LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel heaped praise on a clutch of players he brought in from the sidelines who steered the Blues to a 3-1 win over Southampton on Saturday, saying they were not suffering from the same kind of pressures as his bigger-name stars.
Tuchel responded to defeats by Manchester City in the Premier League and by Juventus in the Champions League over the past week by overhauling his starting team and handing chances to players who have been given little opportunity to shine.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ben Chilwell came in for their first league starts of the season while Callum Hudson-Odoi and defender Trevoh Chalobah were brought back into the team.
Chalobah opened the scoring for Chelsea after Loftus-Cheek flicked on a Chilwell corner, and Ross Barkley, another out-of-favour player at Stamford Bridge, came on as a substitute to help create the Blues’ second goal, scored by Timo Werner.
“They have this kind of totally positive spirit and they don’t feel the pressure,” Tuchel told reporters. “In the last two games we lost and we felt there something was lacking.”
Tuchel said he decided to leave Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, both of them big-money signings for Chelsea, on the bench after they struggled to find their form recently.
“At some point, after a lot of chances, we have to admit that Kai and Hakim are not in their very best shape,” he said.
“Nobody is angry at them, nobody has major concerns,” Tuchel added. “Some players don’t feel the pressure so much, don’t have such high expectations of themselves… In a club like Chelsea you need to be sharp every three days and you need to fight for your place.”
(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Toby Davis)