Trust the process. That has been Thomas Tuchel’s message over the past week, as his Chelsea forwards have struggled for consistency in front of goal. The Blues have had 47 shots, with 11 on target, in their past two matches against West Ham and Manchester United, yet have only scored twice and taken home four points.
For a team which has spent around £220million on three forwards in the past two years, Chelsea still suffer from difficulties in front of goal far too often. Both Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have enjoyed better campaigns in that regard, but their all-round performances are still missing regular goals.
Werner has just four goals in 19 Premier League appearances (and three of those have come against Southampton), while Havertz has seven in 25. Considering their price tags and status in the team, a combined contribution of 11 goals from the team’s overall total of 68 in the league is a serious problem – especially when you add in Romelu Lukaku’s tally of five goals in 25 league games.
Chelsea’s lack of a goal scorer has been evident throughout the season, but was particularly clear at Old Trafford on Thursday night. The away side dominated the first half against a side shorn of confidence, with Reece James putting in cross after cross from acres of space at right wing-back, yet they took an hour to score.
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Havertz was the main reason for their inability to bury United. The German forward squandered a few good openings, including a one-on-one with David de Gea. Eventually, it took left wing-back Marcos Alonso to take a chance, before Cristiano Ronaldo showed Tuchel the value of a clinical finisher at the other end.
Chelsea travel to Merseyside today to face relegation-threatened Everton. Like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, Tuchel may well rotate his XI to ensure freshness after a tight turnaround, but his preferred front three has become clear recently: Werner, Havertz and Mason Mount.
The youthful trio are brilliant in many aspects – workrate, movement, tactics – but they undoubtedly lack a killer instinct. Tuchel’s comments on his side’s struggles in front of goal were interesting after the 1-1 draw against United.
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“The guys are still young upfront and we will not start pointing fingers because lately, they have been very, very composed and very efficient in front of goal,” he said. “Against Southampton and in the win at the Bernabeu, we took our chances very well and very precisely.
“It’s like this. When we look at the data and think about who plays and who does not play, we see a huge amount of intensity and sprints from Kai and Timo. So they don’t arrive fully, fully fresh at the moment in these matches and that’s why we will always protect them because it’s a team game we play and we demand a lot off the ball to have high recoveries.”
Tuchel went on to emphasise the fixture schedule – “the physicality, the rhythm, the demands” before giving his players the full backing. “It will come,” he insisted. “They will learn because they are good guys and have the right attitude. It’s not always easy to arrive fully composed and with the biggest ease because we demand a lot off the counter-pressing, attacking with the first line when the opponents wants to play out. So they have a bit of credit.”
They credit in the bank, but, if selected, Werner, Havertz and Mount must show why they are Tuchel’s first-choice trio against Everton.