By Nick Purewal, PA
Thomas Tuchel has blamed the state of Chelsea’s pitch for the Blues leaking two costly goals at Stamford Bridge in recent weeks.
Tuchel moved to protect Andreas Christensen after his under-hit back-pass gifted Eddie Nketiah Arsenal the opening goal in Arsenal’s 4-2 Premier League win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Edouard Mendy’s scuffed pass sold Antonio Rudiger short against Real Madrid on April 6, allowing Karim Benzema to tap in to complete his hat-trick in the Blues’ 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg defeat on home soil.
Christensen was withdrawn at half-time on Wednesday but Blues boss Tuchel insisted the Denmark defender was replaced by Thiago Silva due to injury, before claiming that the Stamford Bridge turf is causing problems for his players.
“Andreas said he could not continue so I think he had some problems and that’s why,” said Tuchel.
“I don’t take a player off because he makes one mistake.
“I have to also say the pitch is difficult to play here. Maybe it sounds like an excuse but it is a very difficult pitch that we have here and it’s not in our favour.
“The ball bounced very awkwardly in front of Andreas when he tried to play this ball and we also had the same mistake against Real Madrid that cost us in the Champions League.”
Not our night, but thank you for your support Blues. 💙 pic.twitter.com/etMIbBhYni
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 20, 2022
Chelsea toppled European giants Real 3-2 at the Bernabeu Stadium in the quarter-final second leg but still exited the Champions League 5-4 on aggregate.
The Blues’ loss to Arsenal set an unwanted run of three home defeats in a row in all competitions for the first time since 1993.
Chelsea have leaked 11 goals across those three defeats, firstly in a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Brentford after the latest international break before the Real and Arsenal games.
Nketiah bagged a brace on Wednesday, with Emile Smith Rowe slotting a smart finish and Bukayo Saka converting a late penalty.
Chelsea twice equalised in the first half through Timo Werner and captain Cesar Azpilicueta, but the Blues were unable to raise the tempo or the quality after the interval.
The Blues remain third in the table and still in full control of their destiny as regards qualifying for next term’s Champions League.
Fifth-placed Arsenal reignited their own qualification quest for Europe’s top table, drawing level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham in just their second win in six league matches.
Nketiah’s goals were his first for the Gunners in 367 days.
Ice cold in both boxes... 🧊 #CHEARS pic.twitter.com/yNH4nLacl3
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 21, 2022
The 22-year-old is out of contract at Arsenal this summer and has been linked with a move away from the Emirates.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta revealed after Nketiah’s brace that he has not given the Lewisham-born forward enough first-team action this term.
“If there’s one player that I’ve been unfair with, I think it’s him,” said Arteta.
“He has given me every right to do something different so if Eddie hasn’t played more it’s my fault and because as a manager and I miss something or I haven’t had the courage to play him more and he showed me how wrong I was.”