A lot has been said about Thomas Tuchel’s team selection since he took charge of Chelsea a few weeks ago. The German completely abandoned the progress Frank Lampard made during his time as manager and switched to a three-at-the-back formation. Players like Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jorginho—who struggled to get minutes under the previous regime—are all now a crucial part of Tuchel’s project. Meanwhile, players like Kurt Zouma, Reece James, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have seen their minutes cut significantly. Don’t fret though, the youth revolution remains full steam ahead.
Regardless of individual feelings, there’s no denying these changes have produced results. Aside from Tuchel’s debut draw against Wolves, the Blues have taken three points from every match they’ve played—and advanced in the FA Cup. It may not always be pretty, it may not always be easy on the eye, but the fact of the matter is, Chelsea is winning. The Blues aren’t just thriving as a unit though, Tuchel is seemingly getting the best out of some of the players.
Perhaps the player who has been at his best thus far under the guidance of the 47-year-old is Mateo Kovacic. The 2020 Chelsea Player of the Year is looking to make a late push and fight to retain that award for at least another season. The Croatian has found his footing in Tuchel’s new 3-4-3 system and has done a wonderful job dictating play from the middle of the park alongside Jorginho. Kovacic has been integral in getting results for the Blues, but he’s gotten better and better each contest as an individual. He was superb, putting in a Man of the Match worthy display against Newcastle. If it weren’t for Timo Werner’s goal and assist in the same game, he’d have run away with the honor. Kovacic’s ability to hold-up possession, turn, dribble by defenders and distribute further up the field has been invaluable to Chelsea during this unbeaten run.
The aforementioned forward has also been superb. Werner’s racked up five goal contributions in the four Premier League matches he’s featured in under Tuchel, including a his first Premier League goal in 100 days against Newcastle. He looks more confident on the ball and is getting into better positions to succeed, which all boils down to confidence. It looks as if the Blues may have found an answer to their Werner problem, which is music to the ears of everyone involved. The German forward has had a rough go of things during his first season in the English top flight, but he’s picked a wonderful time to come out of his slump. The Blues have Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool on the horizon and in order to beat those top tier clubs, Werner will have to bring his A game.
Hudson-Odoi has also been a bright spot in Tuchel’s team. The winger turned wingback has played all over the pitch as he’s become one of the most important players in the side. Tuchel is seemingly willing to do whatever he can to get the English youngster involved and the manager’s confidence has worked wonders for Hudson-Odoi. He’s visible more confident and comfortable, which has him playing his best football since the days of Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.
Last but not least, Kepa Arrizabalaga looks like his former Europa League-winning self. The Spaniard was demoted to the bench under Lampard and although he still isn’t the Blues No. 1 between the sticks, he’s put in some impressive shifts. Arrizabalaga has kept two consecutive clean sheets and despite the reasoning for his selection, it’s hard to deny the fact that he’s earned the minutes. Chelsea fans everywhere have their fingers crossed the Spaniard can come good again, for the team’s sake and his own.
Tuchel has done what every experienced manager does after joining a club mid-season; he’s made up with the individuals the previous gaffer isolated. There’s no telling what Tuchel’s long-term strategy is at Chelsea, but his man management with some of the veterans has helped catapult the Blues into the top four for the first time in two months. In this unpredictable season winning is the only thing that matters, and when it comes down to it, Tuchel has found a way to do just that.