Thomas Tuchel has recorded four successive Premier League wins as Chelsea manager to revive the west London club’s hopes of Champions League qualification.
The former Paris St Germain boss, who replaced the sacked Frank Lampard three weeks ago, has registered 13 points from a possible 15 in total following Monday’s 2-0 success over lowly Newcastle.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the German’s impressive early impact at Stamford Bridge.
How have fortunes improved?
Chelsea were languishing in ninth position on the back of just two league victories from eight games when Lampard was sacked on January 25. The picture is already looking considerably rosier. Having conceded only once in five matches since, they have rocketed to fourth spot, above defending champions Liverpool and just four points adrift of second-placed Manchester United.
What has Tuchel changed?
Reminiscent of the system favoured by former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, Tuchel has implemented a 3-4-2-1 formation, to great effect. Attacking players are pressing without leaving gaping holes, while the team appears more organised and to have a clearer understanding of individual roles. A calamitous own goal from Antonio Rudiger against Sheffield United is the only blot on the copybook of Tuchel’s tightened defence.
Which players have benefited?
Deploying wing-backs has resulted in greater game time for Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right flank, while Marcos Alonso’s floundering Chelsea career has been revived on the left. Timo Werner ended a 14-game top-flight goal drought against the Magpies and admitted it has helped that “someone can scream at me in German”. Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and defenders Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have been given clean slates. Midfielder Jorginho is also enjoying more action.
Are any players in danger of being marginalised?
Inevitably, yes. Summer signing Hakim Ziyech is perhaps the main contender and reportedly considering his future after not being involved in the last four league games. N’Golo Kante has been restricted to a substitute role so far, albeit following injury, while Kurt Zouma is yet to feature and fellow defender Ben Chilwell has spent a fair amount of time on the bench. Forwards Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz certainly have work to do but Tuchel appears to be an admirer of both.
Have fans been won over?
Not entirely. Although results have picked up, sections of the fanbase are still reeling at the ruthless departure of club great Lampard. In addition, some performances, including in the 2-1 win over bottom club Sheffield United and 1-0 FA Cup fifth-round success at Championship side Barnsley, have drawn criticism, with supporters branding them “boring” on social media and seeking greater entertainment.
Can the honeymoon period continue?
Only time will tell. A caveat to Tuchel’s successful start is perhaps the level of opposition faced. Three of his games have been against teams currently in the bottom five – Burnley, Sheffield United and Newcastle – while Wolves had endured some woeful form prior to grinding out a goalless draw in Tuchel’s first game and London rivals Tottenham were also suffering a rocky patch. Sterner tests of the 47-year-old’s credentials, including Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16, await.
What can the club achieve this season?
With Premier League leaders Manchester City already 11 points ahead of them and holding a game in hand, a title push is almost certainly out of the question. A top-four finish is surely the minimum expectation, while the FA Cup remains an achievable target following a favourable home draw against Sheffield United in the quarter-finals. Tuchel must outwit wily Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone to keep alive hopes of scooping European football’s top prize.