What have we learned from Thomas Tuchel’s first two games as Chelsea boss?

 2 months, 8 days ago 0 Comments

The old saying states that ‘a week is a long time in football’, and new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will certainly agree with that. On January 24th, Frank Lampard was at the helm when the Blues pushed Luton Town to the wayside in the fourth round of the FA Cup. However, less than 24 hours later and Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer was sacked by Roman Abramovich and former PSG boss Tuchel was sworn in hours later.

It was straight to the training pitch for the German, and before long videos of him at Cobham barking orders at his new players started to emerge on social media. That was the only chance Tuchel got to see what he was working with before he was thrown into the Stamford Bridge dugout for a Premier League clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was undoubtedly a whirlwind few days for the 47-year-old, but his tactics were clear from the off against Nuno Espírito Santo’s side. What Tuchel had drilled into the Chelsea players in just that one-hour training session was evident on the pitch, and since then the Blues have looked like a much better option in the Premier League betting markets.

Nuno’s ultra-defensive tactics made for a forgettable affair, as Chelsea failed to break down the orange wall. However, there were positives for Tuchel to take away from his first 90 minutes. The Blues finished the match with 78.9 per cent possession and with the completion of 898 passes.

Of course, there are no extra points for keeping the ball or moving it fluently across the pitch but given that Chelsea had failed to control games with such ease under Lampard, it was already a sign of progression.

There was also a notable formation change. Despite desperate calls from pundits and Chelsea fans alike, Lampard stuck with 4-3-3, a formation that evidently wasn’t working for the side as the Blues fell to five defeats in his last eight league games in charge.

However, in his first two games in charge, Tuchel has switched to three at the back, with wing-backs operating tirelessly up and down the channels. Eyebrows were raised before the game against Wolves when the German’s first starting XI was revealed and Callum Hudson-Odoi was deployed in right wing-back, but the 20-year-old has flourished in his new role.

Throughout the course of both the game against Wolves and Chelsea’s most recent outing against Burnley, the Englishman was the Blues’ most dangerous player. In fact, late in the match against Sean Dyche’s men, the manager had had enough of Hudson-Odoi running rings around both Robbie Brady and Erik Pieters. ‘Robbie! Robbie! Tune in!’ were the calls from Dyche, but the Irishman was hapless against the skill of Chelsea’s new right wing-back, and that was evident as he replied to his boss, ‘I know where he f**king is, I just can’t stop him. What do you want me to do?’

On the other side of the pitch, Tuchel stuck with Ben Chilwell on the left flank against Wolves, but he was subbed off with around 12 minutes to go and surprisingly Marcos Alonso was reinstated to Chelsea’s starting XI against Burnley for the first time since his dire performance in the 3-3 draw against West Brom earlier in the season.

It was certainly a change no one expected to see. However, it once again paid off for Tuchel. Alonso’s sublime strike in the second half put any hope of Burnley nicking an equaliser to bed, and now the question is, who starts at left wing-back against Tottenham on Thursday night? Given the Spaniard’s instant impact and overall good performance, Chilwell could once again find himself on the bench, something no one could have imagined just a week ago.

Alonso isn’t the only player brought back into the side from the wilderness. Antonio Rüdiger has been in inspired form since returning to the starting XI under Tuchel. The German defender bore the brunt of abuse from Chelsea fans on social media due his apparent role in Lampard being sacked. However, his performances have quickly won the Stamford Bridge faithful back over, and he looks to be a mainstay under Tuchel.

It is also worth mentioning Mateo Kovačić and Jorginho. Deep-lying playmakers are an integral part of Tuchel’s plans. Marco Veratti was a key part of his tactics at PSG and Julian Weigl played that role at Borussia Dortmund previously. That baton has been passed onto Kovačić and Jorginho and thus far they have controlled games with ease.

Of course, the first real challenge for Tuchel and his new tactics is Thursday’s trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Spurs are undoubtedly the German’s toughest opponent yet, and whilst the new defensive set-up of Chelsea has been praised, it is yet to be thoroughly tested.

José Mourinho’s side should provide a good test for the Blues, but now could also be the perfect time for Tuchel to face the North London side. Spurs have lost their last two league games on the bounce, and a win for Chelsea would be a major boost in confidence for the remainder of the season.

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