BY PAUL LAGAN
Thomas Tuchel is rapidly becoming known as a cup manager – clinching a EFL Cup final spot on Wednesday can now be added to his triumph in the Champions League final and reaching last season’s FA Cup final at Wembley.
That’s not bad for a man who has been in control at SW6 for exactly a year. But the ever-pragmatic German just thinks it’s what’s expected and he’s delivering.
Toni Rudiger’s first-half header saw off Spurs in north London to give the west Londoners a 3-0 aggregate semi-final victory.
Tuchel said: “I feel good because that was the target. When you go to the semi-final, of course, everybody wants to get to the final. We are very happy because Wembley is waiting, there will be a full house. This is where you want to be as footballers and coaches.”
But Tuchel is well aware that serious improvements in performance will be needed tomorrow if they are to close the 10-point gap to league leaders Manchester City.
The Blues travel to the North West today for the early kick-off at the Etihad Stadium.
In a veiled warning to his players he used the Spurs match as a means to vent his frustration at the level of performance.
He said: “The early goal against Spurs helped, but you always try to have a goal no matter when.
“We started well, created chances, scored and then had even more confidence. We played a very good 35 minutes.
“We lost a bit of control, focus, some important duels and were lucky that suddenly we didn’t concede.
“We were a bit sloppy and weren’t fully aware of the danger. I had the feeling on the touchline we were playing with fire.
“In the second half, again, we had a strong start for 15 minutes but then the same story. We struggled to cope with their momentum,
“We had many ball losses, lost many one-on-one challenges. So there is a big space to improve.
“It wasn’t a super bad game. But there are some things that need huge improvement. We have to do better but performance-wise over the two matches, we deserved to win. There is a lot to improve.”
Tuchel’s main decision for tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash between the first and second sides will be the formation of his defence.
Tuchel has preferred a five-man defence in the league with wing-backs providing attacking threat.
But against Spurs he opted for a traditional four-man defence, partly due to injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
Marcos Alonso will be restored to the left-sided position tomorrow, having been rested against Spurs.
Tuchel said of the possible defensive formation: “If it makes sense and we think it makes sense we can see it again. We have played it now twice and in both games we were very committed to the structure and very disciplined.
“So full credit to the players, they are open to some adjustments that give us more options and maybe make us a bit more unpredictable.
“Against Spurs we used it again for the build-up but defended in a back five. It’s good to have these options but it needs to fit into what we expect and which spaces we expect to find. We will decide from match to match.”
Chelsea women return to WSL action for the first time in a month. Last week’s league game against Spurs was postponed due to injuries and Covid.
They travel to Everton on Sunday knowing the title-defence is back in their hands following Arsenal’s shock 2-0 defeat to Birmingham.
Manager Emma Hayes will be sweating on the fitness of top striker Sam Kerr. If the Australian is out, Beth England will be her replacement up front.
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