3 things Tuchel got right and 2 wrong as Chelsea edge into the FA Cup Final

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount fired Chelsea into their third consecutive FA Cup Final.

The Engishman's imaculate second-half finishing proceeded a lacklustre first 45 minutes which was devoid of chances and quality. Patrick Vieira's dangerous Crystal Palace side came very close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, as Cheikhou Kouyate's strong volley forced a very impressive save from Edouard Mendy.

While the second period initially began in similar fashion to the first-half, Loftus-Cheek, who was brought on from the bench after Mateo Kovacic limped off after 25 minutes, smashed the Blues into the lead with an immaculate half volley. As spaces began to open in the Palace backline in the closing period, Mount received a wonderfully weighted pass from Werner to slot Chelsea into another Wembley shootout against Liverpool – Daily Star Sport considers three things Tuchel got right and two he got wrong as they reached the final.

Mount, Werner, Havertz tripartite

When Tuchel was initially brought into the Blues, many believed his first point of call was to conjure a partnership out of Werner and Havertz. And while this has taken a lot of trial and error, Tuchel looks to be playing a fine tune out of the German duo and Mount.

Werner's ability to stretch defences with his lightning pace, means Havertz and Mount can glide into the pockets of space they love so much. And it was the former RB Leipzig man who created the vital second goal, getting into the half-space on the left hand side, before finding Mount with a perfectly weighted pass.

Havertz and Werner are yet to have shown the frightening form they both displayed at RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen. Maybe, just maybe, Tuchel has figured out how best to deploy the three star men together.

Christensen in, Silva out

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Andreas Christensen’s inclusion was one of three changes Tuchel made from Chelsea’s heartbreak at the Bernabeu. The Danishman was brought into the heart of the backline in place of Thiago Silva, who was deployed for the full 120 minutes against Real Madrid.

Christensen’s performances had come under intense criticism in recent weeks, since he is currently set to depart the club when his contract expires at the end of the current campaign. And the extra freshness he brought to the side proved to be vital, as he was always equal to Palace's runner in behind.

The Eagles' were a constant threat when they won the ball back from Chelsea. However, Christensen was equal to everything the Palace attack threw at him. While the Danish defender could still be off at the end of the season, he will still have a huge role to play in the remaining fixtures.

James let off the leash

One of the most eye-catching aspects of Chelsea’s recent performances was Tuchel’s utilisation of Ruben Loftus-Cheek as a right-wing-back, right midfield, and right central midfield role hybrid. Fortunately for the Chelsea boss this, well, tripartite deployment of the Englishman was perfectly supported by Reece James’ presence in the back three.

But with Loftus-Cheek rested against the Eagles, James was pushed further forward into a much more familiar right-wing-back position, while club captain Cesar Azpilicueta was restored into the back three. However, Tuchel abandoned this attacking move, bringing James back into the back three and pushing Azpilicueta ahead in his place.

While the first half featured very little meaningful chances, Chelsea were routinely troubled by Palace's clever runs in behind on the counter attack. This decision suggests Tuchel decided James' extra mobility and strength meant he was better prepared for the Palace counter, than his Spanish colleague.

Kovacic action

Mateo Kovacic’s lack of fortune at Wembley stadium unfortunately continued against the Eagles. As well as losing two FA Cup Finals and the League Cup final, Kovacic was also red carded in the west Londoners’ FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal in 2020.

And the Croatian was not able to complete the full 90 minutes once again, as he limped off after only 25 minutes. But despite having N’Golo Kante, an improving Saul Niguez, and the capacity to drop Mason Mount into the midfield in place of another winger, Tuchel turned to Loftus-Cheek to partner Jorginho.

This key decision was another firm demonstration of Tuchel’s increasing trust in the academy star. Not only did the former Crystal Palace loanee not let his manager down, he spectacularly fired the Blues into the lead with a perfectly executed half-volley – Tuchel may well be the Chelsea boss who can unlock Loftus-Cheek's undoubted potential.

Chelsea’s initial game plan

Crystal Palace arrived into the contest having held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw and blown Arsenal away 3-0 at Selhurst Park. So Vieira’s decision to match Chelsea’s three man backline came as a relative surprise.

While Conor Gallagher’s absence likely played a key role in the Eagles’ boss’ decision, the fact that Palace lined up against the Blues with a deeper backline and a less aggressive press may have non-plussed the Chelsea boss.

And the German appeared to respond to Palace’s compactness, by instructing Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, and, at times, Loftus-Cheek to look to get in behind Palace as much as possible. But while Werner came very close to drifting in behind Joachim Anderson, Palace coped with these attempts easily, by ensuring all potential gaps were plugged and that every Palace star was always goal-side.

  • Chelsea FC
  • Thomas Tuchel
  • Crystal Palace FC

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