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“Anything is possible” said Chelsea’s German boss Thomas Tuchel after their storming 7-0 Premier League victory over rock bottom Norwich City last month. A win that kept them top of the league and one that sent out a clear message to all other contenders – they mean business this year.
The Blues have won eight of their opening 11 fixtures, losing just once against current holders Manchester City and being held to draws against Liverpool, and most recently, Burnley. They have, however, already beaten both Arsenal and Tottenham, whilst also avoiding defeat to fellow title chasers Liverpool, all away from Stamford Bridge. At the time of writing they sit in an advantageous position, three points clear at the top of the table.
I think Tuchel’s side have serious title credentials this season, but let me show my workings and explain myself.
This summer was the first opportunity for Tuchel to really stamp his mark and make the type of acquisitions that would take Chelsea to the next level. This marquee signing, if you were, came in the form of Romelu Lukaku who arrived from Inter Milan for 97 million. Arguably, this was the missing piece of the puzzle for the German coach last year – the out and out striker who potentially has 25-30 goals in him. Now that he has this very striker, expect the goal-scoring to be much higher this campaign.
I think the scariest part of it all in terms of the squad though is the amount of depth at Tuchel’s disposal. World class talent in almost every position on the field and enough top-class players on the fringes, should injuries occur, to make a real impact.
Also, a lot of the players have now well and truly become part of the Tuchel mould as it were. Individuals are really starting to prove themselves. Kai Havertz for example is really starting to demonstrate the kind of talent that inspired the Blues to bring him in in the first place. Add to that many of the young players brought through by Frank Lampard have further progressed under Tuchel, players such as Reece James and Mason Mount who are now another year into their development and are putting in the performances at the highest level.
Although a good amount of the groundwork came from Lampard, it’s Tuchel that has taken them to the next level and is why we are now talking about Chelsea as potential champions. The German has been an integral part of Chelsea’s recent consistency and major improvement. He’s created a group of serial winners. Tactically he has improved Chelsea leaps and bounds, especially defensively, with the amount of goals being conceded dramatically decreasing from Lampard’s tenure.
Tactically, he demands a hard press from his players from within an ultra-compact 3-4-2-1 formation, which means they are constantly minimising space between the lines when off the ball; with a high defensive line and a precisely-choreographed pressing system. A system that is used to force the opponent into conceding possession long before they have the chance to build territory or launch counter-attacks. This is married with a desire to play very quickly through the lines, with the the expectation to hit vertical passes in behind opposition defenders and midfielders at every opportunity – making Tuchel closer to a Jurgen Klopp than a Pep Guardiola.
With a Champions League trophy and an FA Cup final to boot, it’s clear there is already a winning mentality that has been well and truly drummed into this squad and Tuchel is the figurehead of that.
At the end of the day, I doubt it will be plain sailing for the Blues – it very rarely is in the Premier League. Manchester City and Liverpool are the closest competitors and if these first 11 games are anything to go by, it’s going to be a tight contest at the top.
City are still the champions and are still playing as such. Despite already dropping a few points. They certainly aren’t going anywhere and will be a formidable force across this season, with them too having unbelievable squad depth and the players at their disposal that have been there, done it and got several t shirts. They know what they have to do to win the thing.
Liverpool too are well and truly flexing all of their potential as they look to get back to where they let off in their 2019/20 title winning year. The 5-0 drumming of Manchester United at Old Trafford was a statement of intent and if Mo Salah continues in this vain of form I doubt there will be many who could stop him and indeed them. Like Tuchel’s side, Liverpool have only lost once, thus far, this season.
Chelsea are going to have to be pretty damn consistent if they want to get their hands on the trophy this year, but I think they have got it in them.