Thomas Tuchel concedes his tactics in Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester City earlier this campaign were ‘wrong’ and believes Guardiola’s side are the ‘benchmark’ in the Premier League.
The Blues are looking to close the 10-point gap at the top of the table this weekend as Chelsea play City at the Etihad on Saturday.
In September, Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the campaign as Gabriel Jesus’ goal sealed a 1-0 win for City at Stamford Bridge. And Tuchel admits that his team were set up to be ‘too passive’ against the Premier League champions.
Asked what he learned from the defeat, Tuchel said at his press conference on Friday: ‘That my approach was the wrong approach, tactically.
‘It made us too passive. We could’ve done better but I think the approach was too passive and too defensive. ‘It was not meant like this but it turned out this way, so lesson learned.
‘They were too aggressive for our build-up play, they were too aggressive, we did not have the solution to escape from our own half. We defended very well in the last 18, 20 metres of the field but we didn’t see much of the other 70 metres. The second half was a bit better, it was a bit wild, but it’s not the worst thing to have a wild match against Manchester City, to break out of the structure and the controlled situations. The second half was better but lesson learned.’
When asked if he considers the gap between the London side and City to be significant, Tuchel said: ‘Yeah, at the moment it’s a significant one.
‘If you look at the table and the points and the consistency it’s a significant one. ‘We have to prove to ourselves that we can step up and close it day in, day out. We have trust in what we do, we have trust in our players and trust in the mentality of our club that we can do it.
‘We have a strong squad, we have belief in what we do, we will be there. But the situation is very particular in which we are trying to do it. We’ve spoken many times about the reasons, without using this as an excuse, it describes the situation and it is an explanation, and we cannot just look away.’
Tuchel also believes City’s handling of Covid and injuries in their team has been a major factor in gaining an advantage in the title race.
‘The biggest difference so far in the season, as [far as] I’m concerned, is that they dealt better with injuries and dealt better with the Covid situation,’ said Tuchel.
‘Maybe it’s unlucky, maybe they do it better, but they have less injuries for key players, less days out, less weeks where they miss them.
‘They did not suffer from Covid as we did over many weeks. This is a huge difference. We had some draws in the season that were unnecessary and if you have your full squad you create a certain atmosphere for everybody that pushes everybody to the edge and you need to be on your edge at your very highest level when you compete with Manchester City. They are the benchmark, they are the best team in England right now, this is something we have to admit realistically.
‘We don’t think a lot of scenarios of, ‘what happens if?’. Let’s play the game, I’m always in for a good fight but I’m also always very realistic.
‘If you look back at our last games when we have our squad and we’re in good shape we’re always up for a good fight with Man City. We’re always there to push them to the limit and ask them questions they do not like to answer.
‘But the situation at the moment is that, as you said, they are very strong, very consistent, they perform at the highest level, this is it.’