Wright-Phillips hails Tuchel revolution as Chelsea and Man City old boy relishes Wembley clash

By Sports Desk April 15, 2021

Shaun Wright-Phillips claims Chelsea have become a true team since Frank Lampard was replaced, and that makes them a major threat to Manchester City in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

The former England winger will have divided loyalties for the Wembley clash, having played for City in two stints either side of a three-year spell at Chelsea.

Wright-Phillips won the Premier League and FA Cup while with Chelsea, playing for the London club alongside club legend Lampard who went on to have 18 months as manager before being dismissed in January of this year.

Thomas Tuchel has brought a more pragmatic approach since being appointed as successor to Lampard, not foregoing the element of fantasy but placing a greater emphasis on industry, with the hard work paying off.

Chelsea are through to the Champions League semi-finals and could yet meet City in the final of that competition, with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain standing in the way of the Premier League pair.

"I think what Chelsea have brought to the table now is a resilience," said Wright-Phillips, speaking to Stats Perform News.

"I've seen a lot of their games. I believe they've not necessarily blown teams away, but they're starting to keep clean sheets and they're taking their chances.

"But there are opportunities there to be exploited which I have seen in games, and the teams that have had them haven't really taken them."

The 39-year-old Wright-Phillips says some of the early-season verve has gone from Chelsea's play, but for good reason.

"I must say they're not as exciting and free-flowing going forward, but they're defending a lot better as a unit, as a team, and they're pressing as a team rather than as individuals," he said.

"He's got them defending with a lot of discipline which has been hard to break down for a lot of teams, so I think if you can stop conceding goals, as for example City have, it does take a lot of pressure off your attackers to have to force situations.

"They can learn to be more patient based on the fact they have massive belief in their defenders and they don't need to rush anything, because they know if it doesn't work out then our defenders are going to keep a clean sheet."

Chelsea have underperformed in terms of finishing off their chances under Tuchel, scoring just 12 goals in the Premier League from an xG (expected goals) total of 16, but at the back they have kept it tight, conceding seven times from an xGA (expected goals against) of 6.6.

Those Opta figures exclude penalties, with Chelsea having scored four and conceded no spot-kicks across the 12-game span, and own goals, of which they have scored one and let in one.

 

A 5-2 home defeat to West Brom on April 3 ended a run of 14 games unbeaten since Tuchel assumed the role of head coach, but Chelsea have got back on track since by thrashing Crystal Palace 4-1 and edging out Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Wright-Phillips sees "a lot of firepower" in the Chelsea ranks yet believes they have become "very, very solid", pointing to the example of "outstanding" centre-back Antonio Rudiger, a colossus in defence for Tuchel.

Since January 26, the date of Tuchel's appointment, only Chelsea team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta has had more clean sheets among Premier League defenders than the seven achieved in 10 games by Rudiger, with Azpilicueta's eight coming from 12 league appearances.

In the same period, Rudiger is one of only five Premier League defenders with 300 minutes or more of action to have made at least 15 tackles and won 70 per cent or more of such challenges in the competition. Sheffield United's Jayden Bogle, James Tarkowski of Burnley and Leicester City's Wesley Fofana and Ricardo Pereira are the others.

The battle between rival coaches Tuchel and Pep Guardiola is bound to intrigue, with City having been surprisingly beaten by eventual cup winners Arsenal at this stage last season.

Wright-Phillips is relishing the clash in styles, predicting the reinvigorated Chelsea will look to break at pace after soaking up City pressure.

He said: "It makes for an interesting game. They don't mind not having the ball, whereas City love having the ball, so they'll most likely play on the counter-attack against City."

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    Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand declared "we haven't seen" a player like Jude Bellingham at his age after the Borussia Dortmund teenager helped guide his team to a 4-1 Champions League win at Sevilla.

    Bellingham scored one and assisted one as Dortmund eased to victory in Spain on Wednesday, with other goals coming from Raphael Guerreiro, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt, while Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back for the hosts.

    Bellingham, 19, who captained the Bundesliga side, became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

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    "What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand said, working as a pundit for BT Sport.

    "The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

    "He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age].

    "Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

    Fellow pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole added: "Along with Erling Haaland, he's the best young player in the world, that's for sure.

    "I watched him play for England over the two [Nations League] games [against Italy and Germany] and he was our best player.

    "His dad I believe was a semi-pro footballer so he's obviously been guided right... When we grew up with Frank [Lampard] and his dad was a footballer obviously, a top footballer, and Frank had this maturity about him... Bellingham's got that as well, coupled with his undoubted God-given talent and his drive, he's unstoppable."

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    "One thing that's for sure – whoever gets him – is [his] temperament," Ferdinand said.

    "When you're making big transfers and big moves like that in the spotlight, temperament is a key element you need to get right. This kid has already proved that it isn't a question mark."

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    Adrien Rabiot scored a brace either side of Vlahovic's cool second-half finish as Juventus triumphed 3-1 to boost their hopes of progressing from Group H on Wednesday, but Di Maria was the star of the show.

    At 34 years and 233 days old, Di Maria became the oldest player to record a hat-trick of assists in the Champions League since data began in 2003-04, as well as the first player to do so for an Italian club.

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    Asked about Di Maria's influence by Sky Sports, Vlahovic said: "I don't know what to say. I am honoured to have the opportunity to play with him, to see him every day, to learn from him. I would like to make the most of my moments with him on the pitch."

    Vlahovic was pleased to see Juventus end a three-match losing streak in the Champions League, but saw room for improvement in his own performance.

    "I could do better and do more," he added. "I had to make better use of the assists of my team-mates, but we won. We have to improve and work with our heads down in silence.

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    "Di Maria is good, the important thing is to get the ball to him, the first and second assists were of excellent craftsmanship," he said in his post-match news conference.

    "The boys immediately realised that you cannot not play for a quarter of an hour. The games must be closed earlier, this does not mean to stop playing, but to play less and be more bad.

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