Post-match interviews are rarely easy to navigate for coaches. Tensions are usually running high and adrenaline still coursing through their systems having spent the previous 90 minutes attempting to guide a side to victory.
Yet, Thomas Tuchel has managed to breeze through his as Chelsea head coach. So far at least. There has been a calmness to the German, he delivers excellent analysis and hasn’t got caught up in the emotion of what has gone before.
That’s very different from his predecessor, Frank Lampard. The Blues’ all-time leading scorer would either be all smiles or disconsolate depending on how his team had fared. Perhaps that’s no surprise given the attachment Lampard had to Chelsea, he feet victories and defeats more than Tuchel.
The element of detachment the 47-year-old possesses is no bad thing. It gives him clarity in his decision-making, a useful coldness. But Tuchel isn’t perfect, he makes mistakes. And that was the case after today’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United.
The game wasn’t a classic, far from it in fact. But Tuchel was pleased with his players’ performance against the side that currently sits second in the Premier League table.
He relayed that in his post-match interview with Sky Sports. “It was a high-quality game between two very strong teams. We suffered in some minutes in the first half, it was hard for us.
“We suffered in some minutes because of the quality of [Harry] Maguire to come in and we didn’t close their six. So that was difficult for some minutes.
“But overall it was an even game and I felt us very strong, very aggressive. The result is the result, but performance-wise I am satisfied.”
Fair analysis as we’ve come to expect from the German. But he was then asked about Tammy Abraham’s exclusion from the squad and things became a little complicated.
Abraham hasn’t been a regular starter under Tuchel since his appointment at the end of last month. He has, however, been involved in every single match-day squad, and that’s even after he suffered a nasty ankle injury in the victory over Newcastle United two weeks ago.
There were reports shortly before kick-off that Abraham’s ankle wasn’t feeling 100% and that’s why he was absent. Yet that was not the case as Tuchel confirmed after the game when asked.
Although, his response did contain a rather obvious error. “Selection,” the German started with when the question regarding Abraham came.
“We have 21 strong players and only 18 possible, so hard decisions. It’s my job to take hard decisions, this was the decision for 18 guys. Tammy was not with the group.”
Normally that explanation would be spot on. But since December, Premier League sides have been able to name nine substitutes, taking their match-day contingent to 20 players.
Of course, this was a simple oversight from Tuchel in the intense arena of a post-match interview. It is, though, worth talking about because of who was included on the bench at Abraham’s expense.
There is no argument with the likes of Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, and Timo Werner being named among the substitutes. These are potential game-changers, forwards who can win a tight contest. And the same can be said about Marcos Alonso despite the Spaniard being a left wing-back.
However, does Tuchel then also have to include Emerson Palmieri, a left-back by trade, at the expense of Abraham, who is the Blues’ top scorer with 12 goals this season?
It seems an odd choice, especially for pure selection reasons as Tuchel stated.
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The Chelsea head coach could’ve easily put Abraham’s absence down to his injury. That he chose not to is perhaps telling.
In his short time at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel hasn’t been afraid to lay down a challenge or send a message to his players: Callum Hudson-Odoi discovered that last week against Southampton when he was hauled off after 30 minutes.
Chelsea return to action on Thursday evening when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool. If Abraham is back in the squad, then his omission against Manchester United will quickly be forgotten.
If he isn’t, well Tuchel can expect another post-match grilling in front of the cameras.