Thomas Tuchel has begun his Chelsea managerial career in style, gleaning seven points out of a possible nine in his first three tilts. The 1-0 win away at Tottenham, a top side with a world class manager, clearly indicates that the Blues can indeed beat the top half of the table teams, a question that had lingered all season.
Tuchel’s efforts and that of his reworked side have lifted Chelsea up to sixth in the table a mere—but tenuous—four points off Champions League qualification at the moment. That’s a target that this side, if it continues winning, can achieve with a little help. That’s a great start for a manager assuming a completely new squad, in a new country, in a completely different league and during a crisis time in history that is unprecedented since World War II.
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Tuchel, without any additions in January, has taken a squad that has had a tough period just prior to his hiring and turned things around for the moment in dramatic fashion. The results are not so fascinating as the manner in which he has achieved these great results with the same squad in such a short time. Tuchel has taken unused or spare parts and refashioned the Chelsea football engine into a well-tuned machine. Yet, even while he has achieved these early results, he has done so in a most unusual manner.
In the three games in which Tuchel has been on the Blues’ sideline, he has won two games and drawn one. Almost inconceivably though, he has done so without a goal from any of his forwards. One thing this writer has harped upon for some time is the necessity for the Blues to get their forwards firing on all cylinders, similar to a pristine Aston Martin. Both Frank Lampard and Tuchel still have had some difficulties unlocking the scoring potential of the club’s high-powered forward line. Now it seems they aren’t scoring much at all; the three goals scored in the two wins and draw have been scored by a wingback, a central defender and a defensive midfielder on a penalty kick. Yet, that notwithstanding, the Blues are on a solid streak since Tuchel took charge.
In addition, defensively, his defenders and keeper Edouard Mendy have also claimed three clean sheets, a clear indication that his tactical changes to primarily a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 formations have worked wonders in keeping the opposition off the score sheet. In light of these positive results, what might we look for in succeeding games from this newly recharged side? One thing for certain is the absolute necessity to get the wingers and center-forwards untracked. That is imperative if Chelsea is to extend this positive streak.
The Blues are still not putting games out of reach by scoring multiple goals leading to a comfortable win rather than nail-biting finishes. To achieve this, Tuchel needs to energize the substantial attacking talent that Chelsea possesses. Unlocking that dimension in the attack could just lead the Blues to a much more satisfying conclusion to the season than was expected as late as two weeks ago. The keys to this could very well be Tuchel’s German countrymen, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Werner is in a sustained scoring funk and needs a goal desperately. Havertz just needs to play more. Getting Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi scoring would also help.
There is another point to note, and it is not easy to take issue with a managerial decision after a big win, especially a successful decision. The issue in question was the selection of Jorginho to take the Chelsea penalty, which he did successfully. It was a positive decision in the short-term, no doubt. However, long-term, not bolstering the confidence of Werner by allowing him to take those chances in the future—thereby hopefully kick-starting a sustained scoring run this season—could prove to be a detriment to the team’s ultimate level of success. But, that’s neither-here-nor-there.
Tuchel has had a fabulous initiation into the Premier League and the club is on the rise. Former talented spare parts and sometimes squad players are now contributing significantly to the side’s success. What’s to complain about in all that? Not too much.
Hopefully Tuchel’s training methods will shortly get the forwards firing in goals in bunches. Should that finally happen, the sky will be the limit for Chelsea, as was predicted by many observers earlier. Here’s hoping that Tuchel can unlock those scoring talents from the talented center-forwards, wingers and attacking midfielders on the squad.