Soccer-Tuchel puzzled by Chelsea's slump after Everton draw

Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Everton - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - December 16, 2021 Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said he was baffled by his side's drop in form after a 1-1 draw nL1N2T1391 at home to a struggling and under-strength Everton on Thursday, saying it was not just down to the absence of key players through injury and COVID-19.

The result left Chelsea in third place, four points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City after 17 games.

"For me it's not so easy to analyse why we are dropping points," Tuchel told reporters.

"I see teams concede much more chances than we do ... We conceded absolutely nothing and still it's a draw."

Chelsea, who failed to capitalise on their early dominance over Everton, went ahead in the 70th minute with a Mason Mount strike, only to let in an equaliser four minutes later when Jarrad Branthwaite connected with an Anthony Gordon free kick.

"Today, please, it's a freak result for this kind of match," Tuchel said. "Three-nil would have been a fair result."

The result had echoes of Chelsea's recent 1-1 draws at home to Manchester United and Burnley, both which the Blues also dominated in terms of chances created.

"I am not so sure right now why we get punished like this," Tuchel said. "We will not look away. The dressing room is very disappointed, I am very disappointed of course."

Tuchel refused to blame the poor run on injuries to key players such as Romelu Lukaku or an outbreak of COVID-19 nL1N2T12K4 at the west London club which sidelined Lukaku and fellow strikers Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Thursday's game.

Kai Havertz was also out with illness and was waiting for the results of a COVID test.

"Of course, we suffer, for sure," Tuchel said. "But there is never one reason for a lack of results that we clearly have right now."

Everton boss Rafael Benitez praised his side for sticking to his game-plan to thwart Chelsea's early surge and build their way into the game, especially with so many of his own first-choice players injured and replaced by young understudies.

"It was really important to see the young players doing well," Benitez said.

He added that his side could put behind them their recent poor run of form.

"This group of players can make mistakes but this group of players they have great character, great spirit."

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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