Thomas Tuchel Has Re-Wired Chelsea And Europe Is Trembling
After five losses from eight games, the Chelsea board made the ruthless decision to sack Frank Lampard just 18 months after their legendary midfield had been appointed manager.
The removal or Lampard opened the door for former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel, who in short time has completely transformed the Blues, making them once again one of the EPL’s most feared entities.
Since his arrival, Chelsea have gone ten games unbeaten, conquering the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton domestically, while knocking off Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
The Blues’ rapid transformation has sent shockwaves across Europe, yet the question is, just how has the Bavarian done it?
Re-designed, Re-inforced Defence
One of the most obvious improvements under Tuchel has been Chelsea’s defence.
In the absence of both Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma, Tuchel has opted for a back-3, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen stepping up, along with captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
This re-designed rear-guard had conceded just two goals in ten games with that defensive trio combining for 21 tackles and 62 clearances in those matches, speaking to a cohesiveness and solidity that's had a strong trickle down effect on the rest of the team.
Overall, the Blues are ranked fifth in the EPL for interceptions with 291, and second in tackles in the midfield-third with 203. These are two areas the 2017 PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante has his fingerprints all over. The Frenchmen’s combination with Matteo Kovacic has blossomed under Tuchel, forming something of an impenetrable forcefield in the middle of the park. In fact, in Chelsea’s last 10 games they’ve conceded just 7 'big chances', which is in drastic contrast to Lampard’s end-of-tenure run which saw the club concede 16 over his last 10 games.
New System, New Team
A familiar theme of the short-lived Lampard regime was his 4-3-3 system, which placed a higher premium on continuity and consistency then it did rotation or tactical adaptation.
Tuchel’s arrival has completely flipped the switch. He’s implemented a variation on a 3-4-3 system with constant player rotations making his team highly unpredictable and difficult to prepare against- especially considering the sheer level of talent at his disposal.
In all but one of Tuchel’s ten matches in charge, Chelsea have won the possession battle, which is indicative of the patient approach the German preaches.
Under Tuchel, Chelsea have averaged a 61.2% share of possession, with their better defined system providing them with a more effective path to breaking down opponents. It's a system which has also found a way to re-prioritise the role of Jorginho, with the Italian exerting the level of influence he enjoyed under Maurizio Sarri. Under Tuchel, Jorginho had played a full 90 minutes in 8 of Chelsea's 10 matches, scoring three goals and winning three 'man of the match' honours.
Chelsea's more settled, controlled approach, epitomised by Jorginho and Kante, has enabled the likes of Timo Wener and Mason Mount to better utilise their speed, also allowing them greater fluidity with Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud up front.
Callum-Hudson Odoi's move to wing-back has allowed Mason Mount to enjoy a more advanced role, with this change providing a new lease on life to two young English stars who’ll be hoping Gareth Southgate has noticed their potential ahead of June’s European Championship.
So, Can they challenge Man City next season?
Assuming Manchester City run away with the league this season, and with a 98.5% probability according to the Stats Insiders Futures Model, it’s a more than reasonable assumption, it’s already time to start thinking about the 2021/22 campaign.
The question is, who’ll be best placed next season from preventing Guardiola's men from running rampant once again?
The continuity and chemistry that will be gained from a full pre-season under Tuchel will be immense, while in Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic, the Blues have two of the Europe's most prestigious young talents, and who could be set to absolutely explode.
Chelsea will also be closely monitoring what’ll sure to be one of Europe’s most intense player movement periods this summer, with players such as Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland all tipped to find new homes. Should Chelsea be a destination for one of these stars, then Chelsea's threat will be terrifying.
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