Thomas Tuchel said his Chelsea side did not change their system after the break during the 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, but why was their second-half performance much better?
The simple answer would obviously be N’Golo Kante’s presence.
His defensive prowess — and having three men in midfield, meant Chelsea wing-backs; Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta had more freedom to play higher up the pitch.
But when asked about the formation change, from a 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2, Tuchel told Chelsea TV: “It was actually the same shape, but a different attitude.
“Everybody thinks it was a different shape, but it’s not. It’s a different attitude from the whole team.”
The Chelsea manager might have a point.
On paper, Chelsea indeed started the game with their usual 3-4-3 structure. However, since Romelu Lukaku arrived, Tuchel has tried to pair him with Kai Havertz, whose best position Tuchel previously described as “a nine and a half”.
As The Coaches’ Voice pointed out in their tweet below, Havertz often positioned himself alongside Lukaku, while Mason Mount dropped deeper.
In the first half, Chelsea essentially played in a 3-5-2 — similar to their shape in the second half, with Mount and Mateo Kovacic both operated as No.8s.
When Tuchel spoke about a “different attitude”, he was likely referring to his team’s ability to win duels and 50-50 balls.
To put it into perspective, Mount won just three out of his seven duels, while Havertz won just one out of his 16 duels.
Kante, on the other hand, won three out of his four duels and had three ball recoveries.
Spurs, who no longer won more duels than Chelsea in the second half, were eventually forced to play deeper inside their own half, and it allowed the visitors to control the game.
That is exactly why Chelsea appeared to play more offensive despite taking off Mount, an attacker, for Kante, a defensive-minded midfielder.
Kante may not have Havertz or Mount’s playmaking ability, but he gives Chelsea more control in midfield, and players around him the licence to attack.