Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham could have their work cut out if they want to remain regular members of Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI at Chelsea after their poor performances in a 1-1 draw against Southampton. Hudson-Odoi, the early winner of Tuchel’s short time in charge, is this weekend’s early loser.
In the first half-hour at St Mary’s, Southampton looked like a team that had lost six Premier League matches in a row – for the first time in their history – as they struggled to put two passes together. Their press was there as usual but even that was less aggressive than we’ve been used to seeing for most of this season. Chelsea barely threatened Alex McCarthy’s goal for all their possession in the first half and the Saints scored with their first attack of the match on 33 minutes. Nathan Redmond found some space in the middle of the park and picked out Takumi Minamino with a defence-splitting pass, before the Japan international finished cool as ice.
Ahead of the match, Jermaine Jenas blamed their 9-0 loss at Manchester United for the Saints’ terrible run of form: “I think we all know what went wrong at Southampton and it feels like that one result has rocked the boat and confidence yet again. There has been a lot of chopping and changing and I do believe they are a team that at its best can compete with most in the league but take one or two out of it and it kind of melts away a bit.”
Defeats to Leicester City, Arsenal and Aston Villa had preceded the embarrassing defeat at Old Trafford but losses to ten-man Newcastle United and Wolves followed. The confidence of that first-half goal gave Southampton the impetus to seek out a win with Moussa Djenepo producing a number of promising moments, while Jannik Vestergaard hit the crossbar. It wasn’t vintage Saints under Ralph Hasenhuttl but they will certainly take the point to stop the rot.
1.7 – Since Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge of Chelsea on January 27th, they have allowed their opponents just 1.7 shots on target per Premier League game on average (10 faced in 6 matches) – the lowest ratio of any side in the competition in this time. Control. pic.twitter.com/LJejCp67em
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 20, 2021
The Blues noticeably moved the ball quicker at the beginning of the second half and it only took Mason Mount nine minutes to win a penalty before converting the spot-kick himself. His second-half performance was a particular delight, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position not long after scoring the penalty, taking long shots and putting threatening balls into the box. In the final ten minutes a run down the left-hand side from Mount left Djenepo on his bum before the England international stood the ball up to the back post – but Reece James couldn’t get his shot on target. And that was as close as Tuchel’s side came to grabbing a winner.
Abraham was hauled off at half-time, with the presumption that he had been taken off for tactical reasons, before a picture emerged of him icing his ankle. Tuchel confirmed after the match that it was because the striker struggled to get into the game. It wasn’t working. The Chelsea striker was making a shock return after Jamaal Lascelles’ challenge on him – which Tuchel described as “reckless” – saw him leave the match against Newcastle 20 minutes early. Hudson-Odoi replaced Abraham at the interval at Southampton but he then faced the ignominy of being chopped 13 minutes from time when Tuchel brought on Hakim Ziyech in his place.
25 – Mason Mount was the 25th different player to score a penalty for Chelsea in the Premier League, with the Blues now having more penalty scorers than any other team in the competition’s history. Collection. pic.twitter.com/p8etg9tgBa
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 20, 2021
Hudson-Odoi has been one of the success stories of Tuchel’s early reign at Chelsea with the Englishman deployed effectively at wing-back. Maybe those promising displays relaxed the 20-year-old – who was linked with a move to Bayern Munich during Lampard’s tenure – a bit too much but he could now have taken two steps back in Tuchel’s eyes. Alarmingly, Tuchel admitted he took Hudson-Odoi off the pitch because he was “not happy with his attitude” in his 32 minutes on the pitch.
Tuchel said: “I am not concerned about Tammy Abraham, it was not about the injury, it was hard for him to show his quality. He could not put his stamp in this game so we changed the formation. We brought in Callum Hudson-Odoi but I was not happy with his attitude, energy and counter-pressing. I took him off and we demand 100%, I feel he is not in the right shape to help us. It was a hard decision but tomorrow it is forgotten and he has all possibilities to start against Atletico Madrid.”
It hasn’t taken Tuchel too long to turn things around at Chelsea with four wins and two draws in his first six Premier League matches in charge. With the backline looking solid under the new boss, his work must now be focused on getting the best out of his forwards. Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner have bagged one goal each in the German’s time in charge, with the latter ending a 14-game goal drought against the Magpies. It was seen as progress for Werner, but the former RB Leipzig striker barely threatened at St Mary’s.
For all the negatives about Abraham and Hudson-Odoi, Mount – who has earned praise recently from Tuchel – was everything positive about Chelsea. Just like he was helping to keep Frank Lampard in a job, Mount is now giving Tuchel the ammunition to forge a successful period at Stamford Bridge. But, as Tuchel knows, he needs his forwards to load the gun and start firing.