‘Can’t be that tired’: Craig Burley baffled that £40m Chelsea man didn’t start vs Brighton last night

Craig Burley couldn’t believe that Mateo Kovacic started on the Chelsea bench at Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday.  

Speaking on ESPN, the former Blues midfielder questioned Thomas Tuchel’s decision to leave out Kovacic last night.

Even the Croatian international may have struggled to drag Chelsea through the mud on Tuesday.

Tale of Chelsea’s terrible exhibition

Tuchel’s men looked like the team he took over and eventually transformed 12 months ago.

At the AMEX Stadium, the European champions were sloppy, sluggish and so far away from acting as a solid unit.

RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

Stray passes, sour attitudes, solemn expressions; the story of Chelsea’s evening by the south coast.

Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Their lead was very much achieved against the run of play, with Hakim Ziyech catching Robert Sanchez off guard with a low snapshot from 20-yards.

The away side’s reaction to going ahead was one of almost embarrassment, afraid to commend their shoddy performance.

Where was Kovacic when they needed him?

Brighton made their own admirable display count in the second half, with Adam Webster cannoning the ball off his head past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

In almost an act of desperation, Tuchel made a triple change with ten minutes to go, bringing on Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Kovacic.

Burley felt the latter should have been used from the first whistle, not as a last resort.

He said: “One point I want to make is about team selection. Kovacic, was a player who was out injured.

“He came back in, scored that wonderful goal and was their best player against Liverpool, if memory serves me right.

Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

“Then he was their best player, one of them certainly, at Man City, in a poor performance (from Chelsea), but he was going snipping around, trying to win the ball back. And then he’s on the bench.

“He can’t be that tired, can he. You put your best midfielder, who gets you on the front foot passes the ball, on the bench.”

Battered and Blue-ised

There is no doubt that the return of the £40m (BBC) signing from Real Madrid has lifted Chelsea.

However, one man cannot carry an entire camp.

Everybody needs to pull in the same direction, something that simply isn’t happening right now for the boys in blue.

Tuchel should take a leaf out of Graham Potter’s book, Brighton’s boss having assembled a group that nobody in the Premier League wants to face.

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Right now, Chelsea are easy pickings, with the Seagulls the latest to feed off their faults.

The Blues cannot let this slide go any steeper, otherwise, it could be lights out for the coach who’s done so much for the club.

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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.