Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea showed defensive resilience against Liverpool that wins Premier League titles

Chelsea did not win the game at Anfield but perhaps their 1-1 draw after going down to 10 men late in the first half will give them something more important than two extra points. It will give them the belief that they have all the qualities required to win this title.

That was a feeling already growing having added Romelu Lukaku to the squad and winning their first two Premier League games of the season so convincingly. In repelling Liverpool’s attacks during the second half, they showed the defensive resilience that wins titles.

“The first 10 minutes felt like this would never end,” Thomas Tuchel told Sky Sports. But it did end. His Chelsea were able to contain and to stifle. Although Liverpool had lots of possession, there was a gradual realisation that they could not cut through.

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Edouard Mendy made some comfortable saves from long-range shots but even that was a reflection of Liverpool’s inability to get behind the Chelsea defence. Only two second-half attempts from inside the box required a save – and both were straightforward.

How did Chelsea do it? “With pure will, with resilience,” said Tuchel. “Team effort at its very best. Never lose the shape, try to close the half spaces. It was clear that we would suffer but you can do it. You can make life very, very hard. Of course, you need a bit of luck.”


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It is true that the ball could have bounced unkindly, a blocked shot might have been deflected in. But luck does not explain the 13 clean sheets that Chelsea have already kept in the Premier League since Tuchel’s appointment in January – more than any other team.

In all competitions, his Chelsea have kept out Manchester City twice. They have kept out Liverpool and Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal. They have kept out Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. They have become the toughest team in Europe to beat.

Tuchel credited his players at Anfield “I cannot praise the team enough for their resilience,” he said. But this was not a result achieved through a man-of-the-match performance from a new £97m signing. The key figures here were already at the club.

What has changed is Tuchel and it is Tuchel who has changed them.

Nineteen games into last season, when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had the ninth best defence in the Premier League. Defending set pieces was a recurring problem. No team in the competition made as many individual errors directly leading to goals.

There has been a transformation. In the 22 games that they have played since, Chelsea have the Premier League’s best defence by far – conceding six fewer goals than any other team. None of their rivals have made so few individual errors leading to goals in that time.

They have gone from conceding an average of 1.2 goals per game to conceding an average of 0.6 goals per game – half as many. It is a triumph of coaching. A system was quickly identified and the players are confident in it. Very little can penetrate that back three.

Even the personnel does not seem to matter too much.

Thiago Siva came on, lining up with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger for the first time since the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. The loss of N’Golo Kante to injury might have been an issue too. Instead, Mateo Kovacic came in and impressed.

This is a team now accustomed to overcoming such challenges.

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Cesar Azpilicueta’s account of the scenes in the Chelsea dressing room at half-time was revealing because it gave an insight into the team’s thinking. Reece James’ red card and Mohamed Salah’s penalty represented a dramatic shift in momentum.

“Suddenly the world is upside down,” said Tuchel. His captain described the mood. “There were a lot of emotions,” Azpilicueta told Sky Sports. “Everyone was shouting and disappointed because we thought that we were better and we deserved more than that.

“But then we turned our mentality. This is what we have. We cannot change it. Let’s adapt. Let’s fight as a team. Let’s face this new challenge that we have. That is what we did.”

Azpilicueta’s assertion that Chelsea had “the best two chances in the second half” was a bit of a stretch but it was not an outlandish claim. Liverpool’s opportunities were far from clear. “They had a lot of possession and a few shots,” he added. That summed it up.

Neither manager was too keen afterwards to overstate the significance of the result. Both retain their unbeaten records with seven points from their opening three matches. But it is Chelsea who emerge from it with their reputation enhanced.

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“I think they will leave this stadium really confident,” Gary Neville told Sky Sports. “The resilience they showed in that second half, you think about championship-winning teams, and they are a long way away from that yet, but they do have those qualities.”

In the past seven seasons, the team with the best defensive record has won the title more often than the competition’s top scorers. And even in a game that they did not win, a game that they did not even keep a clean sheet, Chelsea showed that they have become the best defensive team in the Premier League under Thomas Tuchel.

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