Thomas Tuchel has been in the headlines all week. Criticism of referees and a bust-up with Antonio Conte have seen the German take centre stage at Chelsea for the past few days, but the manager is keen to turn the focus back to his team.
The Blues were held to a frustrating 2-2 draw against rivals Tottenham last time out and are now set to do battle with another famous foe in the form of Leeds United, who will host Tuchel’s men at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon.
There are a few injury updates needed, however – most notably on the latest hamstring issue for N’Golo Kante – as well as a little transfer update as Chelsea continue to chase Barcelona striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Here are the best bits of the boss’ pre-match press conference.
How serious is his injury?
“Quite serious. We are talking about weeks, which is not good news. We are disappointed and sad because N’Golo was super important and super fit, but he will be out for several weeks.”
Any other team news?
“Armando [Broja] is out for days, some days, but cannot come with us to Leeds. Mateo Kovacic as well, still out with knee problems.
“Christian Pulisic had Achilles problems but trained today, so let’s see.”
Are you frustrated with how long deals are taking to get done?
“No, the opposite of frustrated after last week’s match. I’m very happy and very confident after last week’s performance because I saw a very good team performance, an excellent match.
“We work together about the reinforcements, but it’s never easy. It’s not like we can just with for something and it will happen. As long as the transfer window is open, there are always possibilities. We know what we are trying, we know what we are doing, but the focus is on what we have, not what we could have. The focus for me is on what we have and this is the team. They get the full energy and full attention from us.”
Will any players leave Chelsea?
“I know there is a lot of talk. We will not encourage our players to go out at the moment. We had two training sessions with 18 players. In a schedule where we play once a week, that’s not a problem. If I look at the schedule that is coming, with Southampton during the week and two Champions League matches – it’s coming. It’s right in front of the door. We will need a lot of players, a lot of quality players, to be competitiive.
“At the moment, we have what we have. We know what we are looking for, and from there, we go. Only from there can we think about letting players go.”
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Is it a good thing that referees and VARs are admitting their mistakes?
“Hopefully, I am not too honest but if a mistake is that big and obvious, what’s the point in not admitting it for the whole season? I struggle a little bit to be fully impressed by the statement I have to say. It’s so clear and obvious, I cannot understand how a referee cannot make the decision that was the right decision.”
Do Chelsea need to sign a new one?
“I believe we can compete with this group. To be very honest it is one thing to compete once a week and another 60 times in a year and three times a week. For thi,s you need a strong group. It’s simply like this. You need players who challenge for their place, their minutes and push each other to their highest level.
“It does not come down to only tactics, team spirit but also the challenge and quality of players within the team and depth within the squad. That has not changed. We are very happy about the performance still but we are still active in the market and know what can be possible.
“If not, we will make the very best out of it. If we are looking, we are looking for high quality and personality that suits our group and club. Nothing has changed.”
Can Armando Broja be the player who steps up?
“Yes and no. We know enough about him but it’s one thing to perform on a loan and another to perform within a club like Chelsea. This is the next step. While he is doing the next steps, he was injured in pre-season and is injured again.
“This does not help his own ambitions and does not help us, of course, in having a clear view on what he can give us but given the size of the squad at the moment it is a huge chance for Armando to have an impact at Chelsea.
“I understand this is his clear ambition, his clear goal to make his step here. It’s on him. He gets full support, he has our trust and full support. Here we go. Unfortunately, now he is injured again in such a short period of time and held back for this reason.”
Did that performance send a message to Chelsea’s doubters?
“For this match, surely. It sends even a message to me, I was impressed with how we played. Not surprised. Impressed. We talked about it many times, it’s a bit hard t o have a clear view on where we are in this period of time, with sanctions and delays in transfer period.
“I was also not sure, I felt Tottenham is well prepared, got things done early. Was impressive to see us perform like his over 95 minutes. In the data, the review of the match it was also important for me to see we can reach this level that early. Now we set the bar high. It is one thing to perform in one match, in a derby and very emotional match.
“Now to repeat it on a high level and these are the next steps with the guys who played and did not play, to keep the level as high as possible. The process is not finished. Let’s see where we are now and on Sunday. Not everything is finished because we had this kind of performance but it was very good to see. It gave all of us, me included, a lot of confidence on what we do and who we are. It made it much clearer to us.”