Thomas Tuchel is set to be appointed as new Chelsea manager imminently, and the German arrives with plenty to do if he is to turn around the club’s dramatic demise in recent weeks.
There was no room for sentiment as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich ruthlessly dismissed Frank Lampard this week, with the team on a disastrous run of form which has seen them lose five of their last eight league games.
With the Stamford Bridge club lying ninth in the Premier League table, the Blues have turned to former Paris Saint-German boss Tuchel to reverse their fortunes.
Here’s what the 47-year-old German urgently needs to address in West London.
FIXING BIG-MONEY FLOPS
Chelsea prioritized getting in a German speaker as Lampard’s replacement and it’s easy to ascertain why.
The club splashed a combined fee of around £120 million ($165 million) on bringing highly-rated German duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge over the summer as part of a major spending spree.
Neither, however, has made the impact expected of them.
Werner has managed four strikes in 19 Premier League appearances and is without a goal in his past 11 league games.
That is a paltry return for the 24-year-old forward, who scored 28 times in 34 Bundesliga games for former club RB Leipzig last season.
Playmaker Havertz – admittedly hampered by a Covid-19 infection earlier in the season – has similarly not hit the ground running as many would have hoped.
The 21-year-old has a solitary goal and three assists to his name in 16 Premier League appearances, and has struggled to adapt to life in England.
As a fellow German, Tuchel will be expected to coax the best out of the pair as a matter of urgency if he is to reverse Chelsea’s slump.
STABILITY IN SELECTION
The unique congestion of this season will mean rotation is key for any squad hoping to challenge in the Premier League.
However, Lampard’s constant chopping and changing of personnel ended up looking increasingly desperate as he fumbled for a reaction from his players as results deteriorated.
The former Chelsea boss settled on a 4-3-3 as his preferred formation but within that there was no established core of players or partnerships in key areas.
Thiago Silva was Lampard’s first-choice centre-half, and will likely remain so under Tuchel, but at the end of his tenure Lampard seemed caught between Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma as the Brazilian’s best partner.
Zouma was given a long run of games from the start of the season, only for Rudiger to reappear for the matches with Fulham and Leicester.
In midfield, Mason Mount was Lampard’s go-to starter but alongside him N’Golo Kante, Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic were regularly rotated.
Perhaps spoilt for choice, Lampard was even more inconsistent with his array of options on the flanks and up front, struggling with how to align Havertz, Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odi, Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud.
Tuchel will quickly need to settle on his Best XI to bring some consistency and stability as Chelsea aim to push back up the table.
CONTINUING TO NURTURE YOUNGSTERS
One of Lampard’s successes at Stamford Bridge was blooding youngsters such as Mount, Abraham and full-back Reece James into the first team.
Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour, just 19, was also handed his debut under Lampard and looks an exciting prospect for the future.
Winger Hudson-Odoi, 20, has struggled with lengthy injury absences but now appears fit and is another option Tuchel can call on.
Lampard will rue the fact that he did not have more time to nurture Chelsea’s prodigious young talent, and Tuchel will have to take on that mantle while playing the delicate balancing act of ensuring the team’s expensive summer arrivals also flourish.
PLAYING POLITICS AT THE BRIDGE
Tuchel is not a man known for his handling of the political side of life at a big club.
His departure from PSG stemmed from a widening rift with director Leonardo, while he is also said to have fallen out with higher-ups at Borussia Dortmund before leaving the club in 2017.
As former Chelsea managers such as Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have found to their cost, Chelsea is also a club rife with political pitfalls.
Abramovich may have become an absent owner due to his UK visa issues, but Marina Granovskaia is the Russian’s most trusted lieutenant at the club.
She and Lampard are said to have suffered a growing rift over transfer targets and the fate of existing players such as goalkeeping flop Kepa Arrizbalaga.
Somewhat uniquely, Chelsea technical director Petr Cech is still in and around the playing squad after the goalkeeping icon was registered in the Blues’ 25-man Premier League list for this season.
Tuchel must learn his place in the scheme of things at Chelsea and maintain harmonious relations with the likes of Granovskaia for things to function smoothly moving forward.
RESULTS – AND FAST
Chelsea paymaster Abramovich is notoriously demanding of his managers, insisting on results and style in how his team plays.
The Russian’s ruthless streak was on full display as Lampard was let go, and the club’s precarious position in the league will mean the pressure is on Tuchel to implement an immediate uptick in results.
The next two games are vital – and eminently winnable – as Chelsea host Wolves and then Burnley at the Bridge, before a visit to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham.
Tuchel could be in the Chelsea dugout as early as the game with Wolves on Wednesday, when they will look for a winning start to cut the gap to the top four.
A Champions League place will be the bare minimum for Tuchel in his first season, given the revenues it brings and Chelsea’s need to balance the books after their £230 million summer spending spree and amid the continuing effects on revenues caused by the Covid pandemic.
Tuchel is known for being tactically astute and will bring far more coaching experience with him than Lampard did, but the German will need to manifest that quickly in the form of results as he aims to restore some much-needed confidence at Stamford Bridge.