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Thomas Tuchel finds Chelsea’s new Fabregas creator in the most unlikely place

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Chelsea’s defence has been lauded since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival for its ability to stop goals going in, but is also helping to provide a creative spark at the other end.

Part of the brilliance of Thomas Tuchel’s transformative work at Stamford Bridge has been the ability to construct such a robust defence.

Although Saturday’s defeat to West Ham was a setback, the fact it was the first time the Blues have conceded more than one goal in a single game this term speaks to that defensive excellence.

But there is also an attacking threat from that defensive quality, with 42.4% of Chelsea’s Premier League goals in 2021/22 coming from that area so far. In addition, there is another part of that area that is vital to the European Champions build-up in possession.

Antonio Rudiger’s frantic charges forward might be the most obvious attacking trait of his which sparks chuckles and excitement from supporters.

But after his involvement from a deeper position in Chelsea’s goals on a mostly poor night in Watford last midweek, prompted me to look deeper into his overall influence this season and a consistent move that has allowed others to flourish.

It is obvious to anyone who watches Tuchel’s Chelsea play how vital the use of wingbacks are.

In transitioning the ball from a deeper position, create width against opposing defences and this season provide the goals, especially from Reece James.

Looking a little deeper to how their influence can be unlocked on such a consistent basis, it is the passing from deep of centre-backs Rudiger and Thiago Silva that deserves praise.

A regular pattern of play from the European Champions is one of Silva or Rudiger switching play with a floated pass towards one of the wingbacks pushing high.

In the opening minutes away at Leicester Rudiger picks up the ball and instantly plays a pass forwards.
In the opening minutes away at Leicester Rudiger picks up the ball and instantly plays a pass forwards.

Another part of Chelsea’s inventive use of wingbacks we have regularly dissected this season is how the wide man in the front three will rotate with their wingback, either moving inside or to the touchline.

These rotations consistently produce issues for opposing defences to prevent when Chelsea are looking to create overloads.

Rudiger's pass is looking for Kai Havertz whose run opens space for Callum Hudson-Odoi to run into exposing Leicester's defence.
Rudiger’s pass is looking for Kai Havertz whose run opens space for Callum Hudson-Odoi to run into exposing Leicester’s defence.

Expected Chelsea picked out after the 4-0 win against Juventus how high Rudiger’s positioning was against the Italian giants.

Producing 15 progressive passes, nine passes into the final third, three progressive carries and three carries into the final third. The German’s heat map looks more akin to a left-sided central midfielder than a centre-back.

Antonio Rudiger's creative numbers against Juventus were outstanding for a centre-back in the Champions League.
Antonio Rudiger’s creative numbers against Juventus were outstanding for a centre-back in the Champions League.

Thomas Tuchel spoke after the narrow 2-1 win at Watford over how Chelsea had stolen the three points despite not creating a good amount of opportunities.

Against Watford, it was notable Rudiger’s hand in the build-up to both goals on a challenging evening where the Blues passing was consistently poor.

Rudiger had clearly grown tired of having to defend his own box so soon ventured forward with the ball on the left channel, soon unlocking the door for an attacking move that would give his side an undeserved lead.

Rudiger plays a looped right-footed pass over the Watford defence to find Alonso running in behind.
Rudiger plays a looped right-footed pass over the Watford defence to find Alonso running in behind.
Alonso's good first touch takes him into the box with three blue shirts flooding the box. Alonso passes to Havertz who tees up Mount to score.
Alonso’s good first touch takes him into the box with three blue shirts flooding the box. Alonso passes to Havertz who tees up Mount to score.

Emmanuel Dennis strike went through Rudiger’s legs before half-time to level the game forcing Chelsea to again search for a much-needed winner.

Even with the introduction of Romelu Lukaku, with nearly 15 minutes to go the Blues had not engineered many good looks at goal, so again the adventurous centre-back found himself in a similar position.

Rudiger switches play instantly to Alonso again, Mount spotting the chance to run into space as Kiko Femenía is dragged out to Alonso.
Rudiger switches play instantly to Alonso again, Mount spotting the chance to run into space as Kiko Femenía is dragged out to Alonso.
Alonso heads the ball into the path of Mount who has three bodies to aim at inside the box, his good pass finding Ziyech to score Chelsea's winner.
Alonso heads the ball into the path of Mount who has three bodies to aim at inside the box, his good pass finding Ziyech to score Chelsea’s winner.

Rudiger’s defending will always catch the eye more given that’s his primary role, but when re-watching Chelsea’s best-attacking moves, you will usually find Rudiger or Silva playing a vital role in unlocking Tuchel’s devastating wingbacks

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