Soon after his 14-match unbeaten start at Chelsea ended, Thomas Tuchel had a warning for his players.
“We cannot lose our heads now,” the Chelsea manager said after Saturday’s 5-2 loss to a West Bromwich side facing relegation from the Premier League.
What unfolded at the training ground on Sunday was just the reaction he didn’t want to see: A clash between defender Antonio Rudiger and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
There is no denying from Tuchel, who replaced the fired Frank Lampard in January, that the incident “got heated.” Ensuring there are no lingering tensions in the camp from the bust-up is key, with fourth place to secure in the Premier League and the more immediately pressing matter of the first leg against Porto in the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Wednesday.
“We calmed the situation down immediately,” Tuchel said Tuesday. “I don’t want to play it down with anything artificial. These are things we don’t want to accept. It was unusual but they can happen.
“They are all competitors and want to win training matches. We needed to interfere in the situation, so that was serious. But the way the guys handled the situation, that was impressive and showed a lot of courage.”
Tuchel maintains the air has been cleared between players who were left on the bench for Saturday’s setback at Stamford Bridge.
“They sorted it out straight after training in a very honest, humble and very direct way,” Tuchel said. “That showed me they have very good character.
“Toni sorted it out directly, and it was a strong and brave thing to do. So I am happy with the way they dealt with it.”
Losing to West Brom could prove costly with Chelsea surrendering the fourth Champions League place with eight games remaining to a West Ham side that has never qualified for the competition.
“We’ve been analyzing the game, trying to correct mistakes and to be ready for the next one,” Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso told beIN Sports. “It’s always good to watch the games, improve, and take responsibility. From there, do better the next game and don’t make the same mistakes. That’s how you grow as a player and as a team”.