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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Todd Boehly and Thomas Tuchel left with plenty of questions as Chelsea stumble to the finish line

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helsea will finish third – but they will have to wait until the final day of the season to confirm their position as the best of the rest behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

A 1-1 draw against Leicester means it would take Tottenham to make up a difference of 18 goals to see them leapfrog their fierce rivals on Sunday.

That represents progress for Thomas Tuchel in the Premier League, at least, after last season’s fourth-place finish – but there is no denying his team are stumbling over the line.

Failure to beat Leicester makes it just three wins from their last nine league games as an exhausting campaign has taken its toll.

That is a legitimate factor in their end of season slump – having played 62 games this term – but it must also be noted that quadruple-chasing Liverpool have been involved in one fewer and are still targeting an unprecedented clean sweep of trophies.

Those are the levels Chelsea must aspire to if they are to mount a genuine title in Tuchel’s second full season in charge. And the brutal truth is they feel a long way off that.

Especially when the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are factored in, as well as the ageing limbs of Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.

The latter two of that trio have struggled through much of this campaign. Can they really be expected to lead the charge over the next 12 months?

These are questions Tuchel and Todd Boehly must discuss. And the new owner must know improvements are necessary after failing to see Chelsea win in person since launching his bid to buy the club.

Only so much can be taken from this game, which had the distinct feel of an end-of-season affair throughout.

With Champions League qualification already secured for Chelsea, it lacked any real sense of jeopardy, and just felt like one match too many in an arduous campaign.

Combined with the fact that sanctions meant only season ticket-holders were permitted inside, the atmosphere was flat.

Still, Tuchel had spoken of the need to show progress, year-on-year – perhaps in a bid to sharpen the minds of his players.

He also showed his intent by naming a strong team, with Mason Mount the only one of his fully fit players to be left out of the starting XI.

But Chelsea’s hopes of victory were dealt an early blow when James Maddison opened the scoring after six minutes.

It was a quality finish from the England international – curling a shot from outside the box – but from a defensive perspective, it was sloppy.

Incoming owner Todd Boehly is yet to see Chelsea win in person

/ Getty Images

Marcos Alonso allowed Timothy Castagne to break on his blind side to play the ball in for Maddison, whose burst from midfield was not tracked by N’Golo Kante.

Thiago Silva – albeit exposed – then stood off for too long, inviting the Leicester man to shoot.

Chelsea were off the pace in a decidedly one-paced affair.

But one player who seemed determined to make things happen was the outstanding Reece James.

He ended the game in a virtual free role – swapping between the front three and midfield – after dominating throughout.

And it was a moment of quality from him that levelled the score after 35 minutes.

Advancing on the right inside channel, he lofted a perfect wedge-cross to Alonso, who made up for his part in Leicester’s goal by volleying home from close range.

That should have set Chelsea up to go on and take all three points – but they lacked the energy and inspiration to take advantage.

They dominated possession after the break, but only rarely created serious openings.

Christian Pulisic was guilty of wasting their best chance when only needing to poke Romelu Lukaku’s cross into an empty net. But with the goal gaping, the American contrived to fire wide.

Tuchel made changes – largely giving James an increasingly free licence to find areas to hurt Leicester – but a share of the points was probably a fair result.

Top three is all but sealed – but there is much work to do to threaten the top two.

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