THINGS WE LEARNED from Chelsea's humbling friendly defeat by Charlotte

Chelsea are kidding themselves if they think they can avoid buying a new striker, Thomas Tuchel needs to add more steel to his ranks and the squad is still too bloated… FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED from Chelsea’s humbling friendly defeat by Charlotte

  • Chelsea were beaten by MLS side Charlotte on penalties in a pre-season friendly
  • Christian Pulisic’s opening goal was cancelled out by a stoppage-time penalty
  • The Blues then lost on spot kicks and Tuchel was unimpressed with the display
  • Sportsmail picks out five things we learned from a chastening defeat in the USA 

Chelsea’s preparations for the new season suffered a setback on Wednesday night as they were beaten on penalties by MLS side Charlotte.

American hero Christian Pulisic opened the scoring for Thomas Tuchel’s side in North Carolina but they were pegged back by Daniel Rios’ spot kick deep into second-half stoppage time.

It was the home side who emerged victorious from the resulting shootout though, with Conor Gallagher producing a woeful panenka that helped Charlotte to a 5-3 win in front of 52,673 fans.

With their first Premier League game – away at Everton – just over two weeks away, Tuchel was far from impressed with what he saw from his team as he warned it ‘will not be the first time that we get punished’ if poor displays continue.

Here, Sportsmail picks out five things we learned from an underwhelming display by the Blues.

Thomas Tuchel watched on as his Chelsea side were beaten by Charlotte in a pre-season game

Chelsea MUST add to their attack

It seems pretty obvious that when Chelsea allowed Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter Milan on loan that they should have been prioritising the signing of a new No 9.

The Belgian’s struggles in front of goal on his return to Stamford Bridge last summer have been well documented but it most often led to Kai Havertz playing as a false nine with two playmakers around him.

Nobody is doubting the German’s talent but he is not going to compete with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Erling Haaland for the Premier League’s golden boot award.

Raheem Sterling has arrived from Manchester City but he is going to surely play one of the two wider roles, meaning Tuchel desperately needs a centre forward that fits his style of play. 

Kai Havertz was the lone Chelsea forward in the second half but is not a natural goal scorer

Chelsea have already ruled themselves out of the race for Cristiano Ronaldo, while Erling Haaland, Richarlison and Darwin Nunez have all joined Premier League rivals.

Robert Lewandowski is also no longer on the market after signing for Barcelona so you do wonder where Chelsea would turn if they decided a new No 9 was necessary before the window slams shut.

Timo Werner also looks a shadow of his former self – and he felt Tuchel’s wrath after the Charlotte defeat – while Armando Broja has been heavily linked with a move away after impressing at Southampton last season.

A lack of goals could really cripple Chelsea’s bid to win the Premier League. It’s time to act or they could be leaving themselves short. 

Midfield needs some backbone 

Chelsea urgently need defenders and a new striker so it seems central midfield is way down the list of priorities for Tuchel and new owner Todd Boehly.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an area that needs improvement. 

When he is fit and available, N’Golo Kante remains one of the best in world football at what he does. But it seems like forever since Chelsea were able to call on him for an entire campaign.

Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho are also competent options. They are tidy in possession but neither possesses the desire to carry out the dirty work that midfielders must do – especially when they play as a pair.

Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho lack the off the ball skills to dominate midfield for Chelsea

Conor Gallagher has returned from his loan spell at Crystal Palace as an England international but there is still a nagging feeling that Tuchel wouldn’t trust him to play in the biggest games yet.

The same goes for both Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley. Both have been at the club for years but neither have ever had a constant run in the side.

A player like Fabinho, Rodri or Wilfred Ndidi who can regain possession, play at a high tempo and offload the ball quickly would instantly bring an extra element of security to the Blues.

A lack of steel

There can be no argument that Chelsea teams of the past have had a certain steeliness about them. That drive and motivation to get over the line in crucial moments.

Think of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Claude Makelele, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack… the list is endless.

This incarnation feels a little too soft, though. Think back to last season’s pair of domestic cup final defeats against Liverpool and the way Chelsea wilted in the glare of a penalty shootout would not have happened in previous teams.

This incarnation of Chelsea feels a little too soft and they need players with steel and grit

Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger have provided some grit in recent years but the Spaniard’s influence appears to be waning while the latter has moved on to Real Madrid this summer.

The next batch of leaders – Reece James, Mason Mount and Havertz – look like they lack that killer instinct.

Thiago Silva still has plenty of drive to lift every trophy possible but they need more winners to have any chance of producing the sort of consistency it will take to topple Manchester City and Liverpool. 

Tuchel’s new-look front three 

Chelsea fans finally got a glimpse of the front three that they can expect to lead their team into the new season – unless they dramatically sign a new striker in the coming weeks.

Tuchel opted to play Havertz as a central striker in the second half in North Carolina with England duo Sterling and Mount flanking him.

Mount was even given the captain’s armband as he lined up on the right side while Sterling occupied his preferred left-wing position.

Raheem Sterling played up front with Kai Havertz and Mason Mount in the second half

The trio combined well enough with Mount having a good chance to put Chelsea 2-0 ahead after 73 minutes, only for his shot to be blocked at the near post.

But apart from that opportunities were very few and far between. That is entirely to be expected, given they haven’t played together before.

That trio took over from Michy Batshuayi, Hakim Ziyech and Pulisic, who played the first half.

Pulisic got Chelsea’s goal with a deft chip but it was a night to forget for Batshuayi, who continues to show he is not up the standard required. 

So much dead wood

Surely the first thing Boehly – a fresh pair of eyes – would have noticed when he took over at Stamford Bridge is just how much dead wood Chelsea have still got on their wage bill.

Everybody knows that a big squad is required in the modern game – and the return of five substitutes in the Premier League this season will require greater depth – but still, Chelsea are carrying far too many passengers.

There are plenty of players in the squad who have only ever shown flashes of their brilliance and who, in the depths of a brutal campaign, will not get regular game-time.

There is an argument that any of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, Kenedy, Matt Miazga, Baba Rahman, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek should all be sold.

Michy Batshuayi must be running out time at Chelsea after another underwhelming display

Think of the money that those sort of players could accumulate in the transfer window and the replacements that could be bought – Jules Kounde and a striker to begin with.

If Tuchel has no intention of giving any of them a role in his first-team squad moving forward then Boehly should be urging him to cash in.

A bloated squad has been a problem at Chelsea for years. As Manchester City and Liverpool show, nobody should be kept around who is not up to standard.




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