Sunday, February 25

Tuchel’s previous praise of Declan Rice and Soucek serves as warning to Chelsea

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel was very animated after he saw his side be beaten 4-2 by Arsenal in the week. He had every right to be. The Blues put in a poor display in midweek, with their defence leaking goals and the attacking play far from good enough.

As it stands, Chelsea are in third place in the Premier League table, five points ahead of both Tottenham and Arsenal and eight ahead of Manchester United in sixth. Despite slipping up against the Gunners, Tuchel’s team are still in a very strong position to secure Champions League football for next season.

“We never feel secure [in the top four battle],” Tuchel said on Friday in his pre-match press conference. “I never feel secure in the Premier League.

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“It’s good. I think nobody should, never, because feeling secure does not keep you on the edge. Feeling secure is very close, a thin line to not being fully alert. I never feel safe in no part of the season, and nobody should be in Premier League.”

The defeat to Arsenal perhaps puts a bit more pressure on Chelsea than there needed to be for their London derby with West Ham United on Sunday afternoon. The Hammers, who are now in the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League, have been in fine form this season and could definitely cause an upset at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The form of Declan Rice, especially, has been very pleasing for David Moyes. The Irons boss, though, has another trick up his sleeve in the form of Tomas Soucek, who plays alongside Rice in the centre of West Ham’s midfield.

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Soucek has been unable to replicate last season’s goal-scoring form, where the midfielder netted 10 Premier League goals. However, the Czech Republic international has provided sturdy support to Rice, and they have formed quite the partnership for the east Londoners.

Tuchel was very complimentary about the pair before the reverse fixture earlier this season, where West Ham edged a five-goal thriller 3-2 at the London Stadium. Speaking on Rice first, the Chelsea head coach said: “It happens at every single club in the world that sometimes players get released in one moment, and they have their career on a different way, so this is a pretty normal thing.

“I am absolutely aware that he is a Chelsea boy, and he comes through the academy, and he is very close to our guys. He’s a very strong player, and in general, I am absolutely impressed by Soucek and him what they do since I came into the Premier League, and what they do for West Ham.

“They are real helpers on the pitch, and they have an incredible volume both of them. They take responsibility for high pressing, for deep defending, for filling the gaps on the wings, for deep build-up, for goals from set-pieces. Both of them are simply doing everything.”

The Blues head coach added: “Declan is an important member of the England team, so it speaks for itself. They are very strong in the build-up, very intelligent in passing and, of course, they are quality players. On top of it, the two midfielders represent pretty much what West Ham is all about, they have the heart to play this game to the full extent, and they are very good characters in sportsmanship.

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“They play with passion. The whole team plays with passion. They never give up, and there’s a lot of quality behind it.”

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