Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel's Champions League final tactics against Pep Guardiola explained

  • Kobe Tong

Chelsea are the champions of Europe for the second time in their history.

Nobody could have imagined that the Blues would go on to enjoy Champions League glory in a season that threatened to implode when Frank Lampard was given his marching orders in January.

However, the appointment of Thomas Tuchel has proven to be an inspired one with the former Paris Saint-Germain boss leading the west London club to their second European triumph in a decade.

Chelsea win the Champions League

And one of the most fascinating things about Tuchel’s appointment has been his attention to detail with tactics and strategy, which has come to fascinate the Chelsea fans who cheer his name.

In fact, many were billing this year’s Champions League final as a battle between football’s chess grandmasters with Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola also being world-renowned for his tactical nous.

In the end, though, Kai Havertz’s winning goal at the Estádio do Dragão ensured that Tuchel got the better of Guardiola for the third time in just three months.

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Guardiola vs Tuchel

It’s a record made all the more astonishing by the fact that Guardiola entered the game in Portugal having lost just one major final as a coach, falling short in the 2011 Copa del Rey climax.

But there were very few onlookers who would argue that the Citizens deserved the victory because Tuchel set up his Blues side for one of the greatest defensive displays in the competition’s history.

As such, Chelsea’s victorious performance is simply fascinating when it’s broken down to the minutae and that’s exactly what YouTuber ‘Football Made Simple’ has done this weekend.


Tactical analysis of the Champions League final

The typically gripping content creator – who boasts over 300,000 subscribers on YouTube – sought to explain ‘how Tuchel tactically dominated Pep’ with a fantastic nine-minute analysis video.

Trust me when we say it’s worth every minute of your attention, so be sure to check out the full video down below, but keep scrolling afterwards for our summary of three of the key points.

Guardiola’s ‘fatal’ mistake

With Chelsea having little joy building up on the right-hand side, City’s decision to instruct Riyad Mahrez to drop early to press proved damning with the Blues exploiting space on the left flank.

Edouard Mendy would often play a chipped ball directly to Ben Chilwell, duly bypassing Mahrez and allowing Mason Mount to pull Kyle Walker between two players by dropping deeper into midfield.

This ultimately led to Chelsea’s winning goal with John Stones covering for Walker and leaving what proved to be a fatal one-on-one match-up between Havertz and Oleksandr Zinchenko.


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Werner tearing City apart

Having initially struggled against Kyle Walker, Werner came to life when Tuchel switched him to the right-hand side where his superior pace against Zinchenko and Ruben Dias caused City problems.

And with Chelsea’s wing-backs pushing high up the pitch, the Blues would often be 5v4 against City’s back-line with Havertz pulling centre-backs out of position so Werner could run in behind. 

But even when City dropped deeper to neutralise Werner, this would duly create space between the lines for Havertz who could then play Chilwell and Reece James into crossing positions.


Chelsea adapting to Pep’s tactics

It’s well-known that Guardiola flooded the midfield with attacking talent and Tuchel wasn’t afraid to combat this by dropping his front three, ensuring that the Citizens didn’t have a central overload.

Werner superbly covered Ilkay Gundogan, allowing Jorginho and N’Golo Kante to pick up City’s floaters, while using his cover shadow to block the midfield if ever Stones and Dias carried the ball forward from defence.

But above all else, it was Tuchel’s confidence in his defence that deserves the most credit and that was particularly rewarded with how effectively James nullified Raheem Sterling in one-on-one duels.


Got all that? Ok, maybe not, but the moral of the story is that football’s battle of the chess grandmasters only had one winner – and it was Tuchel who put his opponent in checkmate.

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