The Thomas Tuchel train keeps rumbling on
The German manager has lost just twice in 23 games since replacing Frank Lampard in January, which has catapulted Chelsea from ninth in the Premier League to having a six-point cushion in fourth place.
Not to mention the Champions League semi final with Real Madrid which will come to a conclusion next week and also the FA Cup final against Leicester in a fortnight’s time.
The turnaround that Tuchel has managed in such a short space of time has been remarkable. Yes, he has got a very strong squad to work with it but he has managed to get such an impressive tune out of them all so quickly.
It’s not been rocket science, either. Tuchel has changed formation and maybe some components here and there to get the most out of the players but apart from that, it’s not much else.
Sure there are subtle tactical tweaks that Tuchel makes pre-match and during games but for the majority, it’s the five-man defence, two central midfielders in front him, two numbers tens and a striker/false nine.
Whoever has been playing there, for the most part, has been doing their job to the letter. That doesn’t stop Tuchel launching verbal volleys at his players, he does that regularly during games, but it is having the desired impact and the results speak for themselves.
Tuchel said after the 2-0 win over Fulham: “It is the perfect match and the boys get a lot of credit from the coach for this. You can get easily confused in two big matches from this.
If you look at the table, see Fulham are bottom of the table, you can get confused because they are stronger than the table shows, they prepare matches the whole week, so it was absolutely necessary that we prepared the match with full focus. It was important that we invested fully physically and mentally.
That’s why the team gets full credit, it was a big win and we arrive with a clear mind with nothing to regret or think about ahead of Wednesday’s game.
You get the impression that the German head coach seems to be absolutely loving life at Chelsea. He’s barely been able to see London either yet due to lockdown.
What Thiago Silva shouted at Billy Gilmour
Here are two players who are very much at different stages of their career. One is a veteran of nearly 100 appearances for his country and more than 500 for a variety of clubs, and another who is just starting out and making just his 20th appearance for Chelsea.
With the injury to Mateo Kovacic and Tuchel wanting to rest Jorginho and N’Golo Kante ahead of the Champions League game in midweek, that meant Gilmour made a belated first Premier League start since January when Tuchel arrived.
The young Scotsman was understandably rusty having played precious little football, to the chagrin of some and probably himself, since the club opted not to send him on loan in January to get some regular minutes.
But he got through the 90 minutes which will have thrilled Tuchel, who oddly brought Kante on midway through the second half but kept Jorginho firmly planted to the bench.
His teammate Silva was at his Rolls Royce best against Fulham, more than comfortably shutting out Josh Maja, Ivan Cavaleiro, Ademola Lookman and company as the Blues kept yet another clean sheet.
As is expected of a leader, he was always on hand to offer advice. While the Brazilian defender is not fluent in English having only been in the country for ten months, he has learned enough football slang to get by on the pitch.
When defending a free kick late in the first half, Silva shouted “HERE!” and pointed to exactly where Gilmour should be standing as he was making up part of the defensive line that was biding to keep Fulham out.
When Gilmour moved, Silva then shouted “GOOD!” to his young teammate and would you believe it, Chelsea cleared the free kick.
Kai Havertz didn’t need to announce himself – but he did
Two goals for the German international took his tally to eight goals for the season and while it has been an up and down campaign for the summer signing, he reminded us all of just what he is all about.
Lampard was unable to work out what was the best position for Havertz when he arrived at the club but Tuchel has worked it out – a false nine.
Sometime, even an actual number nine though Havertz isn’t the kind of frontman to play on the shoulder of the last time and make late, darting runs into the box. His game is more about elegance and dropping deep to receive the ball. In fact, his average position throughout the game was far deeper than Timo Werner.
Both of Havertz’s goals were expertly put away and with typical finesse but also, aplomb. The first, after Mason Mount’s simply sublime control and immediate through ball, was a bit too close to Alphonse Areola but he had enough power in the shot that it squirmed under the Fulham stopper.
His second goal was a picture. It was a finely timed and inch-perfect through ball from Werner back to Havertz, who had started the move by taking down Ben Chilwell’s raking diagonal perfectly, and he clipped the finish back across Areola into the far corner to double the advantage.
The young German has had to battle a big price tag, settling into a new country, being struck down by Covid and two managers in his first season in the Premier League so yes, he gets some leeway.
Speaking after the game, the attacker said: “We have to come in the top four, that’s our goal. This win is crucial for us and now on Wednesday another tough game.
“To be honest, it felt good to score early. It gave me confidence. For me it’s always good to score and I’m happy to help the team. I hope to continue like this one Wednesday.
“We have a lot of quality players in our team and for us it is easy to create chances. I think that’s the aim for the strikers, to score goals. When you have midfielders like this behind you it’s always good. I’m lucky they helped me today like this.
“To be honest, it’s very hard [the schedule]. You have to concentrate every three games on another game, another competition. When you go home, you have three days to recover and then play again. We have three days to recover, it’s very hard. But we are professionals and we have to be professional.”
His manager also said after the victory that there is still room for improvement with the 21-year-old as well. That is a scary thought and if he finds his shooting boots early next season, the Premier League will be put on notice.