Reece James and Ben Chilwell starring as Thomas Tuchel’s wing-back system helps Chelsea shine at both ends

Antonio Conte is again within the Premier League and he has wasted little time putting in his favoured three-man defence at Tottenham. Manchester United, Brentford, Wolves, and Newcastle additionally used the set-up within the final spherical of league video games, with the formation firmly again in vogue.  

But it’s at Conte’s former membership Chelsea the place the system is presently at its slickest.

It was Thomas Tuchel’s reply to his new membership’s defensive frailties when he arrived in west London in January and the outcomes have been exceptional. Chelsea’s backline was reworked right into a imply machine, recording 19 clear sheets of their ultimate 30 video games of the season.

This time period, they continue to be extremely troublesome to interrupt down. At occasions, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has been busier than Tuchel would maybe have appreciated however the uncooked numbers present they’ve conceded simply 4 occasions in 11 Premier League video games, the perfect document within the division.

Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva – Chelsea’s again three of their final two Premier League video games – really feel like a superb mix, whereas Cesar Azpilicueta and Trevoh Chalobah have both delivered when known as upon in that space of the pitch.

But Chelsea are additionally the second-top scorers and it has been the offensive alternatives introduced by Tuchel’s variations on this formation which has caught the attention in current weeks. Particularly the type of wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell.

England boss Gareth Southgate described the pair as “key to this system” earlier than they helped his facet – arrange in an identical method – rout Albania on Friday night time and it’s clear the nationwide group boss will profit from these two gamers changing into consultants in these tricky-to-master roles.

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James and Chilwell have performed the final three Premier League video games collectively, after a rejuvenated Marcos Alonso had introduced a risk from left wing-back earlier within the season.

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Chelsea's wing-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James are a part of the Premier League's finest defence this season – however have additionally been a risk in assault

Chilwell scored 4 targets in 5 video games for membership and nation final month, whereas James – who’s having fun with an exceptionally good season – has three targets and two assists in his final 5 video games alone, together with a thumping double away to Newcastle.

“He shoots like a horse,” laughed Tuchel after that recreation, when explaining why particular taking pictures follow wasn’t required for James. But the frequency with which James and Chilwell arrive within the field is nearly definitely labored on.

Of Premier League gamers to have performed at least 450 minutes out of a potential 990 this season, James and Chilwell common extra touches within the opposition field than some other defender.

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Reece James and Ben Chilwell have touched the ball within the opposition's field at a extra frequent charge than some other defender within the division (min 450mins)

Remarkably, James’ whole of 26 touches within the opposition field is barely two fewer than Joao Cancelo and three behind Aston Villa’s Matty Cash – and these prime two on this metric have performed greater than twice as many minutes as James this season, with suspension and an ankle harm proscribing the England man’s recreation time.

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Getting the steadiness proper between that attacking risk and the defensive work required shouldn’t be simple to realize, both tactically or bodily. In the previous two Chelsea video games, as an illustration, Chilwell has both lined extra floor or recorded extra sprints than any participant on the pitch, and regained possession or made extra clearances than his team-mates.

“We demand a lot from our wing-backs,” defined Tuchel throughout an unique interview with Sky Sports earlier this season. “They must defend when it is time to defend and they should assault once we arrive within the opponent’s field.

“It’s quite demanding physically, but we need them because – putting it as easily as possible – we cannot be dangerous in the half space if you have nobody in the wide position, and you cannot be dangerous in the wide position if you don’t also have players in the half positions.

“You must have choices to stretch defences.”

But for James and Chilwell, it isn’t just about ploughing up and down the flank to offer that width.

Space can be opened up by their team-mates infield and then there is a degree of freedom in the final third for James and Chilwell to come inside. James spotted those moments at Newcastle and capitalised.

“Reece is allowed to return inside, that is not an issue,” Tuchel said after that game. “All the areas we wish to assault from, we now have all of the gamers within the areas we wish to be harmful. So if there’s a winger ready vast, the wing-back is allowed to assault the half area.

“We need the wing-backs to arrive in the box to increase the chance of scoring and create goal chances.

“It’s a fancy recreation and I do not suppose Reece can rating if Callum Hudson-Odoi would not do the dribbling and Chilly opens the area [in the build-up to his first goal]. Sometimes our strikers are sacrificing area.”

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Chelsea’s Reece James produced the efficiency of the spherical along with his two targets towards Newcastle.

Finding the correct mix in the course of the park has not been straight ahead for Tuchel this season.

His early plan to have Havertz and Mason Mount taking part in as slender assist strikers to Romelu Lukaku seemed promising, however wastefulness and accidents pressured Tuchel into shuffling that trio, together with Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic, into totally different attacking patterns.

The return from the fringes of Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whereas credit score to the character of both gamers, is one other suggestion Tuchel has not fairly selected his first-choice picks in attacking areas.

But there isn’t any doubt the wing-backs are delivering reliably for him proper now. They’re setting the usual for the way to play this system within the Premier League, too.

Conte’s Tottenham come to Chelsea on 23 January, three days earlier than the anniversary of Tuchel’s appointment.

The German’s wing-back manner has already taken Chelsea to a Champions League victory and by then they may effectively be on track for a Premier League title, too – 5 seasons on from Conte’s personal triumph with the system at Stamford Bridge.

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