Thomas Tuchel emulates Jose Mourinho
Chelsea went into the contest at St. James’ Park having conceded just three goals in the Premier League this season – and two of those were penalties converted by Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse.
It became apparent early on that Newcastle were unlikely to cause the Blues any problems.
The Magpies’ game plan was to sit deep and try to frustrate Chelsea.
There was very little in the way of attacking adventure from the home side, who largely hit aimless long passes towards Callum Wilson when they did reclaim possession.
As a result, the back three of Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger were untroubled.
Edouard Mendy, meanwhile, in the Blues’ goal was a virtual spectator.
The Senegal international had just one save to make across the 90 minutes; Javier Manquillo dragged an 84th-minute effort straight into the arms of Chelsea’s goalkeeper.
Newcastle were put out of their misery by the full-time whistle. It was at that point Tuchel marched onto the pitch to congratulate his players on a job well done.
The clean sheet was the Blues’ seventh in ten Premier League matches.
And in the process, Chelsea have made the second-best ever defensive start to a Premier League season (three goals conceded).
Jose Mourinho holds the record for the best-ever start. His 2004/05 title-winning side conceded, rather astonishingly, just one goal in their opening 10 Premier League fixtures. It’s an achievement unlikely to be repeated.
Cobham delivers again
For more than a decade, Chelsea supporters dreamt of just one academy graduate following in the footsteps of John Terry and becoming an established part of the first team.
They could never have envisaged that a handful would do so.
Yet that is the situation the Blues now find themselves in.
Week after week, the club’s own are producing big moments and crucial goals. Yesterday at St James’ Park, it was the turn of Reece James.
It was the 21-year-old’s rifled half volley in the second period that broke Newcastle’s resistance. He followed that with another soon after with a right-footed strike from the edge of the box that gave Magpies goalkeeper Karl Darlow no chance.
The brace took James to four goals in the Premier League this season.
He is Chelsea’s top scorer in the competition, and from right wing-back.
Last weekend it was the turn of Mason Mount, who netted a hat-trick against Norwich City. Callum Hudson-Odoi was also on the scoresheet in the 7-0 victory.
Trevoh Chalobah, Chelsea’s breakout star of the season, has struck twice this term and even Andreas Christensen has broken his duck.
In total, 32% of Chelsea’s goals in all competitions this term have been scored by players who spent time in the club’s academy in Cobham.
That number rises to 38% in the Premier League.
Few could ever have believed that a Premier League title challenge from Chelsea would be powered by academy graduates.
Yet, thanks to the initial first-team exposure given to them by Frank Lampard and the continued trust of Tuchel, that is the unlikely situation the club finds itself in.
Tuchel’s frustration with Ziyech
Ahead of the trip to the North East, Tuchel knew he would be without Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku due to injury, while Christian Pulisic wasn’t going to be risked after two months out with an ankle issue.
So the German decided that Chelsea’s front three would consist of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount.
However, after travelling up to Newcastle for the game, Mount was taken ill and sent back to London. So Tuchel had to adapt.
Hakim Ziyech was drafted into the starting XI. It was an opportunity for the 28-year-old to impress Tuchel, a chance to kick-start his Chelsea career after several poor performances.
Unfortunately for Ziyech, that didn’t quite happen. There were noteworthy moments – he was unfortunate to see a lovely curled finish ruled out for offside and he saw a deflected effort hit the post – but far too often the Moroccan star was sloppy in possession.
Of the 14 Chelsea players used by Tuchel at St James’ Park, Ziyech’s pass completion of 76.9% was the lowest. And it was one after poor first-half pass that Ziyech riled Tuchel on the touchline.
The Blues were carefully constructing an attacking move when Ziyech overhit a pass and momentum was lost. Tuchel responded with a loud shout of “come on, Hakim!” and then span to face the dugout and look into the sky in frustration.