Tuchel’s got a steep mountain to climb with the Blues – and there are plenty of issues that need addressing
It’s not often that a manager wins 3-1 and gets sacked – but then, this is Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri beat Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final before leaving for Juventus; Antonio Conte won an FA Cup final before being given the chop.
Frank Lampard has been spared none of the sentiment that he hoped would keep him in the hot seat a little longer. In walks Thomas Tuchel, fresh from a stint at Paris Saint-Germain in which he cruised to league titles, reached a Champions League final and – if rumours are to be believed – fell out with his bosses again, after doing the same at Borussia Dortmund.
This could be rather interesting – and not just for the behind-the-scenes drama. Chelsea are well-stocked across the pitch, yet misfiring. This is exactly the kind of stage that Tuchel walked into in Paris: and for such a tactically-flexible and astute manager, there could be any number of fascinating solutions that he comes up with.
But first, he has some conundrums to solve…
1. Get Timo Werner firing
Timo Werner had his penalty saved against Luton Town at the weekend in the FA Cup. The German turned, grabbed the collar of his shirt and almost ripped it in frustration Werner has cut a frustrated figure in West London. Despite grabbing the odd goal here and there, he’s been able to find any sort of consistency either from the left-wing or up front.
Equally, Werner has been unlucky. No one has hit the post more this season in the league and given the state of flux that Chelsea’s entire side is in, it would be difficult for anyone to impress regularly. Werner will hope that Tuchel fields a side that plays to his strengths of running into space and combining with other forwards.
2. Find a place for Kai Havertz
It’s almost as if Kai Havertz is a victim of his own versatility; his ability to turn in a shift in almost any role from the midfield forward means he’s not nailed down a place under Lampard.
Chelsea’s record signing is another German suffering in the current malaise. Given how much the club have invested in him, getting a good run from Havertz is key to Tuchel’s early tasks. Finding him a consistent place in the side should be a start.
Havertz is athletic, physical and adept at making late runs into the box; he delivers superb output but he isn’t an aesthetic kind of footballer. Tuchel needs to find a style that accommodates such a talent and gets the best out of him.
If he doesn’t, Chelsea fans may use him as a lightning rod to the team’s bad form. One saving grace of Lampard’s demise has been that Havertz has emerged from the other side without too much criticism.
3. Come up with a stable midfield
Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Mount, Havertz, Gilmour. Do you pick three in midfield? A double pivot? Maurizio Sarri nailed his colours to an unpopular mast; Lampard seemed to want to sort his attack first and his midfield second.
When Thomas Tuchel first walked into the PSG job, he had a similar problem, with only Marco Verratti as a definite choice in the middle. He used Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler as advanced midfielders, brought in Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera to stabilise and came up with solutions to the issues he faced.
Tuchel needs to decide who fits the No.6, No.8 and No.10 roles. Stability is needed going forward: Chelsea at least have a manager with a track record of rotating players in roles that suit them, though.
4. Choose a first-choice strike
Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner are all competing for the starting berth at Chelsea this season, with rumours linking Erling Haaland to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
It seems like no one’s really stepped up for the No.9 position since Diego Costa departed. The current crop of strikers all have potential up top for Tuchel but deciding on a first-choice who complements the players around them could be key.
Giroud is the kind of target man who Werner could work off, while Abraham’s overall game is stronger. Werner has struggled as a lone striker for club and country, while Kai Havertz has even played up front for Bayer Leverkusen, offering aerial threat as well as exciting movement in and around the area.
Each option certainly has its benefits. It’s up to Tuchel to decide – until, perhaps, a bid is made for Haaland.
5. Continue with the youth project
“I never wanted us to become an ‘academy club’, because those stories are great for five minutes and those debuts you are handing out are really nice,” Frank Lampard said in the summer. “But then it moves very quickly to where people are asking ‘can
Like it or not though, Chelsea have a phenomenal academy. Mason Mount has arguably been the Blues’ best player this season. Callum Hudson-Odoi has a world-class ceiling. Reece James has dislodged ever-present right-back Cesar Azpilicueta. There are genuine gems coming through: Tuchel would do well to harness them.
Tuchel has worked with great young talent before at Dortmund, not to mention the likes of Kylian Mbappe at PSG. Developing some of this talent to sell on could well fund the next big Chelsea signing.
After all, even if these players aren’t long-term options at the Bridge, the consensus is that Chelsea’s hierarchy would like to become self-sustainable without Roman Abramovich’s financial input