Thomas Tuchel, the new man in charge at Chelsea, said the difficulties were not down to anything fundamentally wrong with his players’ mentality in the defeat to Newcastle last Wednesday.
It had been suggested that they were lacking the kind of physicality needed to cope with a direct style of play from Rafael Benítez’s side.
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But the German, who replaced the sacked Antonio Conte, insisted that was not the case and that there was a more fundamental reason for the defeat.
“I saw the game well. From inside, not so much a lot of mistakes from the opponents,” he said. “What we have to recognise is we don’t play football the way they want to play. And we play this way from the beginning of the season, we can’t change it now.”
Tuchel has struggled in the Premier League having coached in the German Bundesliga for several years but he was cautious in discussing what it would take to succeed in the English top-flight.
“First of all we need to show that we know how to play football,” he said. “We’re human beings who are also produced football. We need to show to the people who we can do what we say in the beginning of the season: beat them one day, beat them the next day. If we get over that, we can adapt.”
A look at previous seasons under Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone has brought more bad news for Chelsea.
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But Tuchel said that it was not all down to identity issues and that it would be wrong to start pointing the finger at a number of individuals to explain what had gone wrong.
“Of course, it’s difficult to deal with this kind of disappointment after this result [Newcastle],” he said. “But you can’t just think it’s because of X, Y and Z: it’s all about Chelsea in our team, it’s all about Chelsea in Newcastle. We need to make sure it happens more in the future. And you can’t change the outcome of the match tomorrow. We have to do our best [against Manchester City].”
Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening, when Manchester City will also be aiming to claim top spot. They could leave it to the final day of the season to decide who leads the division.