Team Focus - Chelsea odds and verdict: Blues can be title contenders
Thomas Tuchel can build on impressive start at Stamford Bridge
Few mid-season managerial changes have been as instantly successful as Chelsea's decision to replace Frank Lampard with Thomas Tuchel in January.
A run of five Premier League defeats in eight games, coupled with Tuchel's departure from Paris St-Germain on Christmas Eve, meant Roman Abramovich put sentiment aside to axe the Blues' record goalscorer.
Tuchel's impact was immediate as Chelsea conceded just twice in his first 14 games in charge. They reached the FA Cup final, losing 1-0 to Leicester, pipped the Foxes to a top-four finish before claiming a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the Champions League final.
That was Chelsea's third win over the Citizens in the space of five weeks – testament to the progress made since being outclassed by Pep Guardiola's side in a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge towards the end of the Lampard era.
The Blues also won at Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham in the league as well as knocking Atletico and Real Madrid out of Europe, and the big-match mentality instilled by Tuchel bodes well for the 2021-22 season.
Defensively, they look in great shape. Edouard Mendy had a sound first season in goal, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma are excellent options in a three-man defence, and full-backs Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso are top-class.
N'Golo Kante was man of the match in the Champions League final, Jorginho starred in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph, and Chelsea conceded just 36 league goals last term – eight of them, bizarrely, against relegated West Brom.
The next step for Tuchel is to strike the right balance in attack, something he achieved to great effect at Borussia Dortmund and PSG, and few Chelsea fans will doubt his ability to do that after such a spectacular start to his career in England.
If they sign Romelu Lukaku expect a serious title challenge.
Manager - Thomas Tuchel: The German's obsessive, demanding approach got results but also ruffled feathers at Dortmund and PSG. Chelsea's players certainly seemed to buy into Tuchel's vision and tactics last season and he will be looking to build on May's Champions League triumph.
Probable team - 3-4-2-1: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Havertz, Mount; Werner
Penalty taker: Jorginho
Set-piece threat: Kurt Zouma
Card magnet: N'Golo Kante
Star man: N'Golo Kante
Breakthrough prospect: Callum Hudson-Odoi
- Deep, versatile squad gives Tuchel tactical flexibility
- Great options in wide attacking positions and at wing-back
- Champions League triumph provided a huge confidence boost
- Lack of a clinical finisher hurt them at times last season
- Veteran Thiago Silva's workload must be managed carefully
- Emphasis on defensive solidity can limit attacking quality
Prospects: Chelsea scraped into the top four last season but should improve significantly under Tuchel. They showed their defensive quality and mental strength in knockout competitions and there is more to come from attacking players such as Werner, Havertz, Ziyech and Pulisic.
Inside Info - Jonathan Hobbs from RPGTV: Can it get any better than last season? The answer is yes. This is Chelsea after all - always pushing. Lamps laid the foundations and TT picked up the blue baton running - actually he sprinted! Give me Haaland, Kane, Lewandowski or Lukaku alongside an improving and classy Havertz. Then we go again - to the top!
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