Thomas Tuchel missed a crucial tactical ploy with the use of Ruben Loftus-Cheek against Juventus as Chelsea walked away from Turin with their tails between their legs.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side began in the ascendancy and forced the west Londoners into various mistakes which saw Juventus come close to edging ahead on several occasions.
Ben Chilwell was brought on for Marcos Alonso at the interval but Federico Chiesa pounced first, firing the Old Lady ahead after just eleven seconds into the second half.
Juventus’ opener signalled for Tuchel to make further changes to his side in a bid to unlock Allegri’s stubborn defence, however, the German’s use of Loftus-Cheek proved decisive.
Loftus-Cheek was fielded as a number eight, hampering the Cobham graduate’s ability to be direct and drive into the final third with his unique combination of physicality and elegance.
However, despite his recent resurgence and success under Tuchel operating as an eight in a double pivot, Loftus-Cheek has already shown he has what it takes to work in a floating front-three, outshining Hakim Ziyech as he plots a case ahead of the Moroccan in Chelsea’s attack.
Loftus-Cheek impressed at right-wing under Maurizio Sarri for the Blues against Bournemouth in December 2018, featuring alongside a physical striker in Olivier Giroud.
The 25-year-old ducked inside and out of his markers, floating around the Blues’ target man while also posing as a threat with his end product.
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Despite his unorthodox build for a typical winger, Chelsea’s number twelve showed his ability to glide past players and combine well in the final third – several yards further up the field from where he was in possession as an eight for Tuchel against Juventus.
Loftus-Cheeks’ progressive ball-carrying as a winger poses a greater threat to the opposition than when he has been used as an eight.
However, this isn’t down to his wrongdoing but instead to the demands of a system. Couple this with his grace on the ball and a towering figure, the Englishman suddenly becomes an intimidating presence to defend against.
A role in Chelsea’s front-three would not only give Loftus-Cheek additional game time as he earns his stripes under Tuchel, but it also allows Saul breathing space to turn his Blues career around while Ziyech can lick his wounds following a succession of disappointing showings.
With the injuries of Christian Pulisic and the recent absence of Mason Mount, Tuchel could have eyed Loftus-Cheek’s display versus the Cherries as a dynamic ploy to unlock Juventus’ defence.
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