Thirteen games ago, Chelsea looked to be in a real hole. The team were not winning regularly and performances were very inconsistent. Many fans stood behind Lampard to carry on as manager, including me at least until the end of the season, but the higher-ups made the decision to remove Super Frank. Being completely ruthless and ignoring his stellar playing career with the club, Lampard was in a similarly precarious position as other Chelsea managers who were subsequently sacked. The team were sitting in tenth with no evidence that there would be an immediate turnaround. And if there wasn’t one, Chelsea’s place in next season’s European competitions would be at serious risk. The players looked devoid of confidence and Lampard didn’t look to have an idea of how to turn things back towards the highs of October, November and early December when the team had gone 17 matches unbeaten. The team could play very well, then lose three on the trot.
But Thomas Tuchel’s arrival has changed a great deal at the club. In the thirteen games the German has been in charge, Chelsea have conceded just twice, including a run of six consecutive clean sheets. That defensive solidity has helped the club remain unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel so far, the longest unbeaten run under a new manager since Luiz Felipe Scolari’s run of twelve in 2008. The great weakness in Lampard’s final games in charge, and what I would argue did for him in the end, was the lack organisation in the defence and the consequent conceding of goals. On the flipside there was the lack of form of the attacking players, who couldn’t help the team overcome their defensive problems by outscoring the opposition. I would say Tuchel has only really cured one of those ailments. As stated before, the defence since Tuchel’s arrival have only conceded twice in thirteen games, including clean sheets against Manchester United, Liverpool and two against Atletico Madrid. This has been achieved through a shift in formation, utilising three centre backs with wing-backs, rather than Lampard’s preferred flat back four. Chelsea have played this system before to great success under Antonio Conte and Frank Lampard. They know how it works, what their roles within the system are and they are working together in the same direction. I would argue though that Tuchel has not yet got the forward players truly firing. Their performances have certainly picked up, but regular goalscoring still eludes Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and the rest of the frontline. If Tuchel is going to take this team to the next level, he needs to find a way of giving those players the service and the confidence they need to really kick on take games out of the reach of opposition teams.
When Thomas Tuchel took over the side, they were tenth in the league, facing a tough draw in the Champions League and not looking like a serious contender for the F.A. Cup. And while it would be premature in the extreme to start making predictions of glory at the end of this season, the prospects are looking an awful lot better. The Blues came through what initially looked like a very tough European tie against the Spanish league leaders in supremely impressive fashion, completely nullifying a strong attack and taking enough of the chances created to win the tie. They play an F.A. Cup quarter-final today against a Sheffield United side totally devoid of confidence and now without their leader who had led them from League One all the way to the Premier League, with another trip to Wembley for the cup semi-final as the prize. And while it would be foolish to discount a Porto side that saw off Juventus away with ten men, Chelsea have managed to avoid the truly dangerous sides for now. There is a very real chance that Chelsea could make the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014 under Jose Mourinho. And that is on top of potentially finishing in the top four outright and guaranteeing Champions League football through our league position. We will have to see how the rest of the season plays out; nothing is written in the stars. But Thomas Tuchel’s record at Chelsea in the short time he has been in charge is exceptional, and makes me very excited to see where he takes the team.
This article was written prior to Chelsea’s F.A. Cup semi-final against Sheffield United on 21/03/2021.