Tuchel proves he can always find a way to win as tactical tweak delivers Chelsea vital Champions League boost

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel once again proved Chelsea’s ultimate game-changer as the Blues took another stride towards qualification for the Champions League knockout stages.

For all of the stellar talent at his disposal, it is the German who so often comes up with the answers.

Afterwards, he gave the credit to his long-time assistant Arno Michels, but the buck stops with the manager. And it was Tuchel who made the call to switch wingers Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech - a move that ultimately decided this match as Chelsea secured a 1-0 win against Swedish champions Malmo.

Great managers surround themselves with a great team. Great leaders are prepared to listen - but also have the courage to take decisive action.

Tuchel has already proved on numerous occasions this season that he is not afraid to make an early change if Plan A is not going accordingly.

But rather than look to his substitutes here in Malmo, it was a subtle switch of the players already out on the pitch that made the difference.

Chelsea had dominated the Swedish champions as expected during a one-sided first half at the Eleda Stadium, but had yet to find the breakthrough.

Michels came up with the idea for Hudson-Odoi and Ziyech to swap sides - and Tuchel made the switch, with the two wingers combining to break the deadlock and put the European champions on course for a third win in Group H.

It was a moment of real quality from the visitors – and as much as Tuchel credited Michels, his own contribution was recognised by Thiago Silva, who ran over to congratulate his manager as the rest of Chelsea’s players celebrated with Ziyech.

Hudson-Odoi had been quiet on the left in the first 45 minutes, while Ziyech’s directness had caused Malmo problems without finding a way past Johan Dahlin.

Now on the right, he was able to sweep a perfectly-weighted cross into the patch of Ziyech, who arrived at the far post to coolly fire home.

Both players deserved credit for their contribution – but it was a moment of tactical brilliance.

Tuchel’s problem-solving qualities have been key to his remarkable success in less than a year in charge of Chelsea – and have been required to find a way past much tougher opposition than Malmo.

In truth, his side made much harder work of this than necessary – even if the daunting atmosphere inside the Eleda Stadion cannot have helped but inspire the home team.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Malmo sat deep in the hope of frustrating their illustrious opponents, but were opened up frequently enough for this to be a much more convincing victory. Kai Havertz – Chelsea’s hero in last season’s final – was guilty of wasting two chances when through on goal.

How Tuchel will look forward to Romelu Lukaku getting the same opportunities when he returns from an ankle injury.

The Belgian was just one of a host of key players missing for this trip, which is why Tuchel had every right to look so satisfied when the final whistle blew.

Without Lukaku, Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Timo Werner, he still came up with a winning formula.

If anything, he might have made further changes still, given this was a game Chelsea were expected to win comfortably. But Tuchel clearly did not want to leave anything to chance.

He named arguably his strongest defence and resisted the chance to rest Jorginho in midfield – meaning Saul Niguez was once again an unused substitute.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Jorginho was pivotal to Chelsea totally dominating possession from the first whistle, with it feeling like a matter of time before they would make that advantage count.

That they did not open the scoring in the first-half was not for a lack of effort, rather a lack of quality in the final third. Their only real clear-cut opportunity came from Havertz, who was put through by the impressive Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

But as is so often the case, the German’s finishing let him down as he fired straight at Johan Dahlin from a tight angle.

Chelsea might even have been behind at the break when Antonio Colak flashed a volley wide just moments after rowing with Antonio Rudiger.

It was time for Tuchel to tinker and by switching Hudson-Odoi and Ziyech, he turned the game.

Malmo had managed to frustrate Chelsea’s stars for long periods – but while they focused on the players on the pitch, the real match-winner was pulling the strings on the touchline, with a little help from his assistant.

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