“We played the perfect match,” celebrated Thomas Tuchel. The Chelsea manager, who will host Madrid at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals, poorly concealed the euphoria in front of Zoom’s camera. His team had just beaten Fulham 2-0. The rival has one foot in the descent. But the German coach only noticed encouraging signs after the Premier’s day. Beyond the results (two defeats in 23 games), Chelsea consolidates its performance, its solidity in defense, its organization in attack, and, agitated by the favorable current, the inspiration of men like Mount, Havertz or Werner is sharpened.
Five players who started at Valdebebas against Madrid disappeared from the line-up against Fulham: Azpilicueta, Kanté, Jorginho and Pulisic sat on the bench to recover; and Rüdiger remained out due to an injury that is not serious and, according to the official version of the club, will not prevent him from playing the second leg.
Without Jorginho and Kanté, their reference midfielders and probably the most important pieces in their game, Chelsea were just as impenetrable as usual. At the hub of the wheel was the young Billy Gilmour, a 19-year-old youth squad who thus made his debut in the Premier. He was joined by Mount on his left and Ziyech on his right, slightly further behind than his adventurous nature dictated. At the top were the Germans, Werner and Havertz, on whose backs the suspicion hangs that their signings (53 and 80 million euros respectively last summer) have not borne fruit. Ten minutes into the game, Havertz made it 1-0. After the break, he made it 2-0. The category with which he defined only speaks of a uniquely gifted footballer for what he sets out to do. As for Werner, he recited the manual like a doctor. He judiciously supported the midfield, was precise with a touch, generated chances with his movements, his speed and his handling, and gave the 2-0 assist.
“He still has room to grow,” said Tuchel, when asked about Havertz’s double, which was so unreliable in Valdebebas. “He scored two decisive goals and generated three very clear chances together with Werner. Our two forwards played a great game. Havertz is the example of how to tackle a game as difficult as this. An example of what everyone did ”.
“We played the perfect match,” Tuchel continued, “and the guys deserve all the credit from me. It is very easy to get confused when you play in the league in the middle of a Champions semi-final. Fulham is a very difficult team to face. You need to be mentally and physically at one hundred percent to beat them because they pressure you very well and continually swap ”.
Tuchel publicly overrated his rival. The plays of the two goals, as is often the case with Tuchel, came from long throws by the defenders: Thiago Silva the first and Chilwell the second. In 1-0, the Fulham center-backs were unable to prevent Mount, the assistant, from controlling a 60-meter pass, a goal kick from Thiago Silva. A fingerling mistake that, however, does not detract from Chelsea’s professionalism.
Chelsea are continuing the radical transformation that began when the German manager took over the team at the end of January. In Premier, he reaffirms himself in Champions positions, has reached the final of the Cup, and is preparing to take the most unexpected leap. From the Christmas crisis to the Champions League final. “Can we win all the games we play from here to eternity? Probably not, but we will try, ”Tuchel said on Friday, about the collective mindset he sets out to build. “Can we lose any day? Yes. Defeat is always possible in football; what I do not admit is that we are not concentrated. Our job is to concentrate to compete game by game ”.