Chelsea’s win over Everton on Saturday at Goodison Park to start the season was certainly welcome, but it was hardly a great performance – it was just “okay” according to the head coach – and it showcased many well-known issues from last season, especially with the largely ineffective attack.
It turns out there’s 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 huge problem for a system based on full-back play.
“Today we played with Ben Chilwell, who for me was not 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 for us to take the risk.
“Reece” [James] is also currently struggling to have full, full fitness so on the right side we didn’t have enough of the wing backs to create a little more freedom for the inner players. ”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Evening Standard
While James is likely to reach full fitness sooner rather than later – and maybe do some extra exercise in the corner – Chilwell’s fitness is something to keep a close eye on. As wonderful as it is that he is back, he is recovering from a serious injury and one that even with modern medical techniques and rehabilitation could have a lasting, career-changing effect. The fact that Chelsea have spent massively on another left-back underlines this situation, even if Marc Cucurella can also act as a centre-back.
Our next game is against Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur. Whoever wins the battle of the fullbacks might get three important early points.