Callum Hudson-Odoi seemed the first success story of Thomas Tuchel's management at Chelsea. Now he's the first who can testify to his manager's decisiveness and ruthlessness. After 31 minutes, his number was up, the substitute substituted, a picture of frustration as Tuchel's response to Chelsea's impotence became apparent. He was removed and rebuked.
Tammy Abraham had already been taken off, replaced by Hudson-Odoi as Tuchel kept rejigging his attack without getting the win he wanted. “Tammy could not put his stamp on the game,” Tuchel said after the 1-1 draw with Southampton.
“With Hudson I was not happy with the energy and attitude in counter-pressing so I decided to take him off because I demand a lot.” Tuchel admitted it was a “hard decision” but insisted the winger will have a clean slate when he picks his team to face Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Chelsea travel to Bucharest after Tuchel’s five-game winning run was ended, along with the longest losing sequence in Southampton’s history.
After six league defeats in a row, Saints claimed a point, their first since Tuchel’s appointment at Stamford Bridge. They were level in the table then, and the gap that has subsequently opened up is testament to the German’s impact.
Yet he wanted more. His side had 71 percent of possession but a meagre three shots on target. If it raises questions that his system, with just three attackers, offers plenty of control but a surfeit of caution, Tuchel diagnosed poor decision-making.
“We were very good in the first 80 metres of the pitch but in the last 20, it was not decisive enough, aggressive enough or clinical enough to create more big chances,” he lamented. “We end our own attacks ourselves with bad choices, balls that are overhit, balls that are under-hit.”
Ultimately, Chelsea were spared defeat by the woodwork, with Jannik Vestergaard’s header hitting the bar when Edouard Mendy was motionless.
“We had all chances and all possibilities to take another win,” said Tuchel, but Chelsea have only scored nine times in seven games under him, three of them penalties, and owed their draw to the catalytic Mason Mount.
Benched for the new manager’s first game, he has been quick to underline his importance. Despite Chelsea’s £220 million outlay last year, the homegrown Mount again showed most drive and creativity.
Southampton halted their slide. “The draw is for us like a win,” said manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. After conceding 18 goals in their previous six games, they showed more defensive resolve in a committed, organised display that was garnished by a glorious goal from Takumi Minamino.
They could rue Danny Ings’ attempt to help his back four when Southampton’s top scorer popped up in his own penalty box to bring down the bright Mount.
Minus Jorginho, who was demoted so the energetic N’Golo Kante could start, Mount was preferred to Timo Werner as the spot-kick taker and justified that choice by sending Alex McCarthy the wrong way. “Tacking in the box is always dangerous and Ingsy knows this,” Hasenhuttl said. “But I haven’t seen that many chances for them.”
Chelsea’s only first-half opportunities came when Marcos Alonso volleyed wide and the recalled Kurt Zouma had a header saved, while Southampton scored from their first attempt. Nathan Redmond fed the ball through to the on-rushing Minamino, who calmly dummied and delayed, leaving a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta on his backside, before finishing with precision.
A bit-part player at Liverpool, the on-loan Japanese has looked sharp for Southampton and did his parent club a favour in the battle for Champions League spots as he became the first opponent to score against Tuchel’s Chelsea. “We trained this all week exactly for this situation,” said Hasenhuttl.