“He’s definitely going to thrive at Chelsea, and working with us. He’s going to bring a lot to our team so it’s a very good signing.”
Chelsea supporters were treated to a small glimpse of what Mason Mount suggested Kalidou Koulibaly would bring to the club. There has been plenty of expectation around the former Napoli star following his £33 million move this summer, and with Antonio Rudiger’s departure, a rather large gap to fill.
“He’s a leader,” said Tuchel. “We had good information about him from Edou (Mendy) and from Jorginho. We got the same feedback: a fantastic guy, a leader in the dressing room, calm, a role model. When you dig in and start looking at his games, analysing his games, you see the quality in defending, the quality in body positioning, and his timing of defending.
“He uses both feet for build-up, he is confident, mobile and very experienced. When we had the chance, we went for it. It was our top priority. Very happy that he is with us.”
For large parts of the afternoon, Koulibaly lived up to the billing. He left Anthony Gordon with little place to turn in one-on-one situations, had the presence of mind and agility to nip in with clever touches and even had a Cruyff turn to ensure Chelsea’s own play remained fluent. The strength in his challenges more than showed the quality he will bring over the course of this season.
While the season is underway, the 31-year-old remains a work in progress for the Blues, however. Koulibaly is still learning his role and even after a superb last-ditch tackle in the opening half that saw Chelsea’s lines cleared, he was lectured by Thiago Silva about how to position himself within the back three. A stare and lots of gesturing made sure that his teammate knew where to move as the Blues moved upfield.
The Brazilian is one of few players to have more experience than his new teammate and the 90 minutes was not short of firm stares when other Chelsea star’s play meant he had to sprint to bail the team out. Koulibaly cannot have a better education than what Silva will provide, even as a mature student.
The defender was unable to complete 90 minutes due to cramp, and with a hellacious schedule on the way, Chelsea’s coaching staff will have to ensure that he is up to speed as there were certainly indications he will prove to be a crucial cog. The highest compliment that could be made is that he may bring the talents of Rudiger without the dramatics.
Jorginho’s penalty may have separated the sides but the work of Silva and Koulibaly kept a busy, if ineffective, Everton frontline at bay. Chelsea’s strength at the start of last season was keeping clean sheets, and a win at Goodison Park without conceding a goal is a strong start from a sluggish performance. Koulibaly’s education will need to be quick however. The likes of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane await next week at Stamford Bridge and a faultless performance may be required.