Tuchel’s unlikely boys! B-listers Timo Werner, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley save Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to put Blues at the top of the table
- Chelsea’s B-listers released them from prison on Saturday against Southampton
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley both played a role in the first two goals
- Timo Werner hit the decisive goal that gave Chelsea a 2-1 lead late
- Ben Chilwell then sealed the win after getting a rare start
Thomas Tuchel didn’t think of it that way. After Chelsea spent £350m in the past two summers, two players who couldn’t find new clubs and another who couldn’t find the net was not meant to help him out of his toughest week in West London.
But after two 1-0 defeats in a week, Tuchel’s plan A hit the buffers, it was Chelsea’s unlikely boys who kept him on track.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley were loaned out to Fulham and Aston Villa respectively last season, and even Tuchel had admitted he didn’t see much future for them at Stamford Bridge.
Ruben Loftus Cheek (left) and Ross Barkley (right) were both influential in Chelsea’s win over Southampton
Timo Werner scored the crucial goal that made it 2-1 against the Blues in the 84th minute
Timo Werner, meanwhile, had not scored a league goal in six months and when he thought he had ended his drought here in the 41st minute, VAR said otherwise.
But Tuchel needed a refresh after those losses to Manchester City and Juventus, when Chelsea had one shot on target in 180 minutes and the record signing Romelu Lukaku was wiped out.
Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Jorginho, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso went out, but there was still no place for summer signing Saul Niguez, trusted Loftus-Cheek instead.
The fact that Tuchel had to rely on Loftus-Cheek to make his first league start for Chelsea in 383 days highlights how the German has had to think again after the first major bump in the road since he was appointed in January.
Thomas Tuchel needed a refresh after defeats against Manchester City and Juventus
Loftus-Cheek paid back his confidence with an assured performance in central midfield, while Barkley played a key role in Werner’s goal to make it 2-1, seconds after coming on in the 83rd minute.
“I always make my choices for the best of the team,” Tuchel said. “There will be tactical choices, choices of current form, of connections on the field. Saul was very, very close to today’s start, but I decided not to. I thought if we put him in another high intensity, pressing opponent it would be fair to say, prove it, let’s see if you’ve moved on.
“I had to make the selection today and eight players (on the bench) didn’t like it, but that’s life at Chelsea – we have to keep everyone positive and working. Boys have to work for their form, because performance is the most important.’
Of course at Chelsea it is usually easier to go to the reserves. Loftus-Cheek and Barkley have 43 caps for England together and the surprise of Werner’s £47million role in this win is more due to his run of two goals in 32 league games for Saturday.
Tuchel denied feeling any pressure to be European champions and early title favorites, but there were signs of frustration over the past week when referee Martin Atkinson marked Werner’s header from close range after VAR Mike Dean warned him of Cesar’s foul. Azpilicueta in the run-up.
Ben Chilwell rounded out the score after he also got a rare start from his manager
The Chelsea boss was so outraged by the decision that he was shown a yellow card from Atkinson. “I got emotional and the referee told me he can’t accept that. It’s fair enough,’ said Tuchel.’
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had his own disagreements with the officials when James Ward-Prowse was sent off for a late challenge on Jorginho. Previously, the midfielder had given Saints hopes for a more positive result with a penalty to make it 1-1 after Ben Chilwell fouled Tino Livramento.
Relief for Chelsea came thanks to Barkley’s immediate impact, with Azpilicueta, who was standing on Werner for the first time, pushing a pass into the right channel. Even the riotous German could not miss from four meters.
Ben Chilwell, another Chelsea player who has made a rare appearance in the starting line-up this season, sealed the win in the 89th minute.