How Chelsea FC’s sidelined trio have been brought in from the cold to give Thomas Tuchel what he wanted

James Robson
·3-min read
 (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel has already delivered on his first promise as Chelsea manager by making them a team “no one wants to play.”

But it is the manner in which he has turned them into a near-impenetrable force that few could have expected and will earn the approval of Marina Granovskaia.

Chelsea have kept eight clean sheets in the German’s 10 games in charge, conceding just two goals on that run.

It was the 1-0 wins at Atletico Madrid and last week against Liverpool that underlined his impact on the club, particularly in the absence of the injured Thiago Silva and with a rear-guard comprised of players pushed to the fringes under Frank Lampard.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have been outstanding in recent weeks. Christensen, especially, has been a towering figure in the heart of a defensive three – imperiously controlling the games against Atletico and Liverpool.

Chelsea are set to offer the Denmark international an extension to his contract following his dramatic upturn in form. And he is an example of Tuchel’s ability to work with and improve what he inherited at Stamford Bridge.

That will endear him to chief Granovskaia and Roman Abramovich after they became alarmed by the club’s slump under Lampard, despite spending more than £200million in the transfer market last year.

Tuchel will be backed this summer, with a top-class centre back and a striker considered priorities. But the former Paris Saint-Germain coach was also tasked with the responsibility of realising the potential of a hugely-talented squad.

Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Christensen has looked like the commanding, ball-playing defender it was hoped he would become.

Rudiger, who Lampard was prepared to let leave last summer, is reminding all of the qualities that have made him a key figure for Germany.

And in Azpilicueta, Chelsea are benefiting from the influence of having their captain on the pitch.

Tuchel considered Azpilicueta crucial even before taking charge of his first game against Wolves in January. With virtually no time to deliberate over his team in the hours before completing the formalities of his 18-month contract, he came up with a formation and starting XI while on his flight over to London.

While Lampard had preferred a back four, with Reece James at right back, Tuchel was adamant he needed his captain during such a turbulent time, as well as the experience of Thiago and Rudiger.

But the question was how Chelsea would cope without Thiago – who is closing in on a return - when the Brazilian limped off against Tottenham at the start of last month with a thigh injury.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The answer has been emphatic, with Christensen central to an unbeaten run that has propelled them to fourth place ahead of tonight’s game against rivals for Champions League qualification Everton and former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.

It was after that game against Wolves that Tuchel declared: “We will build a team that nobody wants to play against. And that's the challenge for me to do that as quickly as possible."

In the space of just 10 games, he has done precisely that. Just ask Diego Simeone and Jurgen Klopp.

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