problem.
Chelsea’s midfield crisis has become so dire that Goal claim Billy Gilmour could be recalled from his loan at Norwich to help cover for Tuchel’s injured stars.
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