Porto performance in Champions League quarter-final shows Chelsea need goalscorer to kill off games
Thomas Tuchel's side progressed to the Champions League semi finals with a 2-1 win on aggregate, but the nature of the quarter-final second leg defeat to Porto showed why Chelsea need a true goalscorer who can help them kill off games earlier. Kai Havertz is a big talent, but the Blues could use a different sort of centre forward.
Tuchel urges Chelsea to be 'brave and adventurous'
Job done. Not as emphatically as Thomas Tuchel had surely hoped for, but Chelsea are into the Champions League semi finals despite a 1-0 quarter-final second leg defeat to Porto. As has been the case for much of Tuchel’s fledgling tenure, the Blues were defensively sound and tough to break down, only losing a goal one minute from the end, but there was more to concern the German at the other end of the pitch.
It took Chelsea until the 70th minute to register a shot on target (their only shot on target) against the Portuguese champions, a fact that reflects a rather toothless performance from the ‘home’ side (this match was played in Seville due to Covid-19 travel restrictions). Had Chelsea needed a goal, it didn’t look like they would have been able to find one.
This is the inherent risk that comes with fielding a side without an orthodox centre forward. Kai Havertz was deployed in the number nine position, but the German is no penalty box poacher. In fact, Havertz is largely in the team to facilitate others around him. He is a member of the new breed of modern forward defined by much more than just the goals they score.
A true goalscorer might have made the difference in the second leg against Porto. This was the sort of match where a 20-goal-a-season forward would have converted one chance out of nothing and sent Chelsea into the next round without the edginess and tension of the final few minutes when Mehdi Taremi’s spectacular bicycle kick had the Blues sweating.
Mehdi Taremi, Porto, Chelsea
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Of course, many expected Timo Werner to be this figure after arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer having scored 28 goals in 34 Bundesliga games for RB Leipzig last season. It has since become apparent that Tuchel sees his best position as being on the left wing, meaning Chelsea are still without a natural goalscorer to lead the line.
Against a team like Porto, renowned for being defensively resolute themselves, the lack of such a player didn’t matter much, but against sharper attacking opponents, like Chelsea will likely face in the semi finals in the form of Real Madrid, it could prove costly. The margins are narrow at this level of the sport.
For all the plaudits Tuchel has received for the impact he has made at Chelsea, his team have been guilty more than once of failing to kill off games. In fact, the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday was the first time the Blues had found the net more than twice in the one game under the new boss.
Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund in action during the Bundesliga match between VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund at the Mercedes-Benz Arena
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The performance against Porto made clear why Chelsea reportedly plan on being one of the many clubs to make a sales pitch to Erling Haaland this summer. And why Sergio Aguero, who will depart Manchester City at the end of the season, has also been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea need someone whose best quality is sticking the ball in the net. They need a penalty box opportunist.
Taking all this into account, Tammy Abraham might well ponder why he continues to be overlooked by Tuchel. After all, the 23-year-old scored 15 Premier League goals last season. He is a true centre forward, yet he watched the full 90 minutes against Porto from the bench. Olivier Giroud was also sidelined until stoppage time when he was introduced largely to run down the clock.
For whatever reason, Abraham doesn’t appear to feature in Tuchel’s plans. Consequently, there is a clear deficiency in the Chelsea squad. There’s not much they can do to address this before the semi final clash against either Liverpool or Real Madrid, but if Tuchel plans on turning Chelsea into a genuine force he’ll need someone to kill off games earlier.