Thomas Tuchel has made an impressive start to life on the Chelsea bench and plans to prolong the honeymoon period when his side travel to St Mary’s to take on Southampton on Saturday (12:30pm; TV: Live on BT Sport).
Tuchel, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund coach, took over from Frank Lampard in late January. After a debut draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, he has overseen a run of four consecutive victories that have moved Chelsea up into fourth.
The fourth of those wins came at home to Newcastle on Monday. Chelsea dominated the first half, getting off 11 shots to the two of their visitors and scoring twice through Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner to go into the interval with a comfortable lead. The shot count was even thereafter, but they defended their advantage without major problems to take victory.
Chelsea’s pre-season transfer activity was heavily focused towards the attack, with the arrival of Werner accompanied by those of Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz. Lampard was never quite able to fit them and the existing personnel together into a coherent system and Tuchel hasn’t even attempted to do so in his short time in charge to date.
He fielded Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz together in his first match in charge, but for one reason or another, only Werner has started each of the subsequent four matches. Last season’s star attacker Christian Pulisic has also seen less than 90 minutes of action. Tuchel has prioritised a solid base, with a three-man defensive unit and steady midfield pairing, and has regularly fielded the industrious Mason Mount as one of his three attacking players.
The result is that while Chelsea have perhaps inevitably lost a bit of their attacking edge, they have been supreme defensively, conceding an average of just six shots per match, less than half an expected goal and not a single actual goal to date. It looks like the classic case of a new coach coming in and constructing a solid foundation to work from.
Tuchel has undoubtedly benefited from a soft early schedule, with matches against three clubs currently in the bottom five, a bottom half Wolves team and a Tottenham Hotspur side on the slide, but he has immediately righted a campaign that looked to be drifting. When he came in, Chelsea were 10th; five matches later, they are right back in the top-four hunt.
He would also appear to have a good chance of keeping the results flowing this weekend away at a Southampton side who come into the fixture on the back of a six-match losing streak and having won just one of their last 11 in league play. Relegation isn’t really a concern given that 11 points still separate them from the fairly hapless bottom three but it has quickly turned into a fairly grim campaign.
It started so well, with Saints even briefly topping the table in the early part of the season. Things have unravelled since, with the current run of six defeats including a humiliating 0-9 loss away to Manchester United. They took the lead at home to Wolves last weekend, only for two second-half goals from their visitors, the first from the penalty spot, to consign them to another defeat.
The underlying numbers suggest that Southampton’s current placing of 13th is about right for them, indicating that they are likely to regress in terms of both position and points in comparison to last season, when they finished 11th. Ralph Hasenhuttl is well thought of within the game and is working with a squad that has few standout talents, but if he is unable to produce some positive results sooner rather than later his future may come into question.
Certainly, Saints seem unlikely to provide Chelsea with too much of a problem on Saturday. They don’t offer a great deal in attack in open play, and as long as James Ward-Prowse doesn’t produce a killer delivery from a direct or indirect set-piece, Chelsea should be able to keep them an arms length. One goal is likely to be enough for the Blues to come away with all three points. So our SaintsFC vs CFC betting tip for this EPL match preview is:
- Back Chelsea to win to nil @ best odds of 21/10 with BetVictor.
Saints vs CFC Match Winner Betting Odds Comparison From The Trustworthy UK Bookies