‘A lot of difference’: Mario Melchiot says Chelsea player’s creativity is so important in away matches

Mario Melchiot insisted Mateo Kovacic’s ingenuity will be needed in the rest of Chelsea’s away fixtures this season.

Speaking on talkSPORT, the former Blues defender said Kovacic’s resourcefulness could be key to the club’s success on the road.

Chelsea poor without Kovacic

Thomas Tuchel’s team very much missed the midfielder’s imagination when they travelled to Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday evening.

Chelsea’s attack was slow and slumbered, owed in part to Jorginho’s return to the side.

He and N’Golo Kante failed to drive the Champions League holders forward from deeper positions, meaning the onus was mostly on the offensive players to carve out Brighton.

Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Aside from Hakim Ziyech’s goal in the first half, Chelsea’s attackers struggled to penetrate Graham Potter’s rear-guard with any menace.

Finally time for Mateo

Kovacic eventually entered the fray ten minutes from time and instantly added impetus to the assault on the Seagulls’ castle.

However, the move by Tuchel was too little too late, as Brighton boarded their walls sufficiently to earn a 1-1 draw.

The German coach will probably not make the same mistake again by leaving the Croatian out for such a long time.  

Chelsea’s next Premier League matches away from Stamford Bridge are against Crystal Palace, Burnley and Norwich City, three opponents that will expect to relinquish possession in favour of defensive solidity.

What does the Croate provide?

“Kovacic brings a lot of difference for Chelsea, especially away from home against teams like Brighton,” said Melchiot.  

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“Brighton is a team that will sit and take their time, so you need some creativity.

“The creativity of him going forward, I’m talking about. I’m not talking about the creativity of guys like Kante or Jorginho when they sit in.

“I’m talking about someone that takes the ball up the field and I don’t think Chelsea had someone that could break the game for them.

“He (Tuchel) brought him (Kovacic) on ten minutes from the end (against Brighton), but it’s too late. You wait too long.

“The creativity of the team needs to be better to surprise people. If not, if it stays the same, they will be caught all the time.”

Lack of vision form the Blues

Inventiveness was certainly something Chelsea lacked mid-week.

Even with Ziyech, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the pitch together, the Blues looked short of ideas.

Tuchel is really missing the contributions of Reece James and Ben Chilwell from wing-back, who provide a far greater threat than Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Getting the England internationals back as soon as possible will be a top priority for the club and their medical staff.

Until then, Chelsea must rely on Kovacic’s class to get them out of sticky situations.

Of course, this is not a sustainable solution, but nothing can last forever in football anyway.   

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.