In the summer of 2020, Chelsea finally spent all the money that they got from the sale of Eden Hazard, and more. The Blues spent around 200 million euros in bid to take the team to the next level: The team that finished in 3rd position without a proper talisman like Hazard to get them there.
Now, Frank Lampard spent money on players he wants, like Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner: you can surely only go even further up, right? Surely, you compete for the top two spots. Surely you go higher than Round of 16 in the Champions League, and maybe even win a cup or two.
Well, not quite. At least, not for Frank Lampard.
What problems did Lampard have at Chelsea? How has Tuchel fixed them?
On 26 January 2021, Frank Lampard was sacked. Just 18 months after he got the job, he was removed from the position. Thomas Tuchel was supposed to take over a team that was sitting in 9th position, five points behind then fourth-placed Liverpool, and 11 points behind the then league leaders Manchester United. Things weren’t going very well at all.
They were also knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Tottenham on penalties. But, they did progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup. They were also comfortably in the Champions League Round-of-16, going up against Atletico Madrid. Well, at that point in time, we wouldn’t have known the outcome because the matches hadn’t happened till that point in time.
But, in hindsight, a Chelsea side managed by Frank Lampard would probably lose to Atletico Madrid because of many reasons. Firstly, the lack of defensive structure that his team had was just insane. Atletico would’ve had so much fun hitting Chelsea on the counter because of reason number two: Chelsea’s difficulties in breaking down low blocks. So, needless to say, they’d obviously have difficulties in breaking down one of the best defensive teams in the world.
Let’s look at the FA Cup. Manchester City humiliated Chelsea in the Premier League. A team that lacked structure won’t be able to defeat a team like Manchester City. The trouble that they had in getting out of pressing situations was something so concerning yet so baffling because the solution was right in front of Lampard. We’ll get to that in a second.
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This team had so many issues, so many players whose potential wasn’t unlocked, so many inconsistencies. Yet, under Tuchel, they are now fourth in the Premier League, in the final of the FA Cup, beating Manchester City, and in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Doing all this without even having a chance to buy/sell players he likes/doesn’t like, while also fixing most of their tactical issues, is honestly so impressive. There are still things left for him to do. We haven’t seen him truly unlock Werner’s potential yet, even though he scored against West Ham on Saturday. We haven’t seen him come up with a system that can bring out the best in Werner, Ziyech and Havertz at the same time. So yeah, there’s a lot to do. But what he has done deserves applause.
He used a three-man defense to give the team some solidity and consistency at the back. He used Thiago Silva’s passes through the opposition’s press, and Mateo Kovacic’s ball-carrying to get out of pressing situations. He installed a proper counter-press which was also flexible at times, depending on the team that Chelsea were facing. His team beat Atletico Madrid over two legs with ease, and then handled Porto and reach the semi-finals.
Stuff like this makes you appreciate the managers who are tactically astounding. Chelsea have lost just twice since Tuchel’s arrival, and they have a legitimate chance of winning silverware. I don’t know how big of a chance they have of winning the Champions League, but surely, the FA Cup is well within their reach.
This team can go a long, long way.