Since Thomas Tuchel was named Chelsea manager back on January 26, the team has been an absolute buzzsaw. The Blues have still only conceded two goals in 13 matches with the German tactician at the helm, and have yet to lose during this run. It is clear to see, just by watching games and observing how the squad interacts on social media, that the managerial change was a necessity—albeit painful.
Many of Chelsea’s players have, rightfully, received applause from the English punditry, as well. After giving immense performances during the Blues’ 3-0 aggregate victory over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, Kai Havertz, N’Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger were highlighted as players to watch as the season progresses. Especially for Havertz and Rudiger, this would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, as they were sitting on the fringes of the squad with little chance of increasing their respective playing times. Now, they are contributing to one of the hottest sides in Europe, and will hopefully continue this great run of form.
While the players obviously deserve some credit for this incredible mid-season turnaround, the primary reason for Chelsea’s meteoric rise has been Tuchel. He has barely put a step wrong thus far. Tactically, the 3-4-3 obviously suits this squad much better than the 4-3-3 did under Frank Lampard. It allows the team’s aggressive fullbacks—namely Reece James and Marcos Alonso—to push forward easily and put a ton of pressure on the opposition when it has the ball in its own half. Tuchel has been terrific from a man-management perspective, as well. He has rejuvenated the careers of many former outcasts, such as the aforementioned Rudiger, Alonso, Andreas Christensen and even Emerson, all of whom have had key moments at some point in the previous 13 matches.
Since Tuchel’s arrival in west London, his man-management abilities have led to a lot of positives for the club, both on and off the pitch. Reinvigorating the players that Lampard had frozen out has been a huge boost for the squad, and the former-Paris Saint-Germain boss has been rewarded with great performances from each. Christensen and Rudiger have particularly thrived, combining with Cesar Azpilicueta to form an impenetrable back three in front of Chelsea’s goal. Alonso and Emerson have also improved tremendously, although their impact has mostly been felt on the offensive end. Fans will all remember Alonso’s slick control and finish against Burnley, while Emerson shut the door on an Atleti comeback with a neat finish into the bottom corner Wednesday night. These players probably thought that their careers at Stamford Bridge were over, but Tuchel has been able to get the best out of them.
Additionally, there is a real sense of unity around the squad that simply was not present earlier in the season. Before, the issue of loyalty to Lampard split the players into warring factions that, looking back, might have had a deleterious effect on the team’s mentality. Now, though, all the Blues have bought into Tuchel’s vision and have a great understanding of how to execute it. This was exemplified by a clip making the rounds on social media of Thiago Silva coaching wildly from the stands before Emerson’s goal, at which point he was mobbed by Jorginho and Mason Mount in celebration. This moment showed the camaraderie present at Chelsea right now, which will be crucial in the race for the Premier League top four, as well as the UCL quarterfinal tie with Porto.
Of course, there is still room for improvement in such a talented and expensive side. Even with Tuchel in charge, the Blues have struggled to finish quality scoring opportunities. Still, the team’s progress under the 47-year-old manager has been stark, and things only look to be getting better. This season is probably a lost cause in terms of collecting serious silverware, but there is a clear path to glory for Tuchel and Chelsea in 2022.