For a manager who had just seen his team drop two points at home against a side in the relegation zone, Thomas Tuchel was outwardly cheerful after Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Burnley about a fortnight back.
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The table-topping Blues failed to beat Sean Dyche’s side despite dominating from start to finish, creating a plethora of chances and conceding very little at the other end.
In isolation, it wasn’t the result the German boss wanted, particularly as Manchester City had closed the gap at the top to three points hours earlier with an impressive 2-0 success at Manchester United in the lunchtime kick-off.
Having said that, the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss preferred to pick the positives in the side’s overall performance, rather than sulk about the stalemate.
“Burnley were very lucky to draw but that's football,” declared Tuchel. “You need to do so much invisible work as a team on such a high level to control a match like this, to create so many chances.
“It can happen in football that sometimes, unfortunately like today, somebody else steals some points.
“I stick with my feeling from the touchline and I have proof from all the data that we did a fantastic match. I liked the attitude. I liked the intensity. I liked the concentration level. These are what you need after seven wins in a row.”
In a sense, maybe the Chelsea head coach was on to something in his immediate assessment. His team had recorded a Premier League-high 25 attempts in 90 minutes against the Clarets, had completed 26 passes into the 18-yard box and consequently had 54 touches in the opposition’s penalty area—both season-highs.
The West London side fashioned five chances tagged big chances — a tally outdone by the Southampton game alone (six) — their 43 shot-creating actions bettered the 40 actions in their 7-0 dismantling of Norwich City a few weeks earlier and their expected goals of 2.2 ranked fourth in their 11 league games.
Perhaps more pleasing for the German boss was the work they put in off the ball with their integrated pressing and beating the visitors to loose balls—they made a joint-season-high 93 recoveries in the 1-1 draw.
Indeed, it was perhaps ‘one of those days’, but strikingly it was the second time in as many days Chelsea had failed to make the most of their dominance in front of goal.
In their preceding game, a Champions League clash with Malmo, Tuchel’s team claimed a 1-0 success but could and should have scored more.
The performance against the reigning Swedish champions was somewhat similar to what was produced in that Burnley draw where they created good openings and hardly gave anything away without possession. However, they claimed maximum points in the former and just one in the latter.
Unsurprisingly, talk immediately shifted to how they had missed Romelu Lukaku in the draw with Dyche’s men.
It is no use claiming he would have scored one of the many opportunities spurned on the day because his presence in the side would have seen the Blues attack differently anyway. Yet, that argument is a tad understandable as the Belgium superstar remains the club’s best finisher, and was signed to be their difference-maker.
Of course, eagle-eyed observers will quickly point out the former Inter Milan star has not netted for Chelsea since mid-September, and was on an extended drought before the ankle injury sustained against Malmo in October.
They will also remind reactionary supporters Tuchel’s team had netted 10 times in 180 PL minutes before Dyche’s men halted a seven-game winning streak in all competitions.
The caveat to the Blues’ improved numbers in front of goal focuses on the quality of sides faced in that time—Norwich and Newcastle United—opponents that had been earmarked for the 28-year-old to end what was a slightly worrying run without scoring before his layoff.
Lukaku returned to full training earlier this week and is likely to play at Leicester City as Chelsea chase a first league win at the King Power Stadium since September 2017.
Against opponents that have kept only two clean sheets all season — and none since beating Millwall in the EFL Cup in September — the ex-Everton man will look to end a near eight-hour run without finding the back of the net.
While his teammates still need to adapt to the star striker and vice-versa, and Tuchel has to remove the shackles he’s placed on the summer acquisition, Chelsea carry greater menace with a healthy Lukaku.
Indeed, it is a fact the Blues will strive to prove once again against Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes on Saturday lunchtime.
Seye Omidiora is a passionate football writer and pundit whose deep appreciation for the beautiful game exceeds the usual. He is currently a columnist for Goal Africa and has previously written for Vital Football UK, IBCity Info and Opera News.
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