VAR went in your favour today, Thomas?
“It obviously went in our favour. There is a reason I think it went in our favour. It’s my opinion, and I don’t know if everyone shares the opinion that it’s very clear it’s a foul.
The first goal we concede is very similar to the situation we had against Tottenham, but I leave it to you to decide if this goal should stand and whether this situation isn’t the same situation as against Tottenham. I will not comment anymore because what happened against Tottenham was so obvious, and I paid a lot of money for commenting, so I will not do it again.”
What was your assessment of the performance because it took some time for you to get going?
“I see this all the time when I analyse West Ham, and this is what they do. They make you under-perform, they make the game slow, and they make it difficult to accelerate the game to find the open spaces. If you find the open spaces, it’s only for a short moment – or in spaces that you can’t be dangerous.
“This is what they do. They defend with bodies, discipline, and physicality. It’s hard to create chances, half-chances, and deliveries. And it’s almost impossible to come back when they are ahead. So the task became more and more difficult for us.
“We did not play with maybe the biggest belief and self-confidence given the last results, and that I can understand. Nobody was angry at our players. I wasn’t angry. I told them to keep believing and find a better understanding of where we can maybe create an overload.
“But as I said, it’s hard to play a really attractive game against them because they do what they do at the highest level. So to turn this thing around, maybe we needed to be a goal down and have nothing to lose anymore. We wanted to restart the season today, and we did. Hopefully, the way we did it and the impact from the bench gives us the belief back and the confidence back that we need to play at our highest level.”
Are you happy with his form of Edouard Mendy, and are you concerned about if he will be fit for Tuesday as he looked like he was in some pain at the end?
“He was in a lot of pain, and we have to see. It’s too early to comment on that. I think at the moment he is a bit unlucky in what he is doing. In training, he is fantastic, and he is, in general, a very calm and self-reflective guy who is aware that he lacks a little bit of luck at the moment.
“Things do not go in his favour. If he has maybe a situation where his action isn’t 100% clear, he gets punished for it massively. He is just in this moment, and it feels like it’s not so much his fault. I have the feeling because he tries everything, he is very calm and focused. We will keep on supporting him.”
There was upset on your bench when Michail Antonio put West Ham ahead, is that because you felt he shouldn’t be on the pitch?
“No, it was that the second corner should never have been a corner. When the shot came from Bowen and the same from Edou, there was a foul in a clear offside position from Antonio. I can’t understand how you foul in an offside position the goalkeeper who makes the save, and you get away with it and get a second corner. That was the discussion in the build-up to the first corner. It was similar to Tottenham, but I stop talking about that.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was here today, will he be in training tomorrow?
“Yes, he trains tomorrow, but I cannot tell you if he trains with full contact or individually. We’ll need to see. He has the mask, and the doctors tell me the mask is good and he feels comfortable with it.
“So he would be ok, but we need to check it, and we need to check it with no contact, half-contact, and then full contact. We need to see how he feels about it. It’s too early to make a prediction, but he’ll be in training tomorrow morning, and we’ll see.”
It’s a boost to have him in training, isn’t it?
“For us, it’s an immense boost to have the window closed. It’s simply like this. We now have the chance to demand full commitment. There is no way out anymore. We are the group for Chelsea that wants to have the best possible results and outcomes. We have to take responsibility now from here.
“I am happy with everybody who is in the group. There is a reason for everyone to be in the group. We want to use this momentum to kickstart the new season, and I am happy to get the luck needed, got the belief, got the atmosphere, and turned it around because these things are needed to play with full belief and confidence.”
There was another goal conceded from a set-piece. What are your thoughts on that?
“It’s strange. We invest a lot of time in it, but not many changes are going on. We are even investing a bit more in details, set-up and time. Maybe it’s just a phase, and maybe it’s also down to talents. With Wesley Fofana, we have someone that can help us a lot.
“We didn’t have Kai [Havertz] today on the pitch, who is one of the best for first contact. We took that kind of risk because we wanted to have small strikers today on the pitch. As you say, we struggle to convert our set pieces into chances; we struggle with the delivery and the repetitive quality. And we conceded from a set piece again, but we are on it.”
How close to full fitness is Ben Chilwell, and what impact can he make?
“Fitness, I think he has the full fitness he can have from training and pre-season matches. Of course, he can feel fitter and be fitter if he is playing in consecutive Premier League matches. In my opinion, he lacks rhythm and a bit of feeling from the game. This is what I see in training. The player always thinks he is ready, and I think there are some things still missing.
He started for us against Everton, came on against Southampton today, and had a huge impact. This is what we want from him. In my view, the wing-back position is his best position: he gives energy, runs, and deliveries. So I am very happy because these things need to happen more than any talk or session with me. He must feel it and experience being decisive back on the pitch.”
Thomas, how involved are you with the search for a sporting director and how important will that be?
“I’m not involved in that, I have to say. I am so, so happy. I had the feeling for one-and-a-half days, I shifted back to 100% being a coach, which I enjoy a lot and where my full energy will go from now on. We need that energy going into the team. It’s a very complex situation with sporting directors and which role they have. They are very different in different countries and clubs.
“It’s no secret that I loved to work with Petr [Cech]. The communication and having this kind of legend at Cobham, who took care of not only our building but the academy and the culture of the club, was a pure pleasure for me. It’s a big change not to have him, and we’re still adapting. I am not actively involved in the search or building of a new structure. I’m not so sure it is my job.”