What has Tuchel got so right in his short time at Chelsea?
From no-hopers to European champions: Thomas Tuchel has turned around a forlorn, confidence-shot Chelsea side under Frank Lampard in the space of four months… so, what has the German got so right compared to his predecessor?
- Chelsea were struggling in January when Frank Lampard was sacked as manager
- But Thomas Tuchel came in and fortunes changed more or less overnight
- The German has recalled and relied on senior players previously not in favour
- N’Golo Kante has rediscovered his form and is the best midfielder in Europe now
- Sportsmail looks at how Tuchel masterminded the Champions League triumph
It’s hard to believe now that Chelsea were in something of a crisis four months ago, when club legend Frank Lampard was controversially dismissed as manager.
Back then, a top four finish in the Premier League was very much in doubt and a Champions League last-16 tie against LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid looked ominous to say the least.
Enter Thomas Tuchel. The German manager has turned around performances dramatically Stamford Bridge, culminating in a memorable triumph in Porto at the weekend – but how? Sportsmail takes a look at the key factors.
Chelsea were crowned Champions League winners on Saturday night after victory in Porto
Thomas Tuchel has turned around a side bereft of confidence and results back in January
REINTEGRATE FORGOTTEN STARS
One of the first moves Tuchel made upon his appointment in late January was to reintegrate star players who were out of favour under Lampard.
In came club captain Cesar Azpilicueta, and Antonio Rudiger was back in the starting XI consistently too.
Alongside Thiago Silva – with Frenchman Kurt Zouma the player missing out – the trio formed a reliable and resistant defensive back-three which became Tuchel’s hallmark in the weeks and months that followed.
In fact, it was Azpilicueta – who incidentally has now won every major trophy in club football at Stamford Bridge – who scored the first goal of the Tuchel era.
Frank Lampard was sacked with the Blues ninth in the league – now they’re European winners
Cesar Azpilicuet (right) and Antonio Rudiger (left) have been vital for Tuchel in defence
Marcos Alonso rediscovered some form – and he was the other scorer in that first win against Burnley, though the Spaniard rotated with Ben Chilwell on a regular basis.
There’s no doubt that, on the whole it’s been a tough opening season in English football for Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Brought into the club last summer for a combined £138m from the Bundesliga, the pair struggled to adapt early on, with 21-year-old struggling for fitness and Werner struggling to find the net.
But Tuchel persevered with the pair and fast-forward to the Estadio do Dragao on Saturday night, they worked superbly in tandem.
Kai Havertz netted the only goal of the game in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester City
Could Werner have had a bagful more goals than his tally of 12 in all competitions? Most definitely. He could have scored at least two on Saturday, if he had his finishing boots on.
But despite his troubles, his work-rate and attitude has never faltered. Similarly with Havertz, who got his just rewards with his match-winning goal at the weekend.
The pair came to Chelsea to win trophies, and they’ve just won the biggest trophy in club football. And they can only improve next season.
Havertz (left) and Timo Werner celebrate their triumph on Saturday after a tough first season
KANTE IS WELL AND TRULY BACK
In the past few months, N’Golo Kante has been northing short of phenomenal.
Man-of-the-match in each of Chelsea’s last three Champions League games, there’s even talk in the aftermath of Saturday that the midfielder could be in line for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
Now, to say talk of being the best on the planet would be far-fetched in January would be, undoubtedly, an understatement.
Take Saturday’s opponents Manchester City as a clear example of Kante’s rapid rise. In the 3-0 home loss in January, the World Cup winner looked ragged, even short of energy and spring.
But four months on, Kante is back to his domineering, influential best. Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Co found it far tougher to stamp their creativity on proceedings. Tuchel must take huge credit for that.
N’Golo Kante was man-of-the-match on Saturday as he added another trophy to his collection
BIG GAMES, BIG MOMENTS
Tuchel’s record in big games since his arrival has been nothing short of sensational. And it reads like this.
Tottenham, win. Liverpool, win. Atletico Madrid, win. Manchester United, draw. Porto, win. Manchester City, win – twice. Real Madrid, win.
In fact, the only hiccup was a tricky period earlier this month, when back-to-back defeats against Arsenal in the league and Leicester in the FA Cup final looked like derailing all of the German’s good work.
Mason Mount celebrates his match-winner against then-champions Liverpool back in March
Now, they had some luck on the final day of the Premier League season. A disappointing defeat at Aston Villa, fortunately, wasn’t decisive in the end.
But on Saturday, once again, Tuchel got his tactics spot on – and his players delivered. The big players – Mason Mount most notably – stepped up in the big moments.
And that’s what brings in silverware.
Three times Tuchel has faced Pep Guardiola in the past two months, in three different competitions.
The net result? Three wins. All by a margin of one goal.
His back-three formation has proved incredibly effective, not just in defensive solidity but in allowing the likes of Chilwell and Reece James to power forward with great effect.
In midfield, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Kante have proved extremely effective, allowing the likes of Mount, Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech to flourish up ahead.
Tuchel has used passion but also humility and his own personal touches to help the Blues win
That’s Tuchel’s other key card – he has used his squad incredibly well, amidst challenging on two fronts as well as fighting for a top-four finish.
The German has proved impressive in galvanising a squad which, rumour had it, had lost patience with Lampard. And he’s done it with humility too.
A finalist last year with PSG, Tuchel has gone a step further this time round – and no one can say he doesn’t fully deserve this triumph.
Tuchel celebrated with his family with the Champions League trophy after the Porto final
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