How does Tuchel fix Chelsea's leaky defence?

Costly individual errors, discomfort against speedy opponents and players distracted by summer moves… Chelsea have conceded ELEVEN times in their last three home games with Thomas Tuchel scrambling for a solution – so, how does he plug the leaks?

  • Chelsea have conceded 11 times in their last three matches at Stamford Bridge
  • They shipped four to Brentford and Arsenal, plus three to Real Madrid in Europe
  • Thomas Tuchel’s side seem to be reserving leakiest displays for home games 
  • Many have stemmed from sloppy individual errors by the Blues’ back line 
  • Rudiger, Christensen and Azpilicueta could all leave the club in the summer  

Successful Chelsea teams of the past two decades have typically been built on solid defensive foundations.

But after the concession of 11 goals in their last three outings at Stamford Bridge, it’s fair to say Thomas Tuchel’s current crop are not following this tradition.

A jaw-dropping 4-1 home loss to Brentford kicked off a rollercoaster April, followed swiftly by a Karim Benzema-inspired 3-1 win for Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Edouard Mendy (left) and Andreas Christensen react after one of Arsenal’s four goals 

Poor Chelsea defending has become a theme of late, with 11 conceded in three home matches

Manager Thomas Tuchel must be at his wits’ end after a series of defensive aberrations

And though results away from home – a 6-0 thrashing of Southampton, nearly a miracle comeback against Real in the Bernabeu and progress to the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace – have offered comfort, Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to Arsenal has again offered cause for defensive concern.

We’ve seen a litany of individual mistakes, discomfort from some players at Tuchel’s three-at-the-back system and occasions when the fundamentals of defending, such as don’t all chase the man with the ball, have been plain forgotten.

The result has been a succession of horror shows at the back followed by a whole load of arm-waving, finger-pointing and recriminations as the opposition run off to celebrate.

There would have been upheaval in the Chelsea back line this summer regardless of these latest aberrations but now the need for reinforcements looks even more pressing.

Antonio Rudiger is out of contract in the summer and has been linked with a host of top-level European clubs. He has reportedly set a deadline of the end of this month to resolve the situation, putting the pressure on Chelsea to draw up an improved contract offer.

Antonio Rudiger could be waving goodbye to Chelsea with several elite clubs linked to him

Andreas Christensen (left) is another defender would could depart the Bridge this summer

Andreas Christensen, meanwhile, is expected to sign for Barcelona once the window opens and, on the strength of Twitter feeling during the Arsenal defeat, he won’t be missed by Chelsea fans.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta may also depart once the season ends – despite a one-year contract extension until summer 2023 having been triggered – leaving Chelsea with three big gaps at the back.

His angry confrontation with a fan after the final whistle on Wednesday may hasten that departure. 

The uncertainty over the club’s ownership, following the sanctions on Roman Abramovich as a result of the Ukraine war, only adds a further layer of complexity to shoring up this leaky defence ahead of next season.

A furious Cesar Azpilicueta was involved in an ugly confrontation with a Chelsea supporter

Initially, Spaniard Azpilicueta put his arms out as the fan made gestures in his direction

Chelsea fixtures 

Sunday West Ham (A)

Thursday Manchester United (A)

May 1 Everton (A)

May 7 Wolves (H)

May 11 Leeds United (A)

May 14 Liverpool (Wembley)

FA Cup final

May 19 Leicester City (H)

May 22 Watford (H) 

We don’t yet know how quickly a takeover will happen and, therefore, whether Chelsea will even be able to sign anyone to replace those who do depart. 

What is for certain is that Stamford Bridge – partly empty for the Arsenal game because of restrictions on ticket sales – is no longer the fortress it once was.

Tuchel averages 1.76 points-per-game in the league at home during his tenure, less than even the 1.82 of Frank Lampard, the 2.11 of Claudio Ranieri and the 2.21 of one season wonder Maurizio Sarri.

With seven games left to play, Chelsea should be absolutely fine in qualifying for next season’s Champions League. They may also still end a tumultuous season by lifting the FA Cup.

But beyond that, the future of the club is shrouded in mystery. Will a new owner by able to keep Chelsea in the manner to which they have become accustomed, or will we see them decline as a big six force?

In the meantime, we take a closer look at what’s been going wrong defensively in those recent home fixtures as Tuchel scrambles to fix the issues.

Chelsea 1-4 Brentford

One of the most famous results in Brentford’s history and achieved through a daring attacking performance in the second-half having earlier fallen behind, so let’s give them the credit they deserve.

But we can’t escape the fact that Chelsea’s defending was shoddy and helped them on their way.

There was a warning sign in the first-half when Edouard Mendy sloppily presented a pass straight for Ivan Toney, whose chip cleared an empty net to the keeper’s immense relief.

Chelsea endured a chastening afternoon as they were thrashed 4-1 by Brentford 

Having got away with that one, Chelsea’s defence were too slow to react for Brentford’s equaliser after Ruben Loftus-Cheek lost a 50-50 challenge in midfield. Azpilicueta was drawn too far infield, meaning he didn’t pick up Vitaly Janelt as he finished nicely with his left foot.

Christian Eriksen’s goal to put Brentford ahead stemmed from a Chelsea corner. Hakim Ziyech lost an aerial duel with Bryan Mbeumo in midfield but what was baffling was how Ziyech, Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante were all drawn to Mbeumo like moths to a flame, leaving Eriksen completely free in the middle to score.

Marcos Alonso can only watch on as Christian Eriksen sweeps home Brentford’s second goal

Janelt’s second goal – the third Chelsea had conceded in the space of just 10 minutes – came after Rudiger messed up an offside trap by not stepping out, allowing Janelt to receive a Toney pass and chip Mendy.

And the fourth came from Mason Mount being beaten in the air by the taller Ethan Pinnock and a scuffed clearance by Thiago Silva, probably distracted by Rudiger next to him trying to clear the same ball.

Thiago’s hack went straight to Yoane Wissa, who rifled home to cap a miserable afternoon for Chelsea.

Thiago Silva botched a clearance, allowing Yoane Wissa to rifle home Brentford’s fourth goal

Chelsea 1-3 Real Madrid

The night Chelsea were destroyed by the brilliance of Karim Benzema – but were complicit in their own downfall. All three goals were situations they might have dealt with better.

In what became a common theme, Vinicius Jr was too quick for Christensen down the Real left and, again, too many players were drawn to the man with the ball, allowing Benzema to drift into space and finish with an excellent header.

Benzema can be seen drifting into a pocket of space after Vinicius Jr surged down the left

Antonio Rudiger can’t get across to cut Benzema off and the striker’s header was excellent

Rudiger is culpable in not reading the danger to come across and intercept Benzema but, in his defence, he expected the cross to be cut off and the striker not to generate so much power with his header.

Benzema’s second, just three minutes later, saw him drift in between Christensen and Thiago to meet a superb cross by Luka Modric.

Benzema managed to get in between Christensen and Thiago to head home his second goal

And his third was simply a gift, with Mendy underhitting a pass to Rudiger 40 yards from his goal line. That absolute howler allowed Benzema to steal in and roll the ball into an empty net.

Real also created a number of other chances as a result of Chelsea sloppiness and could easily have killed off the contest after just one leg.

Mendy was a long way off his line when attempting to play a pass out of defence 

But the Chelsea keeper made a hash of it, presenting the ball to Karim Benzema to score

Edouard Mendy is unable to stop Benzema scoring his hat-trick goal after a dreadful error 

The keeper has been at fault on a few occasions when attempting to pass out from the back

Chelsea 2-4 Arsenal

Which takes us to another horror show on Wednesday night against an Arsenal side who most certainly looked like they still had plenty to play for this season.

Eddie Nketiah’s opening goal was the result of a badly underhit back pass by Christensen looking for his goalkeeper Mendy. It allowed the quick Arsenal striker the chance to steal in and Malang Sarr, deputising for the injured Rudiger, wasn’t able to cut him off.

Eddie Nketiah finishes off his first goal on Wednesday night following another bad back pass

Emile Smith Rowe’s goal was the result of a slick Arsenal break but their third, also scored by Nketiah, happened after a poor Azpilicueta pass 10 yards inside his own half presented the ball to Nuno Tavares.

Nketiah then spun Thiago far too easily on the edge of the box and, a couple of ricochets off the hapless Sarr later, Arsenal had the lead for the third time.

Neither Kante nor Sarr were able to clear the ball in the lead-up to Nketiah’s second strike

Cesar Azpilicueta capped a poor night by shoving over Bukayo Saka to concede a late penalty

A poor night for Azpilicueta was capped by his daft shove on Bukayo Saka nowhere near the ball to concede the penalty for Arsenal’s fourth.

So once again, shoddy defending let Chelsea down at Stamford Bridge in what is becoming a familiar theme. It’s all the more baffling in the context of better defensive displays on the road.

Tuchel faces an unenviable task in getting top performances out of players who see themselves leaving the club in just a few weeks’ time.

But given a hugely difficult season can still end with a top four finish and a FA Cup run, Tuchel will hope to rediscover a bit of solidity in the games that remain.

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