Is Thomas Tuchel the man to arrest the Chelsea slump?

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at London Stadium on December 04, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at London Stadium on December 04, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images) /

Since the 71′ of the 4-0 hammering of Juventus on November 23, Chelsea has been disjointed, lacklustre and stuttering. This raises the question of whether or not Thomas Tuchel has hit the ‘Frank Lampard Slump’ and whether he can resurrect the Blues’ title challenge. Before reliving the toothless games against Wolves and Everton, cast your minds back to the 70′ of Chelsea controlling Juventus with ease. 60 seconds later, Ben Chilwell had gone in for a 50/50 ball and come out far worse than his Juve counterpart. All in the Blues’ technical area were instantly fearful that it could be a serious, potentially season-ending ACL injury; little did they know that the season-ending part of that fear was in regards to Chelsea’s title challenge.

Since that game, Chelsea has shipped 11 goals in six games. In the Blues’ six games before Chilwell’s injury, they conceded just twice. In fact, before the Juventus clash, to see 11 goals conceded, your tally would have to go all the way back to August 1 and that’s including all domestic and European cup competitions—a run of 21 games. The back line, while constantly chopping and changing centrebacks, was solid and dependable. Chilwell was in the form of his career and outshining Luke Shaw, the man who kept him out of every single Euro 2020 game. Chilwell, for his part, has resumed light running, but surgery is not out of the question yet and it is likely still months before his return.

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Chilwell’s sudden injury is not the only reason for Chelsea to have stumbled so dramatically either. Injuries to Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante are a massive reason for a lacking midfield that was previously bossing almost every game. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been an admirable stand-in, but the injuries to Kovacic and Kante have forced Jorginho to play even more football and he’s had some shaky moments on the pitch. Meanwhile, the experiments of Reece James and Trevoh Chalobah in midfield have been verging on nonsensical, especially when the Blues have players like Mason Mount, who has played in that role for England before.

Marcos Alonso, who looked in good form at the start of the season, has done nothing to assuage fears he is not up to this level anymore. Romelu Lukaku has been injured and forced to isolate with COVID-19 almost immediately upon his return. It’s been a brutal patch for Thomas Tuchel, but one cannot help but notice that this is coming close to the one-year-itch for the German. This is not to say that he has lost the dressing room, by all accounts he is one of the best man-managers this club has had. Perhaps unfairly, the lede categorized it as the ‘Lampard Slump’ but this sustained dip in form is something that every Chelsea boss since the mid-2000s teams of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti experienced.

Some are able to arrest the decline, others have not been so able. There is little doubt in my mind that Tuchel’s job is safe. Chelsea is getting its full complement of forwards and midfielders back, it has an ‘easy’ draw against Lille in the Champions League and there is still half a Premier League season left. What Tuchel is though, is devoid of ideas. I wrote a piece in November about how Tuchel’s biggest failure was a tactical one that left his teams without of midfield runners. He, evidently, is not an avid reader of my articles yet, as he continues to utilize those tactics in games. Part of that is undoubtedly due to injuries and lack of availability, but that is also because of how top-heavy the Blues’ squad is right now. The plethora of attackers means a manager always wants to try and work as many into the first XI as possible.

Chelsea’s run of two wins, four draws and one loss since that Juventus clash is by no means bad. Quite frankly though, it is not a stretch to say that it should have been seven wins on the trot. This stumbling run just happens to coincide with Manchester City finally hitting its stride and Liverpool smashing in goals seemingly at will.

Much has been made of how little football Lukaku has been playing, and while that is certainly a factor, it is important not to downplay how it doesn’t seem like Tuchel knows how to get the best out of the Belgian. Lukaku was brought in as the last piece of the puzzle. The man who appeared at halftime against West Ham looked rusty and is probably only going to be match fit by mid-January, or roughly six games away. By that time, Chelsea could have seen its title challenge fall apart completely if Tuchel cannot find some answers.

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Do you think the Blues’ gaffer will figure things out? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!