In Focus: Tuchel's transformative year has raised expectations

Tom Hancock
LiveScore
26/01/202209:50
Chelsea are struggling to mount a title challenge this season after their Champions League triumph
Chelsea are struggling to mount a title challenge this season after their Champions League triumph

Thomas Tuchel has taken Chelsea to new heights since stepping into the Stamford Bridge dugout last January.

The energetic German reinvigorated a team that was stagnating under Frank Lampard and turned them into European champions in a matter of months.

The Blues may have seen their Premier League title challenge falter this term but they are undoubtedly in a far better place than they were this time last year.

On the anniversary of his arrival in West London, we examine Tuchel’s tenure so far.

‘A good year’

Speaking after Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday, Tuchel reflected on his first 12 months in charge.

He said: "[It has been] A good year, a nice year.

"I feel very good because it feels still like the first day. Nothing has changed — [Chelsea] is exactly the right place to be. I feel an enormous amount of support — hopefully there are many more years to come."

With a Champions League trophy already in the bank and an array of talent at his disposal, it is perhaps no surprise that the 48-year-old is satisfied with how his time in the capital is progressing.

A proven winner

The decision to name Lampard as Maurizio Sarri’s successor in July 2019 felt like the sentimental option above all else.

After all, the three-time Premier League-winning midfielder had only spent one season in management with second-tier Derby during the previous campaign.

Club legend status counts for something but only for so long — and it did not take much longer than a year to see that this experimental appointment was not going to work for an extended period.

Enter Tuchel, only five years older than Lampard but with around a decade more managerial experience in the bank — almost all of it at the top level in Germany and France.

Having just won back-to-back Ligue 1 titles with Paris Saint-Germain and the DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund previously, he arrived with plenty of pedigree.

Frank Lampard enjoyed some initial success in the Chelsea dugout but could not take the Blues to the next level
Frank Lampard enjoyed some initial success in the Chelsea dugout but could not take the Blues to the next level

Tactically on top

Taking over so late in January, Tuchel would not have any new signings to work with for his first four months in charge — but he did not need any.

Eight of the 11 players who started the Champions League final against Manchester City had been involved in Lampard’s final league game in charge, a shapeless 2-0 defeat at Leicester. Tuchel is just a markedly superior tactician.

He switched to a back three, implementing his system with near-immediate success.

Overall, Chelsea have looked notably more structured under their current boss compared with when they were managed by the former England star.

Thomas Tuchel's back-three system has yielded dividends for Chelsea since his appointment
Thomas Tuchel's back-three system has yielded dividends for Chelsea since his appointment

Continuing to give youth a chance

Perhaps the defining feature of Lampard’s tenure was the greater faith he placed in Chelsea’s younger players compared with his predecessors.

Having starred under the boss on loan at Derby, Mason Mount was fast-tracked into the Blues’ first team by the West Londoners’ icon, who also took a shine to Tammy Abraham and handed Billy Gilmour his debut.

And while Abraham ultimately left for Roma last summer, Tuchel has carried on where Lampard left off with 14 academy graduates among the 36 players he has picked so far.

Trevoh Chalobah, 22, is enjoying a breakout season, while 23-year-old Malang Sarr — who signed from Nice in August 2020 before joining Porto on loan — made his Chelsea debut in September and is now up to 10 starts across all competitions.

Chelsea have taken a step forward defensively under Thomas Tuchel
Chelsea have taken a step forward defensively under Thomas Tuchel

No guarantees

Tuchel will be fully aware that the head coach position at Chelsea is one of the least secure in football’s upper echelons — especially after splashing out £97.5million on Romelu Lukaku over the summer.

European glory saw him rewarded with a two-year contract extension in June but that does not necessarily count for anything — as Roberto Di Matteo will attest.

A former fan favourite at Stamford Bridge like Lampard, Di Matteo guided the Blues to their first Champions League triumph in 2012 — only to find himself sacked six months down the line.

Tuchel will have to keep the good times coming, and end the Blues’ recent mixed run of form, sooner rather than later.

Plymouth's visit in the FA Cup next Saturday should be a formality and the reigning FIFA coach of the year would do his chances no harm by adding the Club World Cup to his trophy cabinet in February.

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ChelseaPremier League

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