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3 things Thomas Tuchel got wrong as Chelsea lose Champions League opener to Dinamo Zagreb

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Chelsea’s start to the season has been anything but smooth.

A chaotic summer which involved a new owner, several club chiefs being axed and star defender Antonio Rudiger leaving was always going to make life difficult. But few would have expected losses at Leeds, Southampton and Dinamo Zagreb already this season.

Even the victory over West Ham on the weekend came with a stroke of luck after VAR ruled the Hammers’ late equaliser offside. And the Blues’ problems persisted against Zagreb in their first Champions League match of the 2022/23 campaign.

Winger Mislav Orsic demonstrated a real smash-and-grab when he gave the Croatian giants the lead in the 11th minute, despite the fact they had largely been camped inside their own box until that point.

After a promising spell initially, Chelsea’s players looked frustrated throughout the tie while they struggled on both ends of the pitch. They came close to an equaliser after Ben Chilwell set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a second-half tap-in, but the Englishman was ruled offside.

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Both sides went on to hit the woodwork and Chelsea’s late push was only denied by Zagreb’s resolute defending. With the pressure now very much on Tuchel, Daily Star Sport looks at three things the manager got completely wrong and one thing he got right on Tuesday.

Pierre-Underwhelming Aubameyang

The Gabon striker’s Blues debut was not the dream start he had been hoping for. He had three opportunities to score in the first 10 minutes but squandered all three before drifting out of the game.

He came close when Kai Havertz squared the ball across the six yard box, but Aubameyang failed to gamble with his run as the chance went begging.

Chelsea clearly lacked creativity in the first-half, indicating Tuchel would have been better off playing an extra midfielder rather than opting for a true goal-threat in the ex-Arsenal captain. Aubameyang was subbed off in the 59th.

Dodgy midfield

Tuchel made the brave decision to field Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount as his only midfielders. The bold move came despite the Blues playing all three of Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Conor Gallagher in the win over West Ham.

The German’s gamble to play the pair while dropping Mount into a deeper role did not pay off as Chelsea were left wide open in the middle at times. That was most evident for Zagreb’s first goal, which came from a simple counter-attacking pass through midfield that Kalidou Koulibaly failed to deal with.

Underestimating Zagreb

It was as if Tuchel failed to sufficiently amp up his players for their first Champions League clash of the season. They looked unprepared for the level of tenacity shown by Zagreb in the first-half, having been beaten to second balls all too often, before turning it on too little too late.

The defence, made up of new arrivals Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana and stalwart Cesar Azpilicueta, appeared sluggish and poorly drilled to cope with the menacing counter-attacking threat posed by the Croatian outfit.

End of the false-nine?

Despite the issues in midfield and defence, Chelsea could have easily blown the home side away inside 10 minutes. They were able to cause Zagreb real problems early on due to Havertz having multiple teammates running off him.

If Aubameyang had been slightly sharper and more eager to take shots, they may have found themselves claiming an easy three points. Perhaps Armando Broja could be the solution going forward…

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