Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel must forget loyalties & pick his strongest team for Leicester rematch

Tom Gott
Thomas Tuchel's love of rotation is now becoming a problem
Thomas Tuchel's love of rotation is now becoming a problem / Pool/Getty Images
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For Saturday's FA Cup final, Thomas Tuchel went romantic.

Kepa Arrizabalaga had started all the previous games in the competition and was even awarded a Premier League start as a warm-up. Hakim Ziyech was given a start because he scored against Manchester City a week earlier. Timo Werner started as a reward for...scoring four goals in his previous 35 club appearances?

It's nice to keep the door open to the struggling players (blissfully ignoring Tuchel's determination to break Tammy Abraham), but it's now starting to cost Chelsea. They fluffed the Arsenal game and messed up in the cup final, and they can't afford to do the same thing in Tuesday's meeting with Leicester.

Kurt Zouma, Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel's lineups have been impossible to predict / Pool/Getty Images

Tuchel's love of rotation must go out the window here, and with it should go his loyalties. Chelsea need to win this football match, and they must play their best players to win this football match.

Kepa will almost certainly drop back to the bench, and he should be joined by the rest of the underperforming players who don't merit such minutes.

In defence, that means Marcos Alonso should sit on the bench, where he should find Kurt Zouma after the Arsenal debacle. The Frenchman didn't start the cup final and doesn't deserve to be drafted back in.

Marcos Alonso, Timothy Castagne
Seeing Alonso start over Ben Chilwell was a surprise / Pool/Getty Images

Tuchel's hands are somewhat tied in midfield, with Mateo Kovacic's injury limiting his options. Jorginho got a lot of unwarranted criticism for the sloppy goal against Arsenal - his back-pass was only rushed because Zouma took an eternity to pass to him - but he was poor against Leicester. The only other option to go alongside N'Golo Kante is young Billy Gilmour. The Scot is good, but at 19, he's got things to learn.

However, it's in attack that Tuchel needs to open his eyes and call a spade a spade. Werner, Ziyech and Kai Havertz simply cannot be relied upon to score consistent goals at this point in their careers, and trying to force it is only making things worse.

Christian Pulisic has done better than most (which isn't really saying much), so he deserves some minutes alongside undisputed starter Mason Mount. Maybe Callum Hudson-Odoi has done enough off the bench to earn a start? The point is, these players have actually shown their worth to this team.

That's not to say Werner, Ziyech and Havertz will never come good. The trio could easily be among the best on the planet and have all shown glimpses of that potential, but that's all it is right now. They aren't playing well enough for the amount of minutes they are getting.

It's for that reason that Olivier Giroud should start in attack. He's Chelsea's most reliable striker and his stats have been crippled by a lack of minutes. 11 goals in 30 appearances sounds awful, but 11 in 12 starts is much more like it.

This is all assuming that Tuchel isn't going to call on Tammy Abraham, whose 12 goals make him Chelsea's top scorer in all competitions this season. He's tied with Werner, despite playing 2,000 minutes fewer than the German. Two-thousand.

But yes, dropping Abraham in favour of including a third-choice left-back on the bench is definitely a smart move.

Tammy Abraham
The Abraham situation defies all logic / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Some of this may not be Tuchel's fault. When taking the job, he'll have been instructed to get the best out of Werner and Havertz, and to his credit, he's done alright at that. Unfortunately, things aren't moving fast enough, and it's heading in a direction where it could get costly.

Frank Lampard was sacked because Chelsea feared they were drifting too far away from the top four, but if Tuchel doesn't let his loyalties die, it'll be the German to blame for missing out.


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