Three things Thomas Tuchel got right and one he got wrong as Chelsea beat Malmo

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Hayim Ziyech scored the all important goal as Chelsea earned a well-deserved three points against Malmo in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, a victory that his manager Thomas Tuchel will be very pleased with.

The Blues' goal came in the 56th minute when Ziyech found himself unmarked in the box and had the simple task of tapping into an empty net after a great counter-attacking run from Callum Hudson-Odoi down the right-wing.

The victory takes Chelsea to joint-first in Group H with Juventus, who take on Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg in the late kick-off on Tuesday.

Several key injuries meant that Tuchel didn’t have too many significant decisions to make with his team selection, but he did make several important choices…

What Tuchel did right

Silva keeps his spot

After playing 90 minutes against Newcastle at the weekend, it would have been very easy for Tuchel to decide to rest 37-year-old Thiago Silva.

However, the Brazilian centre-back retained his spot in the heart of Chelsea’s three-man defence and it proved a smart decision.

In a game where Chelsea spent most of the game in and around the Malmo penalty area, having the safety net of the veteran defender allowed the creative players to be relieved of most of their defensive duties.

The former PSG captain led by example in defence, keeping his teammates in check and also sniffing out danger on the rare occasions that the Swedish side broke forward.

Havertz and Loftus-Cheek link-up

With Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner both sidelined with injury, Tuchel was forced to play Kai Havertz as a makeshift forward in a false nine role.

However, the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder is more of a playmaker and often found himself trying to get into the channels and drifting out wide, which opened up plenty of space for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to move into.

With the experienced Saul Niguez and Ross Barkley on the bench, Tuchel opting for Loftus-Cheek was more definitely more tactical. The Englishman is more of an attacking threat than the two aforementioned and managed to fill the pockets in the final third well.

The 25-year-old linked up well with his teammates and created several openings for himself thanks to his strength and quick feet, a performance that will give his manager a lot to think about heading into a fixture against Burnley next weekend.

Wingers swapping

Malmo were somewhat impressive defensively against the Premier League table-toppers, holding a strong line throughout and throwing themselves into tackles.

In the first half, the left-side of the defence seemed to have the measure of Ziyech and prevented him from coming onto his favoured left foot, but in the second half Tuchel swapped his wingers – thus creating the chance.

The Swedish side's defence struggled to cope with the pace and energy of Hudson-Odoi and early in the second-half he was able to burst down the wing and square it for his Moroccan teammate to convert.

Although the goal felt inevitable, the game may not have finished as it did if Tuchel didn't make this tactical switch.

What Tuchel did wrong

The noticeable absence of Reece James

Both of Chelsea’s wingbacks on Tuesday night spent most of their time as playmakers against Malmo, and Tuchel’s decision to play Cesar Azpilicueta over Reece James in right-wing back was somewhat questionable.

Defensively, Azpilicueta is more competent than his teammate, but going forward James is a far greater threat in the final third – shown by his brace against the Magpies last weekend.

There were several occasions in the tie where Azpilicueta looked like he’d take on his man to whip in a cross or arrive late at the back post to strike the ball, but it never really happened.

James has scored four and assisted two in seven Premier League appearances this season and he may have had a significant impact on this tie if given the opportunity.

  • Champions League
  • Premier League
  • Chelsea FC
  • Thomas Tuchel

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