5 problems for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea to solve after UEFA Super Cup penalty shootout win

Thomas Tuchel was animated, applauding and astonished all in equal measure as he watched his Chelsea side labour to an unconvincing penalty shootout victory against Villarreal to win the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast.

The German took charge of the Blues for their first competitive outing since being crowned Champions League winners in May, facing up against the Spanish outfit who were featuring in their first Super Cup meeting.

The Blues deservedly went in front when Hakim Ziyech swept home from Kai Havertz’s cross before the half-hour mark.

Chelsea had dominated the opening period as Villarreal struggled to venture out of their own half, testing Sergio Asenjo with the Spaniard pulling off some fine stops.

Ziyech then went off with a concerning shoulder injury and was later seen with his arm in a sling. And after twice hitting the woodwork, Villarreal fought their back into the game through Gerard Moreno’s strike.

Tuchel made a host of substitutions to hand some vital minutes to members of his squad who were lacking match action as the game went to extra-time at 1-1, with Kepa Arrizabalaga replacing Mendy in the 119th minute.

As the game went to a penalty shootout, it was Kepa’s save that denied Raul Albiol meaning the Blues clinched the trophy for the first time since 1998.

But the 47-year-old will have been overall slightly disappointed with the manner in which his side threw away their lead and there will be some issues to iron out ahead of their opening match against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Here are the five things that Tuchel would have learned from his side’s display on Wednesday…

Ziyech turns over a new leaf

Hakim Ziyech scored the opening goal as Chelsea beat Villarreal 6-5 on penalties (1-1 aet)

No player has been as impressive for Chelsea as Ziyech in pre-season. After scoring a hat-trick against Peterborough, twice against Tottenham and again finding the net against Arsenal, he has sent a message to his manager Thomas Tuchel.

While it can be argued playing against opposition who are building their fitness and lining up makeshift defences can often produce skewed results, Ziyech has looked like a new signing.

The Moroccan picked up where he left off from pre-season, starting on the right side of the front three. His dangerous in-swinging crosses caused problems for the Villarreal defence and when he went off, Emery would have been relieved.

It was a shame to see the winger’s night end prematurely after picking up a serious looking shoulder injury just before the break.

Hakim Ziyech was taken off with a shoulder injury

Ziyech’s first season was somewhat underwhelming with just two Premier League in 23 appearances. When he did feature, the playmaker lacked the same energy as his team-mates.

But the 28-year-old can console himself with the fact that he has given Tuchel something to think about after seemingly winning over Tuchel during pre-season.

The only question left to answer is how he will fit in should Lukaku seal his move as expected.

Timo Werner has a part to play

Timo Werner showed that he can be a reliable strike partner for Romelu Lukaku

If anyone had something to prove before Lukaku returns to Stamford Bridge, it was the striker they last brought in before him: Timo Werner.

The £47.5m signing arrived in the Premier League a big reputation but scored only six goals in 35 league outings, further highlighted by the fact defensive midfielder Jorginho managed seven.

But the German started off brightly in Belfast and only Sergio Asenjo’s cat-like reflexes prevented him from opening the scoring with an instinctive effort.

As often seen with Tuchel’s front three, Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech often switched position to create fluid movement through central areas.

That seemed to suit the German as he was able to hang onto the shoulder of the last defender, usually Pau Torres, and make some intelligent runs.

Werner was alive when his forward partner Havertz made a fine run into the left channel and sent in a low cross. It was his sprint to the front post which took Raul Albiol with him, allowing Hakim Ziyech to finish with aplomb.

It was those same unselfish runs which allowed Havertz to break through clear on goal and score the winning goal in the Champions League. With Lukaku set to sign, the 25-year-old will be keen to provide the Belgian with the same service.

Chelsea can’t just rely on Lukaku

Chelsea's attackers struggled to find the net against Villarreal

This was a chance for the likes of Ziyech, Werner, Havertz and later, Christian Pulisic, to prove that as attackers they are capable of chipping in with goals.

But there was a certain profligacy that has been on display on too many occasions from Tuchel’s men in attack as they squandered several chances.

Havertz looked bright throughout and nearly scored a superb solo goal before it hit the side netting, but understandably faded due to tiredness. Werner’s early chance was about as close as he came.

Ziyech produced the goods with the opening goal but Pulisic in particular was guilty of seeing too many efforts bounce wide of the target.

The quartet only managed 18 goals in the Premier League between them last season, which goes some way to suggesting why Tuchel was desperate to bring in Lukaku.

But it will take the 28-year-old some time to get back up to speed, and while he does, the Chelsea coaching staff need to find a way to get their frontline firing again.

Chalobah display undermines Kounde pursuit

Trevoh Chalobah looked assured on his first competitive outing for Chelsea

Have Chelsea unearthed yet another gem from their talented academy pool?

The signs suggest that Chalobah could be the next in line to follow the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James into the first team.

After taking his chance in pre-season, the 22-year-old was a surprise starter for the Super Cup clash, considering it was his senior debut for the club.

But the central defender was not fazed by the occasion, nor was he afraid to step into Gerard Moreno when the Spaniard threatened to get inside the box.

Chalobah provided a composed presence alongside Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger at the back and showed why the club were perhaps happy to allow Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori to leave on permanent deals.

Valencia are keen to take the centre-back on loan for the season and he could use the experience of a stint in Spain if Chelsea decide to spend big on Jules Kounde.

But with more performances like this, Tuchel may question if he really needs him with Chalobah going from strength to strength.

Chelsea need a Kante understudy

N'Golo Kante may need a backup midfielder like him to help handle the workload at Chelsea

N’Golo Kante is one of a select group of players who can rightfully claim they can walk into any side in the world — and he showed it again against Villarreal.

If there were any concerns that the Frenchman had some rust to shake off, the 29-year-old quickly proved that was not the case.

Kante covered every blade of grass in the first half, even testing Asenjo with a long-range drive in the process.

His touch and composure on the ball often goes under the radar as an unsung part of his game due to his incredible energy and stamina.

But it was noticeable how vulnerable Chelsea looked without him patrolling in front of the back four, picking off passes and setting up counter-attacks.

Nothing lasts forever though and Kante is human. If he does get injured, Chelsea will struggle to replace the freshness that he brings to the team.

And perhaps signing AS Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, who has been strongly linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, could be next in line to help out the Frenchman in the future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *