Thomas Tuchel has been announced as the new head coach of Chelsea.

Tuchel comes in to replace Frank Lampard, having perhaps been jettisoned unfairly by PSG only a month ago.

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What Chelsea fans can expect from Tuchel is difficult to say. He’s an intense worker and regarded as one of the finest tactical minds in Europe. However he is extremely fluid in the way he operates, tending only to keep to two or three core principles such as high-pressing and attacking full-backs. He is not as obsessive or detail orientated as some managers, often preferring to trust his players, particularly in the final third, but he should still give Chelsea’s players more direction than they reportedly received under Lampard.

Tuchel will have been aware that the Chelsea job might have become available so there’s no doubt he will have watched them play recently. Every player will be given an opportunity and whatever happens against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday evening shouldn’t be taken as gospel for the rest of the season. Expect a lot of experimentation over the next few months.

We’ve broken down some of the big questions facing Tuchel ahead of his arrival and how he might tackle them.

The Havertz conundrum

This is arguably the biggest question mark, perhaps even more so than compatriot Timo Werner. Whilst Werner has shown in flashes what he is capable of, it’s hard to point to a game that really shows Havertz in his best light. Now some of this hasn’t been the attacking midfielder’s fault, Havertz was one of the players who was really hit hard by Covid-19, but he is Chelsea’s record signing and Tuchel will have to start there.

Kai Havertz

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It didn’t really matter where Lampard tried to play Havertz, the German just looked consistently lost. That might be because of the reported lack of a tactical plan or it might be something deeper in the way Havertz is adapting to the Premier League. Havertz is certainly getting less space than he got in the Bundesliga and Tuchel needs to work out where he wants to play the German. The obvious choice is as a number 10, but as we’ll discuss later Tuchel might not even play with a 10. If that is the case, should he play out wide or centrally but deeper? The latter would appear to be the better choice given Havertz can sometimes leave his full-back exposed but there might be a solution to that…

Systems and set-ups

That leads us nicely on to how Tuchel might set Chelsea up. As mentioned at the top of the article, Tuchel will want his team to press high and use his full-backs as a primary source of width. He is very flexible about the system he uses and his Mainz team famously changed formations during games.

Lampard predominantly used a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Chelsea, similar to what Tuchel most recently used with PSG. However Tuchel’s immediate answer might be something Lampard tried, and Tuchel himself used to great effect in the Champions League, a 3-4-3.

Thomas Tuchel and Julian Draxler after PSG's win at Old Trafford

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In this system you can play Havertz as one of the wide players behind the striker because the width will come from the wing-backs. The three central defenders will allow him to protect the ageing legs of Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta by surrounding them with Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger, the latter has himself a big fan in Tuchel and is expected to come in from the cold.

With Werner, Havertz, Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount that is a lot of attacking players to fit in. Not at the level of what he had at PSG but certainly a greater challenge in some regards in terms of making it all work.

Werner’s Worries

Let’s talk about Timo. The misfiring German is not the first elite striker to suffer a crisis of confidence at Stamford Bridge: see Torres, Fernando and Morata, Alvaro as a starting point for this background reading. Werner has one goal since the start of November, and that was against Morecambe in the FA Cup. It’s clear that he is in a terrible place right now.

Watching Werner’s reaction after his missed penalty against Luton Town was heartbreaking, no matter who you support, this is an excellent player and supposedly a nice person, who is suffering all sorts of mental anguish when he is on the pitch. Werner is a good goalscorer, only the madness that is Robert Lewandowski stopped him from winning the Golden Boot in Germany last season.

FC Chelsea | Frank Lampard and Timo Werner

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Don’t expect Werner to always fully play through the middle, it’s likely that Tuchel will use him out wide on occasion, but he should do it more often than he did by the end under Lampard. One interesting thing to watch is whether Tuchel pairs Werner with Havertz in a sort of 4-2-2-2.

Climbing Mount Mason

No matter what formation Tuchel uses, expect Mount to be key. The young midfielder, handed the captaincy by Lampard for his final game in charge, has easily been Chelsea’s most consistent player this season. He may only have two goals and three assists in the Premier League but Mount has been the heartbeat of Chelsea, he brings the ball forward, links play, and works harder than anybody.

Mason Mount - FC Chelsea

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Based on his skillset, Tuchel should fall in love with Mount, particularly because the Englishman is tactically astute enough to be moved around the pitch. If Tuchel uses a 3-4-3 or a 4-2-2-2, Mount is perfect as the second central midfielder alongside N’Golo Kante, he could be used as a 10 or even out wide. Fans should not be concerned about Mount’s future, they should be excited about the heights he could reach under his new manager.

Academy Aims

This seems like a good juncture to discuss the academy. Lampard used the club’s notorious academy at a historic rate, he gave eight academy players their debuts. Fans are perhaps rightly concerned having finally seen their prayers answered when Lampard took charge and looked to promote from within.

Billy Gilmour of Chelsea warms up, Chelsea v Luton Town, FA Cup, Stamford Bridge, London, January 24, 2021

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However Tuchel has never been afraid to throw young players in, no-one knows that better than Pulisic (more on him in a bit) and he is perfectly willing to play youngsters provided they justify it. He should love Reece James and expect Hudson-Odoi, as Chelsea’s form player, to keep featuring. Abraham should be encouraged too, after his use of Mauro Icardi as a central striker, maybe he can play up front in tandem with Werner at times? Billy Gilmour might be the one that worries fans the most, the young midfielder was just starting to get back into the swing of things after a nasty injury. However as we’ll look at now maybe fans shouldn’t worry so much…

Anchor man

Tuchel tends to only play with one “defensive” midfielder, really it’s more of a shield than anything. That’s why so many reports (including Eurosport’s Dean Jones) have emerged expecting Jorginho to have more of an impact. You can particularly envisage that in a 4-3-3 with Mount and Kante flanking him.

Jorginho celebrates scoring for Chelsea against Brighton

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So if we expect Jorginho to play more surely we shouldn’t be concerned about the aforementioned Gilmour? Gilmour is Jorginho-lite, a real diamond with some edges that need polishing. Tuchel should want to keep giving Gilmour opportunities, particularly if Jorginho’s future remains uncertain despite more playing time.

Captain America

Let’s finish with Pulisic, one of just two players (the other is Silva) who has worked for Tuchel before. We’re nearly five years removed from the day that Tuchel handed Pulisic his debut for Borussia Dortmund, aged just 17. The next season, Tuchel’s last in Germany, the teenager featured in over 40 matches for Dortmund. Two years later, he was suiting up for Chelsea as the most expensive American player of all time.

Christian Pulisic

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Pulisic is a genuine game-changer. No player at Chelsea, not even Hudson-Odoi, has the unique skillset that he does. His pace, goal-scoring instinct, and ability to strike fear into defenders is a huge asset for Chelsea.

Lampard cannot be blamed for not utilising Pulisic, he simply didn’t have the American available as often as he would have liked. Tuchel is beholden to the injury gods in the same manner but you can expect him to switch Pulisic from left to right depending on the opposition and using the winger’s speed to target weak points. Pulisic might be the key in finding the space for the others to operate in.

Conclusion

Looking back at that list it appears as if there’s a lot for Tuchel to fix but that’s not necessarily the case. As plenty of frothing pundits have been keen to point out, Chelsea are still very much in the top four race and are in both the Champions League and FA Cup. With a few tweaks you would expect their form to improve.

However getting this Chelsea squad into the top four, even in this ultra-competitive Premier League, should not constitute success. Yes, this season and given where they are when Tuchel takes over, it will mean success. But what will really prove Tuchel’s worth is the tweaks he can make to turn this team into title-challengers. You only need to look at the fans who are crying about how Tuchel only ever won the “farmer’s league” that is Ligue 1. That is the measure by which Chelsea manages are judged by most fans. Yet Tuchel should bring direction to Chelsea and, perhaps most crucially, make them fun to watch again. Surely that, in and of itself, would represent a form of success?

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