Thomas Tuchel criticised his Chelsea players for “not being tough enough” and their “soft defending” after losing 2-1 at Southampton.
Chelsea slumped to their second defeat of the season when Romeo Lavia and Adam Armstrong delivered a stunning first-half turnaround following Raheem Sterling’s opener.
The Blues have performed inconsistently across their opening five games, taking only seven points which leaves them in eighth and languishing off the top-four pace.
And Tuchel did not hold back with his assessment of their latest setback on the road, saying: “We are not tough enough to win these matches away. It was the same story in Leeds, there we thought the problem was we didn’t score in the first 25 minutes and then they pushed us off-balance in two minutes with two goals and we could not find any answers.
“Today, we scored so everything was okay but one set piece again, one sloppy defending again, we were off-balance and we did not react to it. We were lucky not to concede a third goal at the beginning of the second half. We were not tough enough as a team to react or push it over the line for us.
“Soft defending. What stops that is pure mentality, stop it with defending mentality. There is no superiority for the opponent, there is no need to give shots away, just toughen up as a team and show a different mentality
“I don’t like to talk about it normally because you cannot prove it with data or tactical position but it is like this. Both goals are cheap, soft goals and should not happen if you expect to win a match in the evening at an away stadium.”
‘We need to show a different mentality’
Chelsea have been hampered by injuries and suspensions during August with Ruben Loftus-Cheek the latest victim, forced to come off at half-time for Mateo Kovacic, who has only just returned to training.
Reece James was also ill and missed the St Mary’s trip while Conor Gallagher was suspended after being sent off against Leicester on Saturday.
Chelsea’s problems are giving Tuchel flashbacks to last season.
“It reminded me of Juventus last season,” he said. “We played a fantastic match at Stamford Bridge and, after that, we had Chilly (Ben Chilwell) off for eight months and N’Golo Kante for three months.
“It was the same against Tottenham [earlier this month]. Our key player [Kante] says goodbye for six weeks minimum and then it’s red cards and Ruben is off injured, and Kovacic is off injured for eight weeks, Reece James is off with illness. It’s key player after key player. With our demands and ambition we have it’s like that.
“If these key players are missing you need to show a different mentality. It’s not enough at the moment to win at Leeds and Southampton. We are humble enough to accept we can lose football matches but it’s too easy to push us off track, too easy to win challenges, too easy to bully us.
“Yesterday, we had 16 players in training. I cannot dream about what will happen if we have everybody back, I just have what we have on the training pitch and this is not a lot at the moment.”
Analysis: Tuchel under pressure as Chelsea stutter
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
Chelsea’s season is going in the other direction right now. They were seconds away from following up an opening weekend win over Everton with a deserved victory against Tottenham but Harry Kane’s late goal has proved the prelude to a dramatic shift in mood.
After being well beaten at Leeds, Thomas Tuchel’s side have now lost their next away game too with the players facing accusations of being weak by their own manager. “Just toughen up as a team and show a different mentality,” he said of the defeat at St Mary’s.
Easier said than done, it seems. For much of Tuchel’s time at Chelsea, his team looked solid but no more. No clean sheets in four tells only part of the tale. They look so open right now. The switch to a back four does not seem to suit them and the injuries are mounting.
That is a short-term issue and the impending arrival of Wesley Fofana should help too. But with the attack little better – only Raheem Sterling has found the net in the last three games – and a gap to their rivals already opening up, Tuchel is under some pressure now.