Chelsea and Tuchel play catch-up with Spurs as transfer links remain

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Thomas Tuchel believes Tottenham have a head start on Chelsea in the season’s early weeks and are well placed to capitalise on the comparative stability they have enjoyed this summer.

The teams meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in a clash of top-four contenders that has come earlier than Tuchel would have considered ideal. His side start as slight favourites given their four wins over Spurs in all competitions in 2021-22 and the fact they finished a league position higher in third. Both won their opening games but Tuchel suggested that Antonio Conte, who returns to face his old employers, has benefited from a pre-season in which the “roads were clear” in preparing for the campaign.

“They took advantage of the situation, which is fair enough,” he said. “Now we try to find solutions to win this game and to be as fast as possible on our highest level. It can also help to have a big match like this early: it lifts you up and gives you a push, which is sometimes needed.”

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Asked exactly what he thought Tottenham had capitalised on, he continued: “They took advantage of their situation in that they have a stable club, the ownership was clear, and it was clear that they reached the Champions League and took advantage to reinforce their squad very early. It was very straightforward. They had a calm pre-season. The roads were clear. It seems like they’re a bit ahead of us from the start, out of the blocks, but it does not mean that you win the race just because you win the start.”

Chelsea are still making up ground after the uncertainty that preceded Todd Boehly’s takeover and remain desperate to make additions, particularly in attack and central defence. Tuchel flat-batted questions about the Leicester centre-back Wesley Fofana and, while he was happy to expand on his “close relationship” with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from their Borussia Dortmund days, was at pains to distance those comments from suggestions he is close to a reunion with the Barcelona striker. Another Barça player, the midfielder Frenkie de Jong, will not be joining Chelsea despite speculation to the contrary.

“It’s a huge economical wheel and it’s become entertainment,” Tuchel said of the summer transfer window. “This is a very, very popular sport. Unfortunately I have to say it is a bit scary that you get used to these numbers [for transfer fees]. They become normal numbers and that’s a bit scary because they are not normal numbers.

“At the moment there is a value for these kinds of purchases and transfers that the big clubs do, and we are a part of it and want to strengthen our squad. Not everything is 100% reasonable in this.”

Tuchel expanded on some of the readjustments required since the departures of Petr Cech, the technical and performance advisor, and the director Marina Granovskaia. “It’s stolen a bit of free time and sleeping time but it’s shifted,” he said. “We needed to adapt. We were in a delay, given the situation, it was nobody’s fault but changes came within the structure. Everybody needed to step up in terms of responsibility and it is in the end my responsibility to give my opinion on how we build the team for the future and for the next weeks and years.” Of Cech specifically, he admitted: “We miss him a lot.”

Mateo Kovacic and Marcos Alonso remain the only injury absentees before the meeting with Spurs, who Tuchel believes have shown enough quality to scotch the misgivings Conte voiced soon after taking the job, when he hinted he could leave. “What he felt last season, I believe that he meant it in this moment but I don’t believe it was the truth that there was a huge gulf between us or a huge gap,” he said. “But I’m very sure he also said it to have the road clear. Why should he put pressure on his team? That was his reality.”

Meanwhile Newcastle have joined the list of clubs considering a move for Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, who did not feature at Everton last weekend and is also of interest to Borussia Dortmund, Southampton and Leicester.