It was an underwhelming start for Thomas Tuchel in midweek. We look ahead to his tactical battle with Sean Dyche as Chelsea host Burnley…
Thomas Tuchel will not underestimate Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side held 28% possession in their 1-0 win at Anfield, which turned out to be the first of a three-game winning run heading into this one. Burnely have rediscovered their aggression – and with James Tarkowski in the side, have gone back to blocking almost everything hurled at them.
Chelsea were remarkably possession-centric on Tuchel’s debut, which was partly by design and partly because Wolves simply didn’t come out to confront them. Burnley will have learnt a lot from that game, although ultimately their 4-4-2 formation is more vulnerable to Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 than Wolves’ three-man defence.
Key battle zone
The main benefit of a Conte-esque 3-4-2-1 is that the inside forwards create a box-shape midfield, which then dominates the game and sucks the opposition inwards. From here, space opens up for the two wing-backs to burst forward, get to the byline, and create havoc in the penalty area, as exemplified by Callum Hudson-Odoi in midweek.
Burnley are particularly susceptible to this. Their 4-4-2 is already too narrow at times, with Aston Villa scoring from a low cross on Wednesday and almost adding two more from similar build-up play down their left flank. Ben Chilwell and Hudson-Odoi can cause serious damage from the flanks.
Keep an eye on… Tuchel’s formation and line-up
Then again, there is no real reason to assume Tuchel will continue with a 3-4-2-1. After all, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund coach is well known for reacting to the opposition and changing formation accordingly, often tweaking with system and personnel before every single game. He probably only picked a 3-4-2-1 for the Wolves game because history has shown Nuno Esperito Santo’s side are weakest when their system is mirrored.
Tuchel will surely change his starting 11, too. Very few coaches in world football use as many players as the new Chelsea manager, and with the games coming thick and fast we might see a completely rotated attack as Tuchel attempts to build knowledge of his squad. Consequently Christian Pulisic, whose reputation was built under Tuchel at Dortmund, should play a key role in this game, as will Mason Mount and Timo Werner.
One to watch… Dwight McNeil
After an underwhelming first half of the campaign left winger Dwight McNeil burst into life against Villa, turning the game on its head with a goal and an assist in the second half – his first goal contributions since September. If Burnley are to relieve some pressure after a long spell of Chelsea possession, they will need McNeil to be the outlet, carrying the ball on his own into the opposition half.
Pedro Neto was surprisingly effective at doing this against Chelsea as Wolves’ front three found the occasional opportunity to counter-attack at speed, taking advantage of Chelsea’s inability to cope with defensive transitions – a hangover of the Frank Lampard era that will remain for some time. However, on balance McNeil probably won’t get enough support from his team-mates to cause the Chelsea defence any problems.
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