Thomas Tuchel has transformed Chelsea in his first 100 days
In only 100 days, Thomas Tuchel has reached the Champions League and FA Cup finals, got Chelsea into the top four and beat Zidane, Guardiola, Klopp, Simeone AND Mourinho! So what’s his secret?
- Chelsea reached the Champions League final with 2-0 win over Real Madrid
- It was the latest massive step forward since Thomas Tuchel arrived in January
- The German boss marks 100 successful days as Chelsea boss on Thursday
- They are also in the FA Cup final and pushing for Premier League top-four finish
- Tuchel has made their defence impregnable, with 18 clean sheets in 24 games
- He has also outwitted many top coaches, with Zinedine Zidane the latest
Football rarely has time for sentimentality. It can be ruthless and cruel, waiting for no man.
When time caught up with Frank Lampard in late January, with Chelsea’s season seemingly heading nowhere, many believed a club legend had been shabbily treated.
It was imperative Roman Abramovich, whose club is notorious for having the hottest of hot seats, got his next managerial appointment right.
It was back on January 26 that Thomas Tuchel was welcomed to Stamford Bridge by Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia (right) – with the obligatory socially distanced photograph
100 days on and Tuchel is celebrating Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final
100 days after Thomas Tuchel breezed into Stamford Bridge, we can already conclude that he made an inspired choice.
If a Prime Minister or a President were being judged on the achievements of Tuchel during this first century of days, they’d be on course for a second term with a landslide majority.
The German has barely put a foot wrong and can toast the landmark on Thursday while starting to make plans for Chelsea’s trip to Istanbul for the Champions League final on May 29.
Timo Werner (left) celebrates with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz after scoring the first goal in the Champions League semi-final, second leg against Real Madrid on Wednesday night
It was Mount who scored Chelsea’s second goal late on to seal their passage to Istanbul
Four Premier League fixtures, including this Saturday’s dress rehearsal against Manchester City, plus the FA Cup final at Wembley come first.
Chelsea could yet end the season as Europe’s best team, FA Cup winners and with a top four finish. Not bad at all considering where they were just three-and-a-bit months ago.
So how has it all gone so right for Tuchel? We take a look at the progress made during his first 100 days.
It’s a results business
First, the cold hard numbers. Tuchel has taken charge of 24 matches as Chelsea boss, winning 16 of them, drawing six and losing just two.
Wins 16 Draws 6 Defeats 2
Goals for 32 Goals against 10
Clean sheets 18
Win percentage 66.67
It’s a two-thirds win ratio and a quite astonishing transformation from the dying embers of Lampard’s time in charge when Chelsea lost five out of his last 10 games.
Even the draws and defeats had mitigating factors. He barely knew how to locate his office at the training ground and learnt the players’ names when he took charge of a goalless draw with Wolves on his second day.
The 1-0 defeat to Porto in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final nonetheless saw a 2-1 aggregate success.
And in the 5-2 home loss to West Bromwich Albion – a result that looks so anomalous when set beside the rest – Chelsea played with 10 men for 61 minutes.
Seldom has a manager achieved so many wins at the beginning of their tenure at such a prominent club and without the luxury of pre-season preparation.
Tried and trusted, no tinkering
Tuchel arrived at Chelsea with a reputation for being some kind of tactical contortionist. His Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain teams seemed to have a different set-up in every match. Players were expected to not only adapt between games but during games.
But, perhaps realising that time to express his ideas on the training ground would be severely limited, Tuchel chose the formation he believed would best suit the players at his disposal and has stuck with it.
Joy unconfined for Tuchel and his coaching team at the final whistle on Wednesday night
Three at the back, flying wing-backs and a narrow forward line in either a 3-4-2-1 or a 3-4-1-2 in each game so far.
It’s proved a successful formula for Chelsea, the results kept coming, and so Tuchel and his coaching team sensibly stuck with it.
There will be time for greater experimentation during pre-season but don’t expect the coach to rip everything up and introduce a completely different game plan ahead of the two finals.
Impenetrable at the back
The most remarkable statistic is the 18 clean sheets Chelsea have kept in Tuchel’s 24 games in charge. It’s as if the vulnerable defence of Lampard’s time was just repaired overnight.
They have conceded just 10 goals so far and half of them came in just one match.
Tuchel decided early on that if Chelsea had a rock solid defensive foundation, the rest would naturally follow.
Defenders Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen celebrate Chelsea’s progress to the final
The renaissance of Antonio Rudiger, frozen out by Lampard but restored by Tuchel as a pillar of his three-man defence, has been astonishing.
Chelsea’s latest masked raider was outstanding in Wednesday night’s second leg against Real Madrid, winning pretty much every duel.
Thiago Silva, at 36, has suffered some injury setbacks but continues to sneer in the face of father time. He was excellent against Real and after so many years with PSG, he probably never imagined he might finally win the Champions League with Chelsea.
And the way Andreas Christensen, another defender seemingly surplus to requirements under Lampard, has stepped up just confirms the notion that you never know what’s around the corner in football.
Man in the mask Antonio Rudiger was excellent in keeping Real Madrid at bay on Wednesday
Somehow it has just clicked with these three – and, to a lesser extent, Kurt Zouma – and Chelsea have become fiendishly difficult to break down.
And if someone does breach them, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who made a string of important saves on Wednesday, is proving to be exactly the last line of defence you would want.
After Kepa Arrizabalaga was unceremoniously dumped at the beginning of the season, Mendy is yet more evidence that you often need to be ruthless to succeed in football.
Keeper Edouard Mendy makes a full stretch save to keep Real out during the second leg
Full faith in Kante
N’Golo Kante was sidelined with a hamstring injury when Tuchel arrived and when he started on the bench for the first four Premier League games after returning to fitness, you wondered if his time as the Duracell bunny of Chelsea’s midfield was finished.
His man of the match performance against Real was emphatic proof that the Frenchman can still deliver in the biggest of games.
The highlight was his role in setting up Kai Havertz in the lead-up to the opening goal, deftly taking Sergio Ramos out of the picture, but crucial, as ever, was Kante’s willingness to perform the marathon shift of hard-running, tracking back but also carrying the ball forward.
N’Golo Kante was his usual industrious self and remains the man for the big occasion
Premier League unless stated
Saturday Manchester City (A)
May 12 Arsenal (H)
May 15 Leicester City (Wembley)
FA Cup final
May 18 Leicester City (H)
May 23 Aston Villa (A)
May 29 Manchester City (Istanbul)
Champions League final
We wondered if Tuchel favoured the central midfield combination of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, believing the defence to be rigid enough to not need Kante’s shielding and screening.
But, sensibly, in the biggest games, Kante has been there and delivered. Surely he will be the first name on the teamsheet for the final?
Flying wing-backs suit Chelsea
Tuchel’s homework before starting at Chelsea must have included a bit of analysis of how Antonio Conte’s side won the title in 2016-17 with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses bombing down the flanks.
Somehow the use of wing-backs seems to suit the dashing and daring approach Abramovich wants to see from Chelsea teams, not to mention the fans.
One good thing about Tuchel is that arrived in the job with no pre-held prejudices or preconceptions about the players he had inherited.
Everybody was given their audition early on, including Alonso, who’d been put in football’s equivalent of the deep freeze by Lampard.
Callum Hudson-Odoi even played as a right wing-back in Tuchel’s second game against Burnley – and did well – but ultimately it’s settled down to Reece James on the right and Ben Chilwell on the left.
But on Wednesday, Tuchel felt the added experience of Cesar Azpilicueta was needed on the right and the call paid off.
On the whole, Tuchel has been fearless with his selections and almost always proved correct.
Ben Chilwell has improved in the left wing-back role with the system suiting Chelsea
Remember when everyone was fretting that Tuchel’s arrival would see Mason Mount’s incredible progress in the Chelsea team blocked or halted?
It was feared that the English youngster was so closely associated with Lampard that he might now struggle for game time under a new manager.
What nonsense. Mount has been so consistently good it became literally impossible for Tuchel now to pick him. Not only does he start practically every game but his game continues to evolve and improve.
Mason Mount runs off to celebrate after beating Thibaut Courtois to score Chelsea’s second
It was appropriate that Mount was the one who scored to rubber stamp Chelsea’s passage to the final, his sixth goal since Tuchel took over.
‘He is the full package, mentally, in terms of talent and physically. And the most important part is his character, he has his feet on the ground and he’s a nice guy,’ Tuchel said of the 22-year-old last weekend.
It could be quite the summer for Mount, who looks more like an England shoo-in with every passing week.
The England man was soon buried in a mass pile-on as Chelsea made the tie safe late on
Smart rotation up front
The depth of Chelsea’s attacking options becomes clear when you see the likes of Tammy Abraham (their joint top scorer this season), Hudson-Odoi and Olivier Giroud warming the bench.
With just three places available in Tuchel’s fixed formation, someone is always going to be left disappointed.
That person was Christian Pulisic on Wednesday, with his omission from the starting line-up perceived as harsh by some after his goal in the first leg.
But the American was able to come off the bench and run at a tiring Real defence late on in pursuit of a second goal that should have come much earlier. In the end, Pulisic set Mount up to score it.
Timo Werner has been much maligned but couldn’t miss from two yards on Wednesday
With those two plus Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner to keep happy, it’s been necessary to freshen things up regularly.
Tuchel has been patient with Werner, perhaps appreciating more than most the German’s application and tally of 13 assists for the season rather than his goal return.
Werner will be criticised for the missed chances – he missed a gilt-edged one in Madrid – but is increasingly showing more strings to his bow. It’s also pretty much a given he’ll score more next season.
Havertz has blown hot and cold for an £89million player but is getting there, evidence of the effect Tuchel has in gradually improving players, especially young ones still learning their craft.
Kai Havertz is starting to show a greater consistency under Tuchel and is getting better
There’s going to be bitter disappointment for some of these attackers when they don’t start the final but Tuchel needed to pick his strongest forward line on form.
His plans have taken Chelsea a long way in a short space of time, so why doubt him.
Outwitting the big names
Tuchel’s first 100 days have seen him get the better of Pep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.
In so doing, they have conceded just the one goal – Karim Benzema’s in the first leg against Real Madrid.
Somewhere, West Brom boss Sam Allardyce is feeling pretty smug.
Each opponent has required a foolproof game plan and often with only two or three games between fixtures to drill instructions into the players.
Tuchel got the better of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final
Many managers enjoy a bounce when they start a job but outwitting such esteemed coaches in quick succession speaks to Tuchel’s mental dexterity.
Beating Guardiola’s City in the FA Cup semi-final required a different approach to overcoming Zidane’s Real over two legs but the masterplan worked.
In winning these big games, Tuchel has restored something of an aura around Chelsea. They’re not quite invincible but not far off at the moment. Opponents are starting to fear facing them again.
Now the German has beaten Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid over the course of two legs
The regularity of wins and clean sheets has given Chelsea the impression of being a relentless and efficient machine.
Now with confidence soaring, the only psychological hurdle left to overcome is to win that first silverware of Tuchel’s time.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article