Thomas Tuchel has said he will not stop standing up for his Chelsea players after conceding he has “zero per cent” understanding as to why the Premier League is set to muddle through a chaotic winter with only three substitutes and suggested “everybody is refusing” to consider a return to five permitted changes. Before Chelsea host Brighton on Wednesday, Tuchel questioned that logic and said players require protection from the league.
The Chelsea manager reiterated he has no problem with the congested schedule but said he is baffled at the reluctance to reintroduce five substitutes, which were permitted at the height of the pandemic. “I absolutely cannot understand, zero per cent, why we are the only league who plays through winter and we are the only league with three substitutes in a period of heavy, heavy Covid threat and situations,” Tuchel said.
“It makes absolutely no sense. It is the [current] situation and that is worrying. The schedule is not the problem. We love the schedule. Five changes were invented [permitted] in the UK when corona first started. Now we are in the middle of it, I get the feeling that everybody is refusing it or refusing to think about it.
“For me, it is only logical to do this because Covid affects everybody and you simply need more possibilities to protect the players and share the minutes. This is my opinion and I will not stop standing up for it.”
Tuchel revealed on Boxing Day that three of his squad who are fully vaccinated, as well as unvaccinated players, have contracted Covid. The German said Ruben Loftus-Cheek is injured but among the players who have tested positive. Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi exceeded the game-time recommended by medical staff and physios in victory at Aston Villa but N’Golo Kanté was withdrawn after a recurrence of a knee injury, prompting Tuchel to give the example of being one positive test away from a midfield crisis.
“If you just speak about central midfield, Let’s assume that maybe N’Golo is out, maybe Ruben is still out; so one [positive] test in central midfield is enough for everything to collapse again because then Kova [Mateo Kovačić] will again play 90 minutes from where? Out of nothing,” the manager said. “You risk injuries – that is what we are doing at the moment. I cannot say more and I cannot see how we are out of Covid threat at the moment.”
Brighton travel to Stamford Bridge with a spring in their step following a first league win in 12 matches against Brentford and Tuchel admitted he is a fan of Graham Potter’s side.
“I like them a lot,” he said. “I think it is a great club and a great coach. It is a great approach, how they play the game. When you switch on the TV and watch them, you clearly see an idea of how they want to play. They are a tough side to beat.
“I know they [have] struggled a bit with the results but I think they deserve in general a bit more than they have.. They create much more than they have actually on points.”