Thomas Tuchel warmed to the flaws of this Chelsea victory as if they offered him greater signs of progress on his restless quest for perfection.
There is often more to learn when the plan goes awry, and his team won despite mistakes and while making changes as they flexed between an international break and Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Zenit St Petersburg followed by a derby at Tottenham.
In the end, they brushed aside Aston Villa with a degree of comfort but they knew they had been below their best.
Thomas Tuchel’s (left) Chelsea are still unbeaten this season after beating Aston Villa 3-0
Romelu Lukaku struck twice as the Blues battled through a tough first-half for a convincing win
Victory owed so much to the lethal finishing skills of Romelu Lukaku and Tuchel was happy to enthuse about the ‘personality’, ‘confidence’ and ‘ambition’ of his new £97.5million centre forward.
Lukaku scored twice and, with him in form like this, Chelsea can ride bumps in the road as the boss tinkers, working with his lavish squad, settling players into different roles and helping the regulars to recharge.
The Chelsea boss was also prepared to confront his errors, taking the blame as Saul Niguez was caught out by the ‘intensity’ of Villa’s hustle on his debut and replaced at half-time.
‘I thought before he loses more confidence it was maybe better to take him off,’ said Tuchel, who also demanded more from Callum Hudson-Odoi, deployed as a wing back on his first start since April.
‘I know it’s not his favourite position but I think he can play this position and serve the team when necessary. Here, it was necessary and still he can do better, he can be more aggressive, still he needs to push himself absolutely to the limit.
Saul Niguez made his Chelsea debut but was hooked by his new manager at half-time
‘This is what he does in training and he needs to overcome this gap to fight for his place. This is life at Chelsea.’
Hudson-Odoi, 20, was refused a chance to move on loan to Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day. ‘There was no chance to say yes,’ explained Tuchel. ‘For him, personally, it would maybe have been a good opportunity but for us and the targets we want to achieve, it was simply impossible.’
Jorginho, who replaced Saul at half-time and restored a measure of control, started on the bench having played three times during the international break, as did Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Mason Mount.
It helps, of course, to have Chelsea’s depth of quality. In came Thiago Silva at the back after clearing the diplomatic row with Brazil and FIFA about his non-release.
Callum Hudson-Odoi will have to do more to impress high standards Tuchel long-term too
Mateo Kovacic started three times for Croatia, however, and still impressed for 90 minutes in midfield against Aston Villa, scoring the vital second goal, his first in the Premier League in 21 months, and creating the opener for Lukaku with a wonderful pass. ‘With players like Romelu you understand the movement,’ said Kovacic.
‘He made a great move and the ball in the end was good and we scored a perfect goal so it is amazing to have such a big player in our squad. He is a great character, a great addition.’
Lukaku’s presence and his willingness to keep making runs in behind the opposition’s back line offers another option and Tuchel took the chance to tweak his tactics.
As a coach, he is astute and flexible and made a switch to play longer out of defence in the second half to bypass Villa’s high press.
‘He saw that we struggled to come out playing like we usually do,’ said Kovacic. ‘We changed our style of play a little and we played a little bit of long balls to Romelu so we adapted quite well.’
In less than 12 months, since the belated start to the 2020-21 season, Lukaku has scored 48 in 63 games for club and country.
New signing Lukaku already has three goals this season and will be aiming for the Golden Boot
He has three in three since his return to Chelsea and his second on Saturday, lashed left-footed into the top corner from the edge of the penalty box, exemplified his supreme confidence and inspired comparisons to his hero Didier Drogba.
‘I couldn’t care less to be honest,’ was Tuchel’s retort when asked if thought he might outscore Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. ‘As long as Lukaku scores for us. He was decisive and that’s what we are looking for.
‘He wants to help the team with his goals. He wants to score for Chelsea and he is not shy to speak this ambition out loud. He is full of confidence and is the kind of personality who can handle it.’
He is a more complete footballer after two years at Inter Milan and Chelsea always appear so much more comfortable with their own identity when they have a strong, combative centre-forward leading the line, be it Drogba, Diego Costa or Lukaku.
They are a more complete team, a more complete squad than last season and more capable of surviving an off day without lasting damage.