Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel revealed on Friday he gave his players a stern dressing down to stop the team’s slump in form from wrecking their season.
Chelsea travel to Southampton on Saturday aiming to end a difficult week on a high after last weekend’s 4-1 Premier League loss to Brentford was followed by Wednesday’s 3-1 Champions League quarterfinal, first-leg defeat to Real Madrid.
Tuchel said afterwards that Chelsea have almost no chance of keeping their European campaign alive but they remain third in the league and have an FA Cup semifinal to come against Crystal Palace in nine days time.
To avoid further damaging results, Tuchel addressed the group in a different manner to his typical genial style at the club’s Cobham training base on Thursday.
“It was not a discussion type of meeting yesterday,” Tuchel said. “It was more that I gave my point of view and that is sometimes also necessary. We take the players’ views very seriously and often into account, but after the last two games we thought it is necessary to give our point of view.
“But it was behind closed doors and in an atmosphere where everybody can take criticism. I feel involved in a development like this. We don’t point fingers and we don’t look for people that are guilty. We are in this together. We needed to point out some things in our game with which we are not happy and where could have defended better, done better.
“It was about the game. It was about offensive principals in our game — what we wanted to do and lacked doing. Unfortunately, and a bit surprisingly, we lacked structure in the last game. Normally that is our big strength: you clearly see what we try to do and play. That was not the case and it’s a big problem. Then you lacked the rhythm and repetitions of our attacks.
“We lacked discipline in attacking and positional discipline. It was a big disadvantage on counter-pressing because we were not in the places where we were supposed to be. So, this gives a big disadvantage in counter-pressing. In defending, we lacked intensity and investment. That was more or less what we saw. We figured out the details because it’s not about general criticism, it’s about details about situations. It is about trusting in the players. I love the players, the group, I love to be involved. We can do better together.”
Chelsea have doubts over Romelu Lukaku (Achilles) and Hakim Ziyech (knock) while Tuchel is hopeful N’Golo Kante can revive his own individual form.
Kante, who was named Champions League Midfielder of the Season last year, was substituted at half-time against Real and Tuchel hinted that Ramadan could be affecting the 31-year-old.
“One thing is very clear, N’Golo is a key player with outstanding qualities and unique qualities,” Tuchel said. “For other teams, maybe it is some strikers or central defenders. For us, it is N’Golo, a unique player who can give something to the team that nobody else can.
“He struggles this season with consistency due to injuries, due to illness. This is also a reason for our bit of inconsistency of course. We missed him for too many matches if you look at the minutes he is available he can play. At the moment he is fasting due to his religion and his belief. Maybe another reason. He is not doing it for the first time but if you don’t eat during the day for many days it can have an effect.
“He is used to it but maybe it is also part of the explanation why we had the feeling he is not on his highest level if you compare how much of an influence he was in the last campaign against Real Madrid. This is also nothing to be ashamed of or feel sorry for. This is a key player with unique qualities. We try to push him, try to help him because we know what we have when he is on the pitch.”