Thomas Tuchel has gotten off to a flying start at Stamford Bridge. The new Chelsea boss has come in and immediately changed the culture at the club. The Blues are no longer in the state of emergency; instead, they’re back in the top four where they belong. After seven games unbeaten though, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach their ultimate goal of Champions League qualification.
Tuchel is now prepping his side to travel down to the coast to take on Southampton. The Saints have been in a slump recently, but that doesn’t mean this game is going to be a breeze. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is arguably as strong as ever this season. This contest will be viewed as a tune-up ahead of a tough run of matches though. Tuchel gave his usual pregame press conference on Friday and although the Blues won’t be fully fit for the clash against the Saints, they did get some encouraging news on some players before the strong stint that lies ahead.
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Perhaps the most relieving bit of information Tuchel gave was that Tammy Abraham was back in training. The striker came off early in the first half against Newcastle following a nasty challenge in the box. His ankle was trapped beneath Jamaal Lascelles and although he tried to continue at the time, he was unable to carry on. This news is especially encouraging when one takes into account Olivier Giroud’s age. Giroud doesn’t have the pace or the stamina he used to, so it would have been difficult for him to maintain his form when playing frequently in Abraham’s absence. The English No. 9 doesn’t need to play at Southampton, Giroud and Timo Werner can carry the load, but it’ll be nice to have Abraham back for some crucial contests.
Another update Tuchel gave was one regarding Kai Havertz. The pressure to perform this season has fallen on Werner’s shoulders and that’s mostly because nobody has the heart to point out the poor performances of his German counterpart. To be completely honest, Havertz has done a decent job this season given the circumstances. He’s battled COVID-19, a shortened preseason and numerous injuries. Oh, did I mention he had to pack up his life back home and move to a new country, learn the style of a new league and adapt to a new climate? There’s that too.
Havertz has had a rough go of things this season, but he’s finally fit once again. Here’s to hoping he can get a run of matches because in the limited time we’ve seen him play under Tuchel, he’s looked like a much more confident footballer. Having an individual as talented as Havertz could potentially win the Blues some games during this crucial run, as well. The youngster needs some time to settle in, and no time is better than the present to truly introduce himself to English football.
The last positive update came in the form of Thiago Silva. Silva won’t be in the squad to face Southampton, which is honestly music to the ears of Chelsea fans. The good news is the fact that he’s back in training and working his way back to full fitness. The 36-year-old came off with a muscle injury against Tottenham and Blues fans everywhere prayed for the best. Losing Silva during such an influential time would be catastrophic. Luckily, nobody has to imagine that scenario. He’ll be out versus the Saints, but present for the biggest contests of the campaign.
Finally, Tuchel gave an update on Christian Pulisic, who has once again been sidelined with an injury. The American No. 10 has struggled after bursting onto the scene post-lockdown. This season can be compared largely to N’Golo Kante’s during Frank Lampard’s first year in charge and fans are really starting to wonder if he should simply be shut down until next season. At his best, Pulisic is a world class winger with the ability to create chances from absolute nothing. This skillset earned him Eden Hazard comparisons last season, but sadly he’s fallen flat this campaign. There’s little doubt he’ll be back to his best soon, Pulisic just needs to keep his spirits high and body healthy. Regardless, it’s a bit of a blow and supporters have their fingers crossed that he can come back ahead of the important UCL and Premier League ties.
The Blues need all hands on deck if they want to sail through this storm unscathed, so the fitness boosts they received pre-Southampton were very encouraging.