Has Thomas Tuchel made Chelsea true contenders in the Champions League? When Chelsea were drawn to face Atlético Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League back in December, there was probably a feeling of despair amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful. After all, Diego Simeone’s side are an incredibly tough nut to crack, and Chelsea have had their struggles against the Madrid side in the past, like when they lost 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2014.
The challenge posed by Atlético aside, the Blues were having their own struggles domestically. Chelsea won just twice in the league between December 12th and Frank Lampard’s sacking at the end of the January. It was a brutish move from the west London side’s chiefs and given Lampard’s status at the club as a player, it left some Chelsea fans extremely unhappy. Has Thomas Tuchel made Chelsea true contenders in the Champions League.
However, with the appointment of Thomas Tuchel, who was brutally sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve, the Blues look like a completely different outfit. Chelsea seemed to lack any real tactical guidance under Lampard. His 4-3-3 formation clearly wasn’t working, yet it remained unchanged, whilst there were apparent rifts behind the scenes with the likes of Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rüdiger.
It must be even more annoying for Lampard that his successor has integrated those two aforementioned players back into the squad and has them playing to the best of their ability again. Under Tuchel, Chelsea have thrived and the 2-0 win over a dogged Atléti at Stamford Bridge was the German’s 13th game unbeaten.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss has proved that he is by no means a one-trick pony, and Chelsea are much better value for online betting since his January arrival. In the two legs against Atlético Madrid, it was evident that Tuchel is much more tactically minded than Lampard.
At the colosseum that is the Arena Națională in Bucharest, where the first leg was played, Tuchel set up Chelsea in a well-drilled, disciplined 6-3-1 formation, and whilst that may not be to everybody’s taste, in a competition like the Champions League, you need to adaptable to the variety of different teams you will face.
Often, European games need a very different approach to domestic outings, and that was the mindset of Tuchel as Olivier Giroud’s stunning bicycle kick stole the headlines in the 1-0 victory. However, at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea reverted to a 4-2-3-1, which allowed Tuchel’s men to hit Simeone’s side on the break, as was displayed in both Hakim Ziyech’s and Emerson’s goals.
Across both legs, it never looked like Atlético Madrid were going to cause a dent in Chelsea’s hope of progression, let alone any real damage. It must be said, however, that the La Liga side didn’t seem to be at their best, but credit must also be given to Tuchel and his men for getting almost everything right across the 180 minutes of football.
Under the German, Chelsea has gone from a side that everybody would have wanted to play in the quarter-finals to a side that all of the other remaining teams will want to avoid.
One thing that could cost Chelsea, in the long run, is their lack of ability to turn chances into goals. They are yet to score more than twice in one game under Tuchel. It’s not for the want of trying either. 16 attempts Chelsea had against Atléti, yet less than a third of those were on target. Luckily, it is yet to cost the side, but should it continue it will catch up and bite them sooner or later.
Still, Tuchel is oozing confidence and that can only help Chelsea in the pursuit of their second Champions League trophy. “I’m pretty sure no one wants to play against us,” he said after 2-0 victory over Atléti.