Inside Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea transfer plans to bridge gap to Liverpool and Man City in title race

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·4-min read
Inside Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea transfer plans to bridge gap to Liverpool and Man City in title race
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Thomas Tuchel wants to stay for the long-haul at Chelsea — which was far from a given when he was appointed manager a year ago today.

While the German has been open about his misgivings regarding the shortness of the 18-month contract he was initially handed, he had more deep-rooted doubts about taking on one of the most powerful clubs in world football. The real uncertainty revolved around his own suitability for the job or, indeed, any job like it.

He had been chastened by his experiences at Paris Saint-Germain. Not so much his sacking over the Christmas of 2020 after back-to-back titles and a run to the Champions League Final just four months earlier. Rather, the politics that came with managing superstar players, the power struggles and his public fall-out with sporting director Leonardo that contributed to his downfall.

Chelsea was seen as an experiment. If he found life in west London too similar to Paris, then, say sources close to him, he would have abandoned any ambition to manage at another elite club; he would have been happy to go back to being a “challenger” with the likes of Bayer Leverkusen.

Instead, Tuchel has found his spiritual home at Stamford Bridge, embracing the demands of Roman Abramovich to prove to himself that he is comfortable operating at this level.

He loves it at Chelsea, not least for the relatively flat hierarchical structure, which sees him largely deal with chief Marina Granovskaia and technical director Petr Cech. He likes the lifestyle in London, where he is able to indulge in his favourite pastimes like perusing book shops or spending time with his family in relative anonymity, although on one trip to a fair with his daughters recently, he tried to avoid being recognised on a merry-go-round by pulling his cap down over his face, as if the sight of a fully-grown man on a miniature carousel horse was not conspicuous enough.

Now, after 12 months which have already seen him conquer Europe and sign a contract extension until the summer of 2024, the question is whether he can break the domestic dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool.

An alarming mid-season slump that has cast a shadow over his first anniversary has effectively ruled that out this year. While a debilitating injury list, combined with Covid, has been a major contributing factor to Chelsea’s faltering title challenge, serious questions hang over his squad.

Still, Tuchel has been undemanding regarding recruitment so far.

Discussions with Abramovich over how to build on last season’s Euro triumph came the morning after victory over City in Porto last May. If Tuchel was not fully prepared, he could be forgiven. He had been celebrating through the night when, at around 4am, Granovskaia telephoned to inform him of his meeting with the owner later that morning. In the lobby of the Yeatman Hotel it was agreed a world-class centre-forward was needed to take his team to the next level.

Wednesday marks one year in charge for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Wednesday marks one year in charge for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Ultimately, Romelu Lukaku was signed, despite Erling Haaland being the primary target, while pursuits for defenders Achraf Hakimi and Jules Kounde came to nothing.

Tuchel is happy with his squad, even during their slump, but he knows he will be given only so long to usurp City and Liverpool and may need to be more demanding in the market. A renewed move for Kounde is planned, and further defensive additions will be required if any or all of the out-of-contract Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta depart. Leicester’s Wesley Fofana is also being tracked.

The over-reliance on N’Golo Kante is another issue, as is the need to play with two holding midfielders to accommodate Jorginho’s lack of mobility. Declan Rice is a long-term target, while Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni has been extensively scouted. Conor Gallagher, on loan at Crystal Palace, is also under serious consideration, specifically as cover for Kante.

While Tuchel and Chelsea are huge admirers of Haaland, there are concerns over the number of German-based players who have struggled in the Premier League. Ousmane Dembele is another player of interest, but Chelsea are well-stocked with wide forwards.

Tuchel is confident he will be given a degree of control over recruitment, and the summer window is likely to be key to whether his second anniversary offers more cause for celebration than his first.

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