It may still be early days, but Thomas Tuchel has already made an impact in his time in the English Premier League. The German coach arrived at Chelsea in January with the club in ninth place in the table and, after just nine games, had lifted them up to fourth. During that initial spell, they conceded just two goals and only Manchester City earned more points. Chelsea’s performance over the next few months is set to be scrutinized by the football media pages.
In a recent interview, club captain Cesar Azpilicueta noted that “Everything has improved under Thomas Tuchel”, and it’s certainly true that the newcomer has started well compared to other managers in the Roman Abramovich era – but which players have benefitted most from the managerial switch?
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The aforementioned Azpilicueta found himself on the periphery under former boss Frank Lampard with Reece James preferred as the first-choice right-back. However, Tuchel tweaked the formation to a back three and reintroduced the 31-year-old Spaniard into the Chelsea starting XI from day one. He has looked revitalized in this new role, and Chelsea have reaped the rewards. What’s more, this switch could help extend his career for a season or two at a time when his pace is starting to elude him. He has been instrumental in a run of form, which saw the Blues move from 12/5 in the Premier League top-four betting odds with Betway, when Lampard left to 1/3 on March 10, 2021.
Dane Creates a Welcome Selection Dilemma
When Andreas Christensen was called upon to replace Thiago Silva – who went off with a thigh injury in Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Spurs in February, few expected him to deputize so effectively. It was even suggested that Thiago’s absence would deal a blow to the Blues’ revival under the German. After all, the Brazilian was one of the shining lights of Lampard’s team, bringing a wealth of experience from a career that has seen him play in six countries and delivered more than two dozen trophies. However, Christensen slotted seamlessly into the back three and has put in some impressive performances; including an imperious display in the win over Liverpool at Anfield. The question now is whether Thiago Silva can force his way back into the starting XI.
Rudiger Enjoying the Tactical Switch
Chelsea’s rejigged defence has also suited German defender Antonio Rudiger, who has been a regular under Tuchel. The former Roma player seems to thrive on the strict tactical demands which have been placed on the players by the new gaffer. And he also plays with the sense of calm that comes from knowing exactly what you are expected to do on the pitch in different situations. The only blot on his copybook was his own goal against Sheffield United (one of only two goals that Chelsea conceded in Tuchel’s first 10 games in charge – the other went to Southampton’s Takumi Minimino) but he has barely put a foot wrong otherwise.
Mount Proving Doubters Wrong
Mason Mount was left out of Tuchel’s first starting XI but responded well when selected in the next game and hasn’t looked back since. Since then, he has arguably been Chelsea’s best player – scoring goals, creating chances for others, and generally having a big influence on games. Despite some criticism at club and national level, Mount was already a favourite under Frank Lampard and Gareth Southgate. He now looks set to play a key role as he takes his game to a whole new level under the new regime at the Bridge.
Alonso In from The Cold
Marcos Alonso looked to be completely frozen out at Stamford Bridge following a bust-up with Frank Lampard back in September. The left-back allegedly left the stadium after being subbed at half-time against West Brom prompting fury from the Blues legend. Tuchel wiped the slate clean and thrust the Spaniard back into action against Burnley. Alonso repaid his faith with a goal and has featured regularly since, looking close to being back to his best.
The Understated Approach
Chelsea has previously been held up as the embodiment of a footballing era dominated by big money and big egos where superstar players enjoy a level of fame similar to the legendary cricket stars of India. But the current Blues’ squad are hardly a team of superstars. This is a more understated Chelsea and that may work to Tuchel’s advantage as he looks to create competition for places and build a strong team and work ethic.
With so many players already improving, fans will hope the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech can also flourish and provide a more potent goal threat to go along with the improved defensive performances. There will also be anticipation as to who the German might recruit in the summer as he looks to stamp his own mark on the team from London.