The old football adage that fine details decide the destiny of the major trophies certainly appears to be playing on Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel‘s mind after their first Premier League away defeat of the season at West Ham.
‘There is no need to question the big picture and no need for major doubts,’ Tuchel said after the 3-2 reverse. ‘In my opinion… it’s about details. That’s why I think we can sort it out straight away.
‘Nobody wants to make mistakes but it won’t help if we just say, ”Hey, don’t make mistakes anymore”. We need to be better in decision-making in crucial moments… to be able to have clean sheets or concede a maximum of one.’
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel (left) spoke of correcting ‘details’ after their defeat at West Ham
Mason Mount and Co lost their first Premier League away game this season at London Stadium
The Blues have not kept a top-flight clean sheet in their last three matches, but it was also the manner in which they conceded three to the Hammers that has begun to generate concern with the German.
By their incredibly high standards and their ambitions to build on last season, two Premier League games without a win will frustrate the Blues, especially as they have now dropped from first to third in the table.
Yet Tuchel appears to be on the right track not to call for a revamp of the proverbial big picture. But what ‘details’ are his side getting wrong, and how do they fix them? Sportsmail looks into the situation…
So what are the ‘details’ that Tuchel needs to remedy, and how does he go about doing that?
There’s not a great deal Tuchel and the players can do about this one, but there’s no question the absences of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic are hurting the European champions.
In Tuchel’s 53 games at the helm, Chelsea have conceded more than one goal in a particular game on just three separate occasions.
Unsurprisingly, the France World Cup winner has missed all three matches, including the weekend’s defeat at the London Stadium.
The German has admitted he has ‘no idea’ when N’Golo Kante (above) will return from injury
The German – who worryingly admitted he has ‘no idea’ regarding a possible return date for Kante – has always seen the Frenchman as an integral part of his side and with Christmas coming up he is someone they can ill-afford to miss.
Tuchel was also keen to highlight the Blues ‘miss’ Mateo Kovacic following his hamstring injury in October, which seems particularly pertinent given that there appear few options to help give Jorginho a break.
The Italian ‘is playing with hip pain for many match-days and you can see it,’ according to his manager, a clear hindrance for a player whose struggles have continued.
After gifting Jadon Sancho a goal last weekend, he put his own goalkeeper Edouard Mendy under awful pressure to concede the equalising penalty in east London.
Jorginho has also been playing through a hip issue amid his poor run of form in recent weeks
Midfield, however, is not the only area where injuries have had an impact, with Marcos Alonso lacking the pace of Ben Chilwell down the left that Man United exploited, while his deliveries into the box and defensive work are also inferior to the England star.
After suffering his partial ACL tear last month, Tuchel said the next six weeks were critical for Chilwell.
But with the players currently on the treatment table, he could easily have been forgiven for referring to every star currently unavailable when he made that statement given the flurry of games that have just started in the build up to Christmas.
Mateo Kovacic (left) and Ben Chilwell (right) are also out and represent big misses for the Blues
Learning to play with Lukaku
One star who has been making his return to fitness is Romelu Lukaku, with the Belgium striker gaining meaningful minutes for the first time since his ankle injury.
Playing just eight minutes after coming off the bench against his former club Man United, and then only another 21 in midweek at Vicarage Road provided the perfect context as to why he has yet to score since returning.
But the 45 minutes he played at West Ham gave the strongest indication yet that the Blues are still deciphering the best way to play with him in the side.
He undoubtedly provides different qualities to the likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, who largely led the line in Lukaku’s absence, but the Blues appeared to rush their attempts in getting the ball up to him at the London Stadium.
The Blues are yet to figure out the best way to play with Romelu Lukaku (right) in their side
It made their build-up play appear forced, awkward and clunky at times, and when the ball was intercepted by West Ham it left the Belgian marksman with little to no service.
Admittedly, with just 74 minutes under his belt since returning, the 28-year-old is still finding his feet again after missing four top-flight games, with Tuchel admitting it was a mistake to bring him.
‘It’s my fault,’ Tuchel said. ‘I don’t think he is ready for 45 minutes physically but still we decided to bring him on for his height because we lost Kai [Havertz]. This is on me. I took the decision so it’s my responsibility.’
But the Blues must get Lukaku in the team when he is completely ready and then discover a more effective way of involving him, perhaps with a more calm approach as opposed to the seemingly haphazard one currently in place.
Without him, the club know they cannot hope to regain their ruthless streak and subsequently challenge for the title.
Get Edouard Mendy back in form… by sticking with him
Tuchel’s frankness in his interviews was once again evident when he claimed he believes Edouard Mendy is going through a ‘rough period’.
The Senegalese had the chance to clear on two occasions after Jorginho’s under-hit pass back to him, but only succeeded in bringing Jarrod Bowen down after panicking and coming under pressure from the West Ham star.
Mendy’s afternoon became even worse when he could not prevent Arthur Masuaku’s swerving cross from beating him with a few minutes remaining.
He also made an error against Manchester United the weekend before, but Fred was unable to punish the mistake of passing straight to him. Erratic distribution and decision-making have cost him and Chelsea points in recent weeks, although this is arguably partially balanced out by his masteclass against Brentford.
Tuchel must keep faith in Edouard Mendy (left) despite mistakes in the last couple of weeks
Kepa Arrizabalaga is a potential option to come in to face Zenit St Petersburg in the final Champions League group game of the season tonight, with the Blues already qualified for the last 16.
But the game against the Russians should be seen by Tuchel as the opportunity for Kepa – himself guilty of a fair few blunders at Stamford Bridge – to gain some minutes rather than a signal of the immediate future with Mendy.
Rumours of discussing a new deal with the Senegal international have emerged in recent weeks, and last season only Ederson kept more top-flight shutouts than he did. The best goalkeepers bounce back, and few doubt Mendy is among those, meaning it is time to back him, rather than relegate him to the bench.
Cut out the individual errors
Jorginho and Mendy’s errors have been highlighted the most over the past few games but individual mistakes appear to be creeping in across the board.
Thiago Silva was Chelsea’s hero at both ends of the field at West Ham but even he was uncharacteristically guilty of a stray pass that could have been more damaging had Bowen finished an early chance.
Alonso meanwhile failed to shown the necessary strength under pressure from Vladimir Coufal in the build-up to Bowen’s equaliser, and Rudiger may not have been guilty of similar but a poor pass robbed the Blues of a chance to make it 3-1.
Highs and lows during a season are par for the course and defeats at West Ham and a draw at Burnley are disappointing but not season-defining as yet.
But as Sportsmail‘s Chris Sutton has said, too many slip-ups – as a result of continued individual mistakes – and Manchester City could start to pull away.
Marcos Alonso (right) has also been guilty of making errors leading to goals so far this term
Sort out the Andreas Christensen situation
It’s not the best look for a club when a manager has to issue a contract ultimatum of put up or shut up to a defender who starred for them in last season’s run to European glory.
The Dane was dropped to the bench against Leicester and Manchester United amid the stalling of talks to extend his deal beyond the end of his current deal in June.
An agreement on a four-year deal was reportedly close to being finalised, but it hit a brick wall once discussions regarding the length and terms of the contract took place.
‘I have no good news. My understanding weeks ago was that Andreas wants the same as me, that he wants the same as the club,’ Tuchel said ahead of the win at Watford, a game in which Christensen was reinstated.
Andreas Christensen has yet to agree a new deal despite negotiations since the summer
‘But we are waiting a long time now for confirmation. And it is on Andreas to act how he acts on the pitch. He needs to act now off the pitch, and walk the talk because he tells us that he loves Chelsea, he tells us that he wants to stay and be a big part.’
There is clearly no issue of a lack of professionalism with Christensen (he was by no means the worst performer at West Ham) and a squad with the quality of Chelsea’s are unlikely to underperform just because of a contract stand-off between a player and club.
But at the same time it can do little good when it comes to squad morale, particularly at a time when there is such little recovery time between games and the strength of the squad is required.
Christensen’s situation is perhaps not Tuchel’s most pressing concern, but it would put an end to discussion over his future if the defender can put pen to paper over the next few weeks.