Thomas Tuchel knew what the problem was with his Chelsea side. Yet on this occasion, he could not manufacture a solution. Manchester City simply did not allow him to.
“I had a feeling we lacked belief and confidence to escape [the Man City press] in the situations that it was possible to escape,” the Blues head coach said, rather regretfully, after the defeat at Stamford Bridge.
“With every mistake, we lost more confidence. This can happen. In the end, we defended our box and goal very well but we were too deep.
“The game is so complex, you need a good performance at every level if you want to deserve a result. This was not the case today. We have to accept it and keep on going.”
The loss was Chelsea‘s first of the campaign. It will hurt. They always do. The manner of performance will also be a cause of frustration for those in Tuchel’s squad; too many of the qualities that have defined the side over the past nine months were lacking.
A defeat was coming, though. Chelsea haven’t been at their best since the international break yet Romelu Lukaku’s goals have helped paper over cracks. There is work to be done.
However, perspective is required. It was three points lost and a somewhat humbling experience. But Tuchel stressed ahead of the contest, the destiny of the Premier League title would not be decided by what happened yesterday lunchtime.
The German said in his pre-match press conference: “If we win we won’t be champions. If City wins, they won’t be champions and we won’t have depression.”
It’s important to remember that.
As is the fact that Chelsea’s return of 13 points from their opening six Premier League fixtures is exactly the same as Pep Guardiola’s side and one less than Liverpool. Which when considered the Blues have already travelled to Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, to the Emirates to take on Arsenal, and to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to beat Spurs, is no easy feat.
It’s for that reason Chelsea still have an edge in what is going to be a tightly-contested Premier League title race. There will be further twists and turns, more difficult afternoons for Tuchel and his players to overcome, but they have already navigated several of the top-flight’s bigger hurdles.
In the weeks ahead, the Blues should be able to build all-important momentum in the top flight.
After the little matter of Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday, Chelsea host Southampton at Stamford Bridge. That won’t be easy but it’s a game Tuchel’s side should win.
Then in the top flight come two games against newly-promoted clubs (Brentford and Norwich City), a long trip to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United, and then the visit of Burnley.
Nothing is set in stone, of course, in the Premier League. These matches will be far from gimmes. What they should allow Chelsea to do, however, is iron out the wrinkles from their game, particularly in the final third of the pitch, while also enabling victories to be recorded.
Tuchel will certainly hope that is the case because as the defeat to City proved – and despite Guardiola hailing him as a “more than exceptional coach” – the Chelsea boss isn’t always able to conjure a solution when things aren’t going as planned.