Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea’s attacking players must start making the most of N’Golo Kante’s unrivalled ability to reclaim possession.
The French midfielder – who has been eased back into the starting XI following a hamstring injury – was at his very best against Southampton yesterday. Per Squawka, Kante registered the highest number of ball recoveries (13), won the most tackles (7), and made the most interceptions (4) of any Blues player.
Yet the 29-year-old’s performance wasn’t enough to ensure Chelsea came away from St Mary’s with all three points – the game ended in a 1-1 draw with the Blues’ goal coming from a Mason Mount penalty.
Tuchel’s side struggled to create opportunities from open play, registering only three shots on target against the Saints, who had come into the contest having lost their previous six matches.
And having already highlighted his players’ lack of conviction in attacking areas, Chelsea’s head coach also stressed the need for his side to make better make decisions in the final third after Kante has won back possession.
The German coach said. “I have known N’Golo Kante for years and now I am the lucky coach who has him as a player. He steals every ball that is 10 metres near him.
“Even then, we need to use these ball wins from N’Golo and use them better to attack the space behind the last line.
“We need to use our speed to create more chances – there have been a lot of possibilities in the last matches.
“We need to understand that it is a process and we may need the last few links to gain the confidence to create and score more. Because it is also not enough to score from just half chances.”
Tuchel included a couple of surprise names in his side at St Mary’s. Tammy Abraham was named in the starting XI just five days after hobbling off with an ankle injury; there was no great surprise the England international struggled and was brought off at half time.
Kurt Zouma, meanwhile, featured in the Premier League for the first time since Frank Lampard was sacked on January 25.
The French defender was largely untroubled but was partly at fault for the Saints’ equaliser: Zouma was not aware Takumi Minamino had found space between him and Cesar Azpilicueta.
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Tuchel was asked for his thoughts regarding the 26-year-old’s performance after the game and the 47-year-old insisted he was pleased with Zouma, who appears to be the fifth-choice centre-back at Stamford Bridge.
He said: “Today I learned a lot of positive things about Kurt Zouma in his performance which was very positive. We decided it late to put him on the pitch but he had a good game.
“He was present and clear in his actions. He fulfilled his role at the top level, very very well.”