Chelsea’s win over Everton on Saturday at Goodison Park to begin the season was certainly welcome, but it was hardly a stellar performance — it was just “okay” even for the head coach — and it showcased a lot of familiar issues from last season, especially with the largely ineffective attack.
As it turns out, there is at least one good reason for that. Two in fact. Neither Reece James nor Ben Chilwell were fully fit for the game, which, as we learned last season, can be a massive problem for a system predicated on the play of the wing-backs.
“Today we played with Ben Chilwell who was not, for me, 100 per cent ready to start but the situation with Marcos Alonso [soon to leave for Barcelona] and the late signing of Marc Cucurella made it necessary that we took the risk.
“Reece [James] struggles also at the moment to have full, full fitness so on the right we didn’t have enough from the wing backs to create a bit more freedom for the inner players.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Evening Standard
While presumably James will reach full fitness sooner rather than later — and maybe put in some extra corner-taking practice — Chilwell’s fitness is something to watch closely. As great as it is that he’s back, he’s coming off of a major injury and one that even with modern medical techniques and rehab can have a lasting, career-changing effect. The fact that Chelsea spent massively on another left back further underlines this situation, even if Marc Cucurella can deputize as a center-back as well.
Our next game is against Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur. Whoever wins the battle of the wing-backs just might get three important early points.