Chelsea’s key trait under Thomas Tuchel continues to pay off as Romelu Lukaku scores once more.
At Stamford Bridge, the Blues had to wait against a well-organized Zenit side before Romelu Lukaku scored the winner in the 69th minute.
Chelsea’s key trait under Thomas Tuchel continues to pay off
Since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival at Chelsea, it’s been a recurring theme: they don’t exactly blow teams away, but they get the job done practically every week.
The results the Blues have achieved with the German tactician in charge demonstrate this. Only three times since he arrived have they scored three or more goals in a single game: last season’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace, the 3-0 win against the Eagles to start the 2021/22 season, and last weekend’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
It’s no secret that Chelsea’s excellent defense is a key component of their success under Thomas Tuchel. Tuchel and his club have kept 26 clean sheets in 36 games across all competitions while he has been in charge, which is an incredible record. Only Mo Salah’s penalty at Anfield has eluded Edouard Mendy and his defense this season, as the Blues have yet to concede a goal from open play.
They added to their tally with a 1-0 victory over Zenit on Tuesday night, but they had to work hard for it. To maintain the Blues’ blank intact, Antonio Rudiger had to make a crucial interception on Sardar Azmoun in the second half.
In midweek, the reigning European champions were far from fluent against their Russian opponents, but Romelu Lukaku’s classic header in the 69th minute, landing Cesar Azpilicueta’s inch-perfect cross, gave them the win.
Chelsea’s passing was sluggish, and they failed to find Lukaku in any open space, but it was due to Zenit’s well-executed game plan. Chelsea’s in-form striker was continually double-marked by the Russians, who used two strong banks of four to shut down any supply line into him, with wing-backs Reece James and Marcos Alonso having little success down either flank.
Chelsea had to be patient as a result. Tuchel delivered a verbal ear-bashing to Mason Mount and Kai Havertz for both misplacing passes in the final third, and he continues to yell “Reece!” at James to urge him to execute things the way the head coach wants them done.
But they waited patiently, and the goal came through Lukaku’s head, who has already repaid his £97.5 million transfer fee with four goals in his first four games since returning to west London from Inter Milan.
The Blues beat Palace on the first day of the new season, but they haven’t quite found top speed since. After James’ first-half red card, there were some extenuating circumstances at Liverpool, but Tuchel’s team fought back to earn a 1-1 draw.
While Aston Villa presented plenty of issues as Dean Smith mirrored Tuchel’s setup, the visitors simply couldn’t finish their opportunities and the Blues punished them.
On Tuesday, however, Zenit was well-drilled and executed, forcing Chelsea to probe and eventually saw off their opponents. When they finally start to loosen the reins a little, Antonio Rudiger’s mazy run and shot that went narrowly wide almost immediately paid off.
The Blues began going after that, and Lukaku secured the victory in the 69th minute. You knew Zenit wouldn’t score because of Chelsea’s defensive strength. They did, though, come close late on through substitute Artem Dzuyba.
This Chelsea club may not be blowing opponents off the field every week, but one thing is nearly certain: they will find a way to make you pay. Tuchel’s ability to adjust in-game to what is happening in front of him makes the Blues a truly terrifying opponent for everyone they face this season in the Premier League or Europe.
It all boils down to patience.