NOT EVEN the most long-serving and nerdy Chelsea fans in and around the press box could remember the last time their club played with two strikers.
But they won’t forget today's debacle in the hope it is a very long time before they make the same mistake again.
At least until they have got the personnel to and the tactics to make it work.
In the biggest game of the season so far Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel paired Romelu Lukaku and Timo Wener up front for the first time.
Up until yesterday it has been Lukaku starting with Werner warming the bench for much of the time.
Forced into a reshuffle partly by injury and partly out of choice, Tuchel tinkered with his starting line up in a bid to spring a surprise on opposite number Pep Guardiola.
Just as City’s boss tried to be clever the last time these two teams met in last season’s Champions League final by refusing to play a centre forward at all.
With key midfielder Mason Mount injured, Tuchel brought Werner in from the cold but instead of swapping like for like, opted for a two-pronged attack.
The idea was for Chelsea’s wing backs to support the outnumbered men in midfield and provide a steady stream of crosses for Werner’s pace and Lukaku’s unique eye for a goal.
Chelsea lost 1-0, could not manage a single shot on target throughout and were put in their place by one of their main rivals for the Premier League this season.
It was a scruffy goal that made the difference but the dreadful failure of Tuchel’s tactics will be a cause for examination going forward.
What was supposed to be three at the back became a full five as Chelsea fell back to avoid being overwhelmed by the legions of attackers in sky blue.
Fans at Stamford Bridge have grown accustomed to marvelling at the sight of captain and defender Cesar Azpilicueta barrelling down the right flank at breakneck speed and defying his age to make a nuisance of himself at the other end of the field.
It’s the same with Marcos Alonso on the opposite side.
But with the air being squeezed out of their plans to raid the City half by a blue wall of visiting players on the front foot, there was nothing but a vacuum between Chelsea’s midfield and forward line.
Consequently, Lukaku and Werner were left to prowl the further reaches of the pitch with very little time on the ball and relegated to mere spectator roles apart from a couple of forays into the opposition box during the first half.
Both times that came down Werner's preferred patch on the left and both times he was shadowed expertly by Ruben Dias.
Only once did Werner manage to penetrate the City box with a turn and low cross and even then his normally ruthless Belgian team-mate was unable to spin and get the purchase on the ball needed to even remotely trouble City keeper Ederson.
The spectacular failure of pairing Lukaku and Werner up front is more of a problem for the German than his newly-arrived team-mate.
With Lukaku costing a club record £97.5 million but also hitting the ground running as he has since signing from Inter Milan in the summer, there is only going to be one winner in the battle for what must surely become the sole striker’s position from now on.
That means Lukaku is safe with the number nine shirt and Werner is looking at more bench time while Tuchel works out what to do with his fellow countryman who all of a sudden doesn’t seem to have a place at Chelsea.
Tuchel’s error was the mistaken belief that Werner, who has struggled for most of his time in English football, could be brought out of mothballs and produce what he hasn’t been able to do so far – a consistent threat on goal when playing as a centre forward.
One goal for Chelsea in the EFL Cup against Aston Villa since May does not suggest a player in tip top form.
The only surprise was that Chelsea stuck with the game plan as long as they did – finally giving up the ghost bang on the hour with N’Golo Kante removed to make way for Kai Havertz.
The man who scored the winner in last May’s Champions League final added more width up front and the effect was almost instantaneous.
Havertz teed up Lukaku to tap the ball in just a couple of minutes after coming on only for it to be ruled out for offside.
But with the blossoming, young German forward on board, the supply line to the strikers was flowing again – like the petrol pumps used to.
However Chelsea’s performance can only be described as unleaded and don’t expect to see this formation again any time soon.
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