Five things Chelsea will learn from the Euro 2020 group stage
The group stage of the European Championships is now over. Out of the Twenty-four countries that started the tournament, they have now been cut down to 16. Now things will get more serious with the knockout stages beginning on Saturday.
Out of the 17 Chelsea players who were selected to represent their countries at the tournament, 16 still remain. The only man who is left out is the Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour, who is currently self-isolating having tested positive for Covid-19.
The European Championships have highlighted the depth of quality Chelsea possesses.
That so many Chelsea players have progressed through the group stage is a fine achievement, although one not likely to have left Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel overly enamored ahead of the 2021/22 season.
That’s because the deeper a Chelsea player goes in the tournament, the later they will return to pre-season training, which will begin early next month.
Tuchel is unlikely to have his entire first-team squad in sit until the beginning of August. That is hardly ideal preparation for a campaign in which Chelsea will be competing in six different competitions.
Yet the German can at least make informed decisions based on how his players have fared at Euro 2020. Many have stepped up, proved themselves on the biggest stage. Others have yet to shine or even been handed an opportunity to do so.
Here we look at what Chelsea and Tuchel will have learned from the group stage of this summer’s tournament. And what to keep track of as the competition progresses.
Timo Werner has avoided burnout
The German forward’s first season at Chelsea was a mixed bag. He ended the campaign with double figures in both goals (12) and assists (15) but his form, especially in front of goal, was patchy for the majority of the campaign.
Having been selected to represent Germany this summer, the fear was that Werner could be run into the ground ahead of what will be an important second season at Stamford Bridge. Fortunately from a Chelsea perspective, he’s barely featured.
He was introduced as a late substitute in the defeat to France while was thrown on for the final stages of the 2-2 draw with Hungary last night that saw Germany sneak into the knockout stage.
In total, Werner has played 33 minutes so far at Euro 2020 and he is unlikely to start against England at Wembley next week.
N’Golo Kante is being overused
There is nobody better in the midfield position in world football today that is doing what N’Golo Kante does on a football pitch. His ability to reclaim the ball and shut down opposition attacks is unrivaled and he is also an underrated threat when bursting forward from midfield with the ball.
Yet Kante is now 30 years old and has a history of hamstring problems. It’s why Tuchel was very careful with how he used the Frenchman during the second half of last season.
Kante was always going to play a pivotal role for France at this summer’s tournament. As stated, he is the best at what he does and also enables Paul Pogba to flourish.
Yet the fact Kante has started and completed three games for France in the space of seven days will be of huge concern to Tuchel and Chelsea, who will be keeping close tabs on the midfielder’s hamstrings over the next fortnight.
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Billy Gilmour is ready
It was unfortunate that the 20-year-old midfielder only had one opportunity to impress. But he certainly grasped it with both hands.
Thrown into the Scotland starting XI for the game against England at Wembley, Gilmour produced a performance full of quality and composure. It was no surprise he received the man-of-the-match award from UEFA after the 0-0 draw.
He was yet another sign that Gilmour – who was absent for Scotland’s final game after testing positive for Covid-19 – is ready for regular first-team football next season.
Chelsea may not be able to offer him that with Kante, Jorginho, and Mateo Kovacic already at the club. So a loan move is likely.
There is interest from several Premier League clubs in Gilmour and The Athletic have reported a switch to Norwich City is likely, where the academy graduate would link up with Daniel Farke, who was Dortmund II’s boss when Tuchel was in charge at the Westfalenstadion.
Andreas Christensen: The speed driller
The 25-year-old has taken his fine form at club level onto the international stage and has looked sharp in Denmark’s group matches; the opening one of which was, of course, overshadowed by the cardiac arrest suffered on the field by Christian Eriksen.
Christensen looked comfortable as part of the back four in the defeat to Finland and then has slotted in with ease on the right of a back three against Belgium and Russia. And it was his thunderous goal against the latter that ensured his country’s place in the round of 16.
The academy graduate’s next task will be keeping the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey quiet when Wales takes on Denmark on Saturday. His direct opponent, however, is likely to be Daniel James.
We will admit that is not what we expected from the centre-back going into Euro 2020, but it’s hugely impressive nonetheless.
Kai Havertz change the game
Going into the tournament, Havertz spoke of the extra confidence he’d gained by scoring Chelsea’s winner in the Champions League final.
“I’m a player that needs that self-belief, that’s when I’m at my best. Confidence always helps you and I will go into the Euros full of it,” said Havertz told the DFB website.
After a tricky opening game in which France overcame Germany, Havertz scored one and created two, one of which was an own goal, to help Die Mannschaft record an impressive 4-1 victory over Portugal.
Yet that wasn’t enough for Germany to secure their place in the knockout stage, they had to win or draw with Hungary to do that. And for most of the contest in Munich last night, that appeared unlikely.
Havertz was the man trying to bring a spark to the German attack. He was drifting across the pitch, always ready to take on the ball and then attempt to thread the final pass or take a shot on goal.
And just as Germany was starting to get desperate against Hungary, it was Havertz who popped up in the six-yard box to turn home Mats Hummels’ goalbound header.
Germany managed to concede a minute later after Havertz had strangely been substituted. But Leon Goretzka’s last strike endured their progression and a game at Wembley against England awaits in the round of 16.