Chelsea makse transfer plans that are above the office of the manager all the time.
Everybody knows this and it has been true since Roman Abramovich took over the club. When Claudio Ranieri was the manager, it was Peter Kenyon who did most of the recruiting with Abramovich, not the Italian. This has carried on through every manager since that time with some adjusting to it—like Carlo Ancelotti—and others despising it, such as Antonio Conte.
Whether or not Thomas Tuchel likes it, or is even willing to acknowledge, is yet to be seen. Part of the reason why he came in as the replacement for Frank Lampard was to get the two highest profile additions to Chelsea’s squad from the summer’s transfer explosion going.
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have both had a hell of a time since coming to England. Werner, to his credit, has continued to contribute and has proven to be one of the more likable Chelsea additions of the past 10 years. His strong character and attitude seem to have won over supporters, despite the fact that he hasn’t scored many goals. Kai Havertz has barely even seen the field. His story is one of tragedy after tragedy. He has been injured, he caught COVID, he hasn’t been allowed to see his family because of COVID restrictions, etc. The young man has been through it, that’s for sure.
Where Tuchel has succeeded has been in transforming Chelsea’s defense from a disorganized sieve to a lucky collection of men who win through numbers. It doesn’t take a lot of watching to realize that the defense still gets by more on luck than it does through organization or skill. That said, Tuchel’s genius is in his acknowledging that quickly and giving Chelsea three at the back as opposed to two.
How does Tuchel’s success impact Chelsea’s transfer plans moving forward?
Ultimately though, the German knows as well as the board does that none of Chelsea’s true centerbacks are of the quality that win the Champions League. That is likely going to be addressed this summer.
Thiago Silva is as much a Rolls-Royce as ever, but the Blues are currently seeing just how his body can hold up to a long Premier League season with his extended injury break at the moment. Antonio Rudiger is a likable player and his attitude is charming, but what he guarantees more than anything else is two wild mistakes per match. Those are either a stray pass for no reason or a mistimed challenge in dangerous territory.
Andreas Christensen is simply inconsistent and plays with too little physical presence. His 6’2 frame belies a 5’7 game. Kurt Zouma is tragically underplayed for the highest scoring centerback in the division, who is also Chelsea’s most dominant aerial threat. Particularly in a team that struggles to find the net in any way shape or form. Cesar Azpilicueta is a good soldier and a good captain, no comments on him.
Truthfully, the Blues invested enough in the attack in the past window and they know it—over £100 million in attackers. At some point, they will gel and the attack will look better. In general, the Premier League is the hardest division in the world to adjust too. The list of majestically talented players who have come to the Premier League only to be felled by the weather, the culture, the physical demands and the pace is extensive. To deal with all of that, while also having the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID pandemic, is a whole new bag of worms.
It is my personal belief that the team will be entirely different in terms of its chemistry next season. With a summer’s worth of rest and then time with their families and a lesser degree of stress in their personal lives, it is my belief that the attack will look completely different.
While the attack is playing somewhere beneath its best at the moment, the defense is at the very top of its potential and that is why Chelsea is going to add defenders in the summer. This year the Blues will sell players in the summer, but I do think they’ll have as difficult a time as they did the previous year. Simply put, not every team has a wealthy benefactor who can simply shrug the economic impact of COVID the way Chelsea does. Other teams will not be able to buy players at the rate the Blues need, but outgoing moves will happen nonetheless.
Before Chelsea is able to add, it will sell, but a dominant centerback will be the goal. Bayern Munich has already made the first move and bought the most popular option on the market in Dayot Upamecano. Chelsea is in the race for his partner, Ibrahima Konate, who is a tremendous player though. Perr Schuurs of Ajax is another player who could fit the bill. Nikola Milenkovic of Fiorentina, as well as Kristoffer Ajer of Celtic, would be another great additions.
The players that Chelsea need will be dominant in the air, as well as good on the ground. But it is important more than anything that they be mentally sharp. The Blues have for too long had defenders who are ruled by their instincts rather than their intellects and who rely on luck rather than skill to keep clean sheets for the badge.
If Chelsea is going to compete for the title as Tuchel has demanded next season then it requires consistency as much as skill. That is the number one thing that the Blues are going to be trying to add this summer.
Players who can help win the title and not simply improve the team are finally in order again and that means the sort of centerback that has been discussed.
When Thomas Tuchel started his role as Chelsea’s head coach, the Blues were languishing at ninth position. But after their impressive victory over the current Premier League champion, Liverpool, they are back in the top four. Now Chelsea looks like a team that is well and truly back in the race for the Champions League positions.
Not many would have expected Tuchel to have such an impact early on his Chelsea career. The results so far of the busy period that started with a trip to Southampton have been pretty nice for the Blues. Even though it started with a disappointing draw to the Saints, they soon bounced back by defeating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16. That result was soon followed by another draw against Manchester United, who has made a habit of grinding out goalless draws against the traditional top six sides. With both teams looking to finish inside the top four, it was a result that did not damage the Blues’ top four ambitions, even though a win would have represented a significant impact.
That significant impact was achieved at the home of the champions. Despite the scoreline of 1-0, it was an absolutely impressive performance from the Tuchel’s men. Many players—including the goal scorer Mason Mount—put on a fantastic display. The fact that it was Liverpool’s fifth consecutive home loss should not take anything from what Chelsea achieved last Thursday. One only needs to look at how it ended at the Emirates Stadium when the Blues faced Arsenal, who was in very bad form at that time, to see that against the top six, form seldom matters.
How important was the win over Liverpool?
Victory over Liverpool was monumental, not just in its impact on the team, but it was also a significant three points over fellow top four aspirants that allowed Chelsea to keep up with other sides. The scenes at the final whistle showed how much mutual respect and admiration is there at the moment between the players and coach.
The man management of Tuchel has been really impressive since the start of his time in charge. Unlike Lampard in 2020/21, Tuchel has used his squad according to the opponents and their style. In the meantime, he has also made sure most of the squad have had the chance to make an impact. Almost everyone seems to have a chance to start any match, which was not the case with Lampard. Players like Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have embraced their opportunity with both hands.
There is nevertheless a long way to go to guarantee anything. The Blues are still in the Champions League and the FA Cup and they are still in contention to finish inside the top four. It is all about seizing each competition one at a time.
Up next for the boys in blue are fellow top four hopefuls, Everton. A loss to the Toffees in early December was the beginning of the end for Lampard and the Blues will now be out for blood. With Carlo Ancelloti’s side having a game in hand, a victory at Stamford Bridge will go a long way in ensuring the Toffees stay a considerable distance below and Chelsea’s target in the league is within reach.
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