A Chelsea Fan’s Take On Why Tuchel Is The Perfect Appointment
Whichever way you write it, this number takes over your mind with visualizations of doom, death, destruction and most notably, Frank De Boer’s disastrous spell at Crystal Palace.
It’s kind of funny how I am writing about the number thirteen on a Friday and not thinking about Jason coming at me with a machete, trying to use my deflated lungs as a punching bag. Maybe I’m just hoping he isn’t at my front door. That’s a Friday the 13th reference, everyone.
But the curse of this number has turned out to be quite the opposite for Chelsea Football Club and quite a special one when they were going into the FA Cup weekend. If you didn’t see what I did there, you definitely won’t appreciate me at my worst.
13 games undefeated, 11 clean sheets, 2 goals conceded and a 69.23%-win percentage since his arrival in late January. Having set the record for the longest ever unbeaten start by a Chelsea manager, it’s probably the best start a new boss could ask for after taking over mid-season. And with the win against Southampton (yes, I do have a time machine), things are even better.
Of course, I’m talking about one man and one man only- Thomas Tuchel, who I think is perfect for Chelsea. Here’s why.
Honestly, as a Chelsea fan, this season and the last has been one hell of a roller coaster. Right from the transfer ban to the loss of Maurizio Sarri and Eden Hazard, bringing in Frank Lampard and spending fortunes in the summer transfer window and then the injuries to the new lads, a lot has happened to say the least. And yet taking the top spot in the winter of 2020 to our club’s greatest goalscorer being shown the door and Tuchel coming to the training ground straight off his flight, one could say that these issues would make even Roman Abramovich sweat for the space they take on his new yacht.
And to be in the position that we are in now is enough to say that the club finally have some stability coming into this new era of Tuchel’s Chelsea.
A top 4 finish looks all but secured by the German given that we win the upcoming fixtures that we’re supposed to before the City game at the start of May. With West Ham dropping points against Arsenal, despite being 3-0 up a little over half an hour and Liverpool being far from their best, Champions League football looks to be in our grasp, heading into next season.
To be honest, the mere fact that Tuchel has an 18-month contract riddled with incentive-based clauses has all but helped the club both financially and mentally as well, prepared the players to step up their game to deliver the results. We all know about the “revolving door policy” of Chelsea’s management but it’s safe to say that they’ve got it right this time, rather than paying 7-figure sums to release underperforming managers from their contracts.
The renewed pressure to perform at the highest level has once again brought motivation to those who felt Lampard lacked the tactical nous to integrate the Blues’ big money signings.
The Tactical One
I had to.
Since his arrival at Chelsea, you may have noticed how technical Tuchel gets in every press conference when addressing the roles of his players based on the lineups. He’s been known to switch up his formations a whole lot with the addition of some eccentric training methods used in Cobham. With the utilization of ‘mini footballs’ or using hands instead of feet in some games, this is certainly an aspect that is bound to keep the Chelsea roster on their toes.
At PSG, we saw Tuchel build his side around the mercurial talents of Neymar and Mbappe, integrating them in a 4-3-3 for a majority of the matches with him busting out his evil genius lab coat in crucial fixtures for the club that propelled them to the Champions League final under the German.
At Dortmund, we saw him use a flexible 4-1-4-1 formation that gave creative midfielders such as the likes of Gundogan and Kagawa the freedom to constantly form triangles, dominating possession and emphasizing control. He’s never stopped using the gegenpress in his previous managerial spells and this tactical trend has continued at Chelsea too. At Mainz, the German utilized a diamond and this goes to show that wherever Tuchel goes, he adapts but his principles stay intact.
At Chelsea, to compensate for Chelsea’s dicey defence, Tuchel has implemented a 3-4-2-1 as well as a 3-4-1-2 in a majority of the games. And ever since his arrival, the West London outfit have conceded a mere 2 goals in his 14 matches at the throne. With the wing-backs pushing higher up and a back 3 of Azpilicueta, Christensen and Rudiger looking resurrected, if there’s one thing Chelsea don’t do, that’s leaking goals. Imagine saying that under Lampard.
Dominate the ball, concede a low volume of chances and be solid if not spectacular is summing us up under Tuchel. And in the second half, to add to their control, the German coach shifts to a 4-3-3 to ensure that there is always the option of adding an extra midfielder to ensure supremacy as the game reaches its closing minutes.
If it’s Jorginho against the sides where Chelsea almost keep the ball like they own it, Kante comes in to roll back the years against a team like Atleti that gets in your face. If a Hudson-Odoi annihilates Erik Pieters against Burnley, a Reece James returns back to the fold to do the same to Renan Lodi.
Different games, different level of stakes and the manager understands that and chooses wisely. From both a tactical and a selection point of view, the man is top drawer.
The vets look seasoned again
I think we’ve all been impressed with how Thomas Tuchel has entrusted the youth but his man-management of the vets has been phenomenal too.
The likes of Alonso, Giroud, Rudiger and Jorginho all saw their game time deteriorating under Lampard who were honestly the stars in campaigns under either Conte or Sarri. The one advantage of having a new manager come in is the fact that everyone gets a fresh start and it’s been evident in the upturn of form we’ve seen in especially this lot.
Marcos Alonso has certainly benefitted from this as he clearly is an out-and-out wing-back and the return of this role under Tuchel has seen him make his way back to his burgeoning best. Instead of playing as a left-back that left a lot to be desired in a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 under Super Frank, this role gets the best out of the Spaniard while making sure his worst doesn’t come to the fray.
It is also encouraging to see the ex-Bolton defender back in the fold, giving competition to Ben Chilwell who has everything in his game to dominate that role but at the minute, it has Marcos Alonso written all over it.
As for Olivier Giroud, he deserves every chance he can get under Tuchel. A classic Premier League striker, say what you want about the Frenchman but his hold-up play is absolutely immense. Under Lampard, he grew impatient with his limited appearances, especially off the bench. Oli looked likely to move in the last two transfer windows but still remained a loyal servant to the club.
Cut to his screamer against Atletico Madrid and you can tell he’s certainly in the manager’s plans.
From the outside looking in, Tuchel gives the impression that every player in the squad is privy to their role and an experienced pro like Giroud must resonate with this idea instead of being in the dark about such things on the wrong side of 30.
And since Tuchel’s German connection has been spoken about ever since he got linked to the Chelsea job, it looks like it has certainly worked wonders with fellow countryman, Antonio Rudiger. With Zouma and Silva as the starting pair under Frank, it’s been an eventful couple of months for Toni. We know what he’s capable of and seeing him keep Suarez in his back pocket against Atleti in both legs only shows you why the ex-Roma centre-half continues to be a beast.
I personally was a huge admirer of the Zouma-Rudiger partnership before Thiago Silva came along and as things stand, the pair have been sensational, especially the latter.
Another man who has looked reborn under Tuchel is Jorginho. At Dortmund, Julian Weigl was a fulcrum in the system and while operating as a defensively-minded midfielder, the German international went on to become a deep-lying playmaker that would dictate things like it was nobody’s business. This role has been adopted by Jorginho in the Chelsea midfield in most formations Tuchel has used so far and it’s a relief to see the Italian being used just as well as he was under Sarri.
His pairing with the exceptional Mateo Kovacic, someone I’d run all the way to West London from Pune just to watch in the midfield has helped Chelsea remain dominant in possession in these last 14 victories. Initially someone who I disliked amongst the other options, Jorginho has renewed faith in me that his presence will be felt through how he sets the transition as well as the tempo of matches as he orchestrates the contest as a No.6.
The reason why I haven’t touched on the likes of Azpilicueta and Kante is because they could have their down spells but honestly, the pair are timeless and are proving that, week in, week out.
It’s hard to say what will happen to the vets after the next transfer window but at the minute, they have been on the money.
Trusting the youth when not many believed in them
I’m not going to touch on the likes of Mount, James and Abraham but those that people slowly started to lose their faith in. Under Tuchel, we’ve seen a resurgence from some of our young bucks and how.
The one trend I’ve seen Tuchel bring to any of the clubs he has s managed is the ability to bring notable young players into the fray and help them deliver stellar performances that keep them at the club for ages as a pillar in the positions they play.
Andreas Christensen looks like a player reborn in Tuchel’s system. In the absence of Thiago Silva, he’s come in and been a powerhouse in the defence against the likes of Liverpool, United, Everton, Atletico Madrid and most of all, he is proving his worth. His ability to be press-resistant while delivering long forward passes to enable the transitions have been brilliant in the build-up to the goalscoring chances created by the Blues. It will be tough to take him out of the back three once Silva is fit and with the form he is in now, it only gives us hope for the foreseeable future.
Many of us felt that Callum Hudson-Odoi deserved more game time under Lampard and every time he would come off the bench, the Englishman would look like the best player on the pitch. Seeing him flourish under the German in a surprisingly new wingback role that seems natural for his young talent is a sight for sore eyes and when James occupies that role, CHO looks as dangerous behind the striker in a 3-4-2-1 shape. His versatility, pace and skill has all but proven that he can play in any role under the German manager.
Kai Havertz is another one who has got his fair share of stick but is slowly but surely looking lie the part as a false 9. His critics forget he is just 21 years of age, has moved from one country to another in a pandemic, suffered with COVID-19 and is playing in a side that was a bit of a mess. He’s finally starting to find his feet and Tuchel taking him under his wing has a lot to do with that. The way Kai links play, drops deep and finds smart positions in the channels is top quality.
It’s clear to see that I think Thomas Tuchel is the man. Only time will tell but the signs are promising and that’s an understatement.