BRIGHTON, England — Hakim Ziyech’s response to his aim mentioned all of it. Chelsea’s standout second on one other disappointing night time, which extinguishes the faintest lingering title hopes, got here towards the run of play halfway by means of the primary half because the Dutch-born attacker’s deflected strike snuck inside Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez’s close to put up.
A smile by no means even threatened to interrupt throughout his face. Solely Jorginho’s embrace stopped Ziyech from strolling straight again to the midway line. As an alternative, his teammates ran to affix in what might very loosely be described as a celebration, and a frank dialog shortly ensued between Ziyech, Mason Mount after which Marcos Alonso, which concerned some pressing pointing and gesticulating.
Chelsea had been outplayed up till that second, and after Brighton rediscovered their poise to attract degree, that sample continued in a second half that noticed Adam Webster equalise and the house facet spurn a number of promising moments to discover a winner to finally accept a 1-1 draw — a well-known feeling for Graham Potter’s facet this season.
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Blues boss Thomas Tuchel described all this as merely indicators of fatigue. “We’re mentally drained and bodily drained and you’ll see it in our efficiency. It’s as straightforward as that.”
He was additionally glad to make gentle of Ziyech’s incapacity to take any pleasure from his first league aim since Dec. 1. “Joyful — he can rating 20 extra and never rejoice, I’ve no drawback with that,” he mentioned.
Because the gamers walked off the pitch at half-time, Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku started one other change that may, at greatest, be described as a transparent distinction of opinion over Chelsea’s technique of assault. The tv digital camera accompanying them might barely have been nearer, maybe prompting Ziyech to at the least cowl his mouth to hide his a part of the dialog, however Lukaku’s dismay was unchecked.
“It’s regular that they speak, it’s regular that they aren’t glad and it’s regular if we are saying that we would like extra from them,” mentioned Tuchel.
That is, nonetheless, in peril of turning into a worrying new regular for Chelsea.
Current exertions are undoubtedly a mitigating issue; Brighton had an additional day to organize for this sport, itself rearranged after an authentic postponement on account of COVID-19, and Chelsea’s journey to Manchester Metropolis three days earlier will undoubtedly have left a mark given how a lot Pep Guardiola’s facet make virtually each opponent chase the ball. Nevertheless it was exhausting to flee the sensation that Chelsea’s adverse physique language ran deeper than easy fatigue.
Their efficiency barely improved within the second half and the inertia appeared to even have an effect on Tuchel, who started the primary half in usually animated type, annoyed at Chelsea’s error-strewn play, earlier than retiring to his seat within the dugout for giant chunks of the second half. The 48-year-old has solid a repute for game-changing substitutions and tactical alterations, however right here he waited till the eightieth minute to make a uncommon triple change, however by that stage it was already too late to reverse Brighton’s momentum.
Afterwards, the normally genial Chelsea boss was abrupt in a single tv interview, urging the reporter repeatedly “Do not do that” when referencing a fourth consecutive league sport and not using a win — by the way, the longest run Tuchel has skilled as a supervisor since October 2016 at Borussia Dortmund.
The Blues final received within the Premier League on Boxing Day. Right here, they barely threw a punch. Tuchel is hoping two days off triggers a revival.
“[We need it] so, so badly,” he mentioned. “You possibly can say it’s an excuse or no matter however it’s like this. Have a look at our schedule, take a look at the schedule once we arrived at Man Metropolis.
“We had a Carabao Cup match in between, they didn’t. Now we arrive right here, that they had extra days to organize, that they had the entire week to organize earlier than. We performed since November, we play and play and play. We have to recharge the batteries. We have to disconnect, that is my feeling, that is why we give the gamers two days off.”
They appear fairly disconnected already, actually from the highest of the desk, the place they anticipated to be when signing Lukaku for €115 million from Internazionale final summer season.
This draw leaves Chelsea 12 factors behind Metropolis having performed a sport extra. Tottenham Hotspur are up subsequent at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and though they’ve overwhelmed Spurs comfortably over two legs already this month of their Carabao Cup semifinal, defeat would go away them ever extra susceptible to being drawn right into a top-four scrap with West Ham United and Arsenal amongst these closing in.
To finish a grouchy night, Tuchel dismissed an innocuous query about Lukaku’s particular person show.
“I cannot speak about single gamers at this time,” he replied. “It’s not about Romelu, an excessive amount of questions on Romelu and there are an excessive amount of solutions about Romelu. Romelu is by far not the issue, he’s a part of the answer.”
Tuchel wants to seek out that answer shortly.