One month after arriving in England and declaring he would build a Chelsea team that nobody wants to play against, Thomas Tuchel is sticking to his word.
It has not been particularly pretty, and this goalless draw with Manchester United certainly was not, but Tuchel remains unbeaten as Chelsea head coach and his safety-first approach may yet be enough to secure a top-four spot.
After switching to a back three, Chelsea have conceded just two goals in nine games under Tuchel and nine goals scored during that period have been enough to claim six victories in all competitions.
But this will go down as a missed chance to really push themselves back into the top-four picture in the Premier League, with United missing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes some way from his best.
The visitors argued, perhaps correctly, that they should have been awarded a first-half penalty against Callum Hudson-Odoi, but, like the hosts, they lacked invention and quality when it really mattered.
Such is Manchester City’s dominance at the top of the table that second-placed United will be far more wary of being caught by the teams behind them than seriously thinking about closing the gap on the leaders who are disappearing into the distance.
Chelsea could have put real pressure on United with a victory, but they are still seeking a statement success in the League following the impressive Champions League win against Atletico Madrid.
For all the good work Tuchel has done, it should be noted that this draw meant that six of the Premier League results under the German have now mirrored the opposite fixtures for which Frank Lampard was in charge.
It remains a concern that Chelsea are not yet beating the teams they want to challenge, with games against Liverpool and Everton to come and Tuchel’s frustration with his attacking players has been evident.
Against Southampton, it was Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham who were in Tuchel’s firing line, as they were substituted, and this week it was Hakim Ziyech and substitute Timo Werner.
Hudson-Odoi was once again substituted, at half-time, but this time it was in part because of an injury and Ziyech was fortunate to last 78 minutes, following a woeful first-half performance in which Tuchel screamed his frustration.
Ziyech improved slightly after the break, but he was eventually replaced by Werner, who quickly annoyed Tuchel by failing to use his right foot when sending a tame left-footed effort straight at David de Gea.
Tuchel was also angered by some of the officiating, none more so before and after the free-kick that resulted in the one moment of real controversy in the 15th minute.
One might have expected Tuchel to be a relieved man that a check from the video assistant referee on Hudson-Odoi did not result in a penalty, but the 47-year-old instead shouted at United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that it had been Mason Greenwood who, in his opinion, had in fact handled the ball first.
Tuchel was also furious of the initial award of the free-kick against Mason Mount, who he insisted had not touched Scott McTominay. Edouard Mendy punched Marcus Rashford’s set-piece before Hudson-Odoi cleared the ball away from Greenwood in his own penalty area.
But after Ziyech had then seen a tame shot easily saved by De Gea, play was stopped after Var had recommended that Attwell should consult the monitor to review whether or not Hudson-Odoi had handled the ball.
Replays appeared to show that the bounce did in fact bounce off Hudson-Odoi’s hand, but, with Chelsea duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Mateo Kovacic in close attendance giving their opinions, Attwell decided against awarding a spot-kick.
Tuchel had first been upset that Olivier Giroud had been penalised early on after making minimal contact with Harry Maguire. It was the Frenchman who went closest for Chelsea before the break, just failing to connect with a Hudson-Odoi cross after the wing-back had been brilliantly picked out by Antonio Rudiger.
Two players brought back into the starting line-up by Tuchel, Ben Chilwell and N’Golo Kante, made vital interventions when United threatened. Chilwell got his head to a Rashford high pass intended for Mason Greenwood, while Kante just got his foot to the ball first when Rashford lined up a shot shortly before the interval.
Kante was excellent on his return, particularly in the first half, while Luke Shaw was United’s best player and the left-back prevented Chelsea taking the lead four minutes after the restart.
Ziyech should have scored from Mount’s pass, but Shaw reacted first to De Gea’s save to stop the Morocco international getting another chance and he then dived in front of James to block the substitute’s shot.
Shaw later turned creator, as he flashed a dangerous low cross across the front of goal. The ball ran all the way through to Aaron Wan-Bissaka at the back post and he found McTominay, who forced a smart save from Mendy.
Mendy was relieved to see a curling shot from Fred whistle just wide of his left-hand post and then gathered at the second attempt after spilling a Dan James cross.
But neither team particularly deserved a winner and a limp, rather than a sprint, towards the finishing line and potentially achieving their goals, currently looks more likely for both.