As Chelsea’s unbeaten streak with Thomas Tuchel extends to 13 matches in all competitions, the idea is beginning to emerge that Chelsea could do what it did in 2012, when it won the Champions League title after switching from mid-season coach. A 2-0 win against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday not only secured a 3-0 aggregate victory and progression to the quarter-finals, but also offered glimpses of just how good this Chelsea team could be.
Since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in late January, Chelsea’s form has improved markedly. There has been a better defensive structure, and that has underpinned the rally in form, as he has only conceded twice in those 13 games. Criticism has focused on a lack of imagination or creativity, but every now and then there is only a glimpse of something beginning to build.
But more than that, several players who didn’t really perform under Lampard have started to impress, most notably Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Harry Redknapp, Lampard’s uncle, conspicuously observed on the radio the day after Lampard’s firing that he “did not sign the Germans.” The pair arrived in the summer for the combined $ 160 million, and the desire to make the best of them was, at least in part, behind the decision to appoint Tuchel, a German trainer steeped in the modern German style who could communicate with them in German. .
Havertz is still only 21 years old and suffered from COVID-19 shortly after arriving, which perhaps explains his slow start. Werner’s struggle for form was less explainable. He’s 25 or older, but the feeling was that Lampard had no real idea how to use it. Their confidence crumbled, and that was a clear failure of Lampard’s management: numerous players, having had a difficult run, found their form deteriorated, with Lampard seemingly unable to pick them up again.
Werner still isn’t scoring goals at the pace he did in Germany, but his deployment in a false nine role here allowed him to make those runs through a left inside position that characterized his game for RB Leipzig. But more than that, he’s playing with an energy and commitment that almost left him at Christmas.
Three players from the $ 300 million summer transfer chart combined for the counterattack that put Chelsea ahead on Wednesday and doubled the overall lead. Werner half blocked a cross from Kieran Trippier, allowing N’Golo Kanté to intercept. Havertz then fed Werner as he advanced and measured a low cross for Hakim Ziyech to convert with a low foot shot.
What was surprising was how fast everything went. That is due not only to Werner’s pace, but also to the speed of thought, the anticipation of everyone in the movement. This is what a well structured side looks like. That degree of slippage can only come from repeated drilling in training.
The two German signings are not the only ones who have picked up since Tuchel arrived. Marcos Alonso, seemingly on the scrap metal, now appears to have displaced Ben Chilwell as the first choice on the left. Antonio Rüdiger was excellent again. But the most significant figure on Wednesday was Kanté.
The France international was an important figure in Leicester’s league triumph and Chelsea title under Antonio Conte, but he declined under Maurizio Sarri as he was played out of position and never regained his form with Lampard, perhaps in part due to which was consumed by a complex. court case in France for his image rights. But in recent weeks he has returned to his best level. Wednesday was magnificent, always in the right place, plugging holes, frustrating Atlético.
The tottering La Liga leader was poor again, though you’ll wonder about a possible penalty that was denied just before half an hour, when César Azpilicueta, panicking after a slightly underrated back pass, grabbed Yannick Carrasco. The Belgian ridiculously collapsed after slight contact, but that doesn’t alter the fact that Azpilicueta briefly got hold of his shirt.
There was a late shot from João Félix that swerved away from Azpilicueta, and an injury save from Edouard Mendy denying Portuguese talent, but other than that his threat was extremely limited. Chelsea’s victory was effectively confirmed when Stefan Savic was sent off for an elbow on Rüdiger, a sign of both Atletico’s helplessness and frustration. Emerson Palmeri then rounded off the victory with another counterattack initiated by Kanté, with Christian Pulisic making the most of his time off the bench by providing the assist.
There are not many direct parallels to be drawn from the trade from Andre Villas-Boas to Roberto Di Matteo in March 2012 (when Lampard was a lynchpin of Chelsea’s midfield) and the trade from Lampard to Tuchel in January 2021, but there is one. obvious one: Chelsea suddenly look like a very dangerous and capable team.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.