Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has provided an update on the fitness of midfielder Mateo Kovacic ahead of Wednesday’s clash with rivals Arsenal…
What’s the word?
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, Tuchel revealed that the Croatian ace will be absent for the visit of the Gunners, having limped off early on in the 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace at the weekend.
His manager now revealed the extent of that injury, while he also put a potential timeframe on the 27-year-old’s return to action:
“Kovacic is out for the game. It’s a ligament injury, hopefully not longer than two weeks but that can be a long time for us in terms of games.”
The former Paris Saint-Germain boss also went on to reveal that long-term absentee Ben Chilwell won’t feature again this season, despite a potential return to training in the coming weeks, while fellow Englishman Callum Hudson-Odoi is being assessed “week-by-week” having been sidelined over the last month or so with an Achilles injury.
Having previously been dubbed “a pure joy” to coach by his current boss, Kovacic’s absence will surely be a huge blow for the encounter with Mikel Arteta’s side, having proven so reliable for the west London outfit in recent seasons.
Despite the wealth of talent at the manager’s disposal, central midfield has become something of a problem area in recent weeks, amid suggestion that N’Golo Kante’s powers are on the wane and with Jorginho facing an uncertain future, with just a year remaining on his existing deal.
With summer signing Saul Niguez also failing to take his chance this term, much of the midfield burden has fallen on the former Real Madrid man, with his technical quality on the ball proving so vital in breaking the lines and retaining possession for his side.
That is the view of teammate Kai Havertz, who suggested that the £40.5m-rated man is a “hero” for his willingness to receive the ball in any scenario, while pundit Gary Neville also lavished praise on the 77-cap international earlier this season, labelling him “absolutely incredible”.
The one-time Inter Milan star is seemingly the ideal all-round midfielder, offering quality both in and out of possession and in both boxes, with his statistics this season emphasising his all-action value.
The £150k-per-week favourite is adept at winning the ball back, having registered an impressive average of 2.2 tackles per game so far this term in the Premier League, while he has also recorded 1.6 dribbles per game, as per SofaScore, showcasing his undeniable gift of weaving his way past opposition midfielders.
It is no surprise also to see him rank in the top 1% for progressive carries in Europe over the past year, as well as in the top 2% for progressive passes made, as per FBref, with his forward-thinking approach vital to the way the Stamford Bridge outfit perform.
Tuchel himself previously admitted as much, insisting that the playmaker is “crucial” to the Blues both on and off the pitch, hence the potential negative impact that his absence is likely to cause on Wednesday evening.
He’ll surely be gutted to not have him available for selection.
AND in other news, Sarri eyeing reunion with £18m-rated Chelsea “specimen”, Tuchel must say no…