Why don't Chelsea look anything like world champions? Tuchel's excuses don't explain why Lukaku & Co are toiling

Romelu Lukaku Christian Pulisic Malang Sarr Chelsea Crystal Palace Premier League 2021-22Getty/GOAL

Pep Guardiola last week dismissed claims that Manchester City are the best team in the world, insisting that the title belongs to his side's conquerors in last season's Champions League final, Chelsea.

The Londoners promptly followed up that praise by beating Palmeiras in the FIFA Club World Cup final to land the one trophy that had eluded Roman Abramovich during his two decades at Stamford Bridge.

As a result, their shirts were emblazoned with 'World Champions' for the first time in Saturday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

However, Chelsea were given a reality check at Selhurst Park.

Indeed, while Thomas Tuchel's side may have claimed a 1-0 win, they didn't look anything like the No.1 team on the planet.

After brilliant last-man defending from Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen throughout, Hakim Ziyech's left-footed volley from Marcos Alonso's cross saw the visitors steal all three points with just over a minute of normal time remaining.

Not in any way, shape or form could Chelsea argue that they produced a positive performance against Patrick Vieira's side.

Record signing Romelu Lukaku touched the ball just seven times in 90 minutes and had more offsides than shots.

It was the lowest number of touches for anyone who had played a full Premier League match since Opta began recording such data in the 2003-04 season.

When asked afterwards what the damning statistic says about Lukaku and his side, Tuchel told reporters: "I'm not so sure if I have a good answer.

"I don't know what it says. It says he was obviously not involved and could not make a point today.

"But I am not sure if it says so much about us in general."

It certainly wasn't just Lukaku who struggled. Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz both failed to threaten until the usual outlier, Ziyech, provided another moment of magic, having already had an earlier goal ruled out for offside.

The attack has been underperforming for nearly the entire season, too.

Chelsea have managed 363 shots in 2021-22, which is some way behind the two teams above them in the table: Man City (459) and Liverpool (483).

It's only marginally more than Manchester United, too, and that hammers home the point that the Blues are only third in the table because of their brilliant backline.

Of course, it used to be said that defences win titles, but with a new bar being set in English football by Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, the attack is just as important these days.

In the modern game, individual quality is no substitute for the automated offensive play championed by the two top teams in the Premier League.

All of this means that inconsistent Chelsea have been left looking like a cup team, given Tuchel has yet to find a way of unlocking the attacking talent at his disposal.

Chelsea haven't produced a fluid attacking display since back-to-back wins over Leicester and Juventus in November, when they were both top of the Premier League and their Champions League group.

Since then, they've gone into a downward spiral which Tuchel and others behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge have put down to Covid-19 outbreaks.

It's concerning, though, that Chelsea still don't look right. They had a full week to prepare for the short trip to Palace yet there was a distinct lack of freshness about their play.

When asked about their sluggishness by GOAL, Tuchel had a number of explanations.

"We have come from a 30-degree temperature difference," he began. "We have six players with a cold from the air conditioning in the plane.

"We also have jet lag from Abu Dhabi and no player slept well in Abu Dhabi because of temperature and the time difference.

"So, if you think we have a normal week to prepare, I can just tell you it's not like this. We are trying to survive at the moment and you can see that.

Thomas Tuchel Chelsea Premier League 2021-22 GFX
Getty/GOAL

"There is a lot of pressure going on if you go to a Club World Cup and want to win it for Chelsea. The players put a lot of pressure on themselves and then we haven't played Premier League for four weeks.

"It's a huge and strange mix of a lot of reasons why [we're not playing well], so I did not expect too much from us performance-wise. 

"Then, we had some issues in training with Azpi (Cesar Azpilicueta), and Callum Hudson-Odoi had to leave training.

"I know we can play better, and that we want to play better. But we were solid and disciplined defensively.

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"We told the team at half time not to lose faith and to keep on going like in a cup game; that maybe this one chance would come and that it would be decisive."

In truth, though, Tuchel's excuses don't fully explain why the league performances have been sub-standard and his attackers are under-performing.

Ruthless decisions might have to be made during the summer transfer window because the fact of the matter is that the Blues have a squad full of expensive players and yet Chelsea aren't even close to being the best team in England, let alone the world.