It’s the infamous late January morning where Frank Lampard was sacked, Chelsea sits comfortably outside the top four with no happy ending in sight. Fast forward a few weeks and Thomas Tuchel has the Blues flying. Liverpool’s horrendous loss at Leicester City on Saturday means that with a positive result on Monday, Chelsea will catapult itself into a Champions League spot for the time being. It’s nothing short of remarkable, especially given everything that could’ve gone wrong for the Blues this season, has seemingly gone wrong.
As Chelsea mounts another unbeaten run though, there are questions being asked the second time around. Under Lampard, the Blues easily dispatched of the teams they pushed aside on their 17-game stretch, Tuchel’s team has struggled against sub-par opposition though. Can Chelsea keep it up? Signs point toward the German being able to continue his winning ways, but he may need to tweak a few things in order to do so.
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First things first, there’s no telling whether the 3-4-3 is the best formation for the Blues. Barnsley’s disciplined press exposed the flaws in Tuchel’s preferred set-up, so there’s no doubt some of the Premier League’s best could do it too. Chelsea hasn’t played three at the back—aside from a few games under Lampard—since Antonio Conte’s reign. Suffice it to say, there’s been a huge squad turnover since then. The Blues didn’t bring in the players they did this summer to completely change systems. Even though there’s a new manager, there will have to be compromise sometime down the line. The Blues played better against Barnsley during the second half with the return of four at the back. Although that doesn’t mean the switch needs to be made right now, it will need to be made sooner rather than later if Chelsea wants to get into the top four.
In addition to the systematic shift, Tuchel will need to find a way to get a few individuals into the squad. There are a handful of players that are appearing constantly thus far during the 47-year-old’s time in charge who either don’t have a long-term future in the team or have a history of inconsistency. Both of these issues are warning signs that the confidence could fade at any moment.
The first of these players is Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s name being mentioned may surprise a few people, but the fact of the matter is, he simply shouldn’t be starting regularly for the Blues anymore. He’s been a wonderful asset in west London during his time at the club, there’s no denying that fact. However, Giroud’s set to depart during the summer and he shouldn’t be holding Tammy Abraham back anymore. Abraham is the Blues’ most important attacking player and he showed that once again at Barnsley. He’s the future of the club’s attacking front and his return should be rewarded with time on the pitch. Abraham gives Chelsea the best chance at succeeding and he makes all of the forwards around him better. Starting Giroud is justified when he’s in scintillating form, but the fact of the matter is, he hasn’t scored since the Aston Villa match back in December. Therefore, it’s Abraham’s time to shine.
Next is Antonio Rudiger. Rudiger’s an incredible centerback on his day; his passing and poise are top class. The problem with the German is his lapse in concentration—the comical own goal against Sheffield United is the best example of this. Rudiger’s got a history of being woefully inconsistent, dating back to the Conte days. Kurt Zouma is the future anchor of Chelsea’s defense and keeping him on the bench in favor of Rudiger would be a massive mistake by Tuchel. Zouma not only gives the Blues a better chance to win in the short-term, but also the future. He and Silva formed a fantastic partnership early in the season, it’d be a shame to see that go to waste, regardless of formation.
The last player that needs to play less is Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard is a fantastic wingback on his day, but much like Rudiger, often has mental mistakes. Conte found this out, Maurizio Sarri figured this out and Lampard discovered the harsh reality, as well. The 30-year-old is fantastic when in form, but he’s limited to being a wingback. Meanwhile, Ben Chilwell is rotting away on the bench after a £50 million summer switch from Leicester City. Chilwell is one of the most talented young fullbacks in the league and the sooner Tuchel finds this out, the better. The Englishman is a man of many talents and is capable of playing in any defensive shape. Further, he’s far less likely to commit an error and has a bright future ahead of him.
Chelsea fans have reservations about Tuchel due to his team selection. In addition to being a club legend, the biggest thing Lampard had going for him was his plan for the future. He—along with Roman Abramovich and the board—put this club in a fantastic place to achieve long-term success. They built a young core of world class players and straying away from that is the worst thing that can happen during this managerial change.
If Tuchel wants to continue his successful start with the Blues, he’ll need to make a few changes to the set-up and the starting XI.