The first month was stormy for Thomas Tuchel in Chelsea.
Seven games. Five wins. Two goals conceded. Zero losses. A public dressing per player.
Oh, and thousands upon thousands of passages.
The net result is a widespread belief that Chelsea have upgraded by firing the great club Frank Lampard and replacing him with a more experienced tactician in Tuchel, who has already put his own stamp on the team as he moves to life in English football.
The schedule has been favorable to the German coach so far, Premier League games against out-of-form teams (Wolves, Tottenham and Southampton) or relegation contenders (Newcastle, Burnley and Sheffield United) following a FA Cup match for second-tier. Barnsley.
Now is the time for the toughest test so far since Tuchel’s tenure at Chelsea – a match of the last 16 in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid, the leader of the Spanish league and his coach for nearly 10 years Diego Simeone.
“That’s exactly what we want, the biggest test,” Tuhel said on Monday. “Because we hope it brings out the best in us. When you play against Atletico, it is clear what you get – you get hard battles, an experienced team, a lot of mentality.
“We will do it our way, and they will do it their way.”
So, what is Chelsea’s “way” since Tuhel’s arrival on January 26, the day after Lampard’s shooting and the day before Tuhel takes over his first game?
In a clear change in the game plan, Tuhel immediately switched Lampard’s 4-2-3-1 formation to a defense of three men with high backs and two sitting midfielders to defend the back line.
Tuhel went on to make more of the off-season by signing Timo Werner, placing him as an inside striker, positioned on the left and right next to the main striker, who alternated between Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham.
The plaque was removed from the squad, bringing back a number of players, including full-back Marcos Alonso – who has not played since September under Lampard – center-back Antonio Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoy, a winger who occasionally acts as a right-back under Tuhel.
Cesar Aspilicueta, the reliable captain of the club, was a regular in the team as a right center half. His days seemed numbered under Lampard.
Then there was a clear change in style of play, with Chelsea dominating the ball and holding at least 70% possession in four of the seven games. Against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chelsea had 79% possession and made 820 assists – more than any other team in a Premier League game this season.
Still, some old habits die hard. Chelsea continue to struggle to turn their dominance from matches and territorial pressure into goals, as in the 1-1 draw in Southampton on Saturday, when Tuchel complained about the “lack of precision” of his team.
“I didn’t feel in the last 20 meters that we were going to kill the game,” he said.
Expect chances to be a little against Atletico’s experienced and famous solid defense, as Tuchel takes over the second different team in the Champions League this season after leading Paris Saint-Germain runner-up in the 2019-20-20 group stage before being sacked. December.
Tuhel said Chelsea would have to “excel” to beat Atletico.
“It’s only possible if you feel a connection between the players as a coach and I feel those things,” he said.
Tuhel said Hudson-Odoi had been vying to start the first game on Tuesday after pulling out the 20-year-old England international just 30 minutes after bringing him in as a half-time substitute against Southampton – saying his “attitude” did not. is correct.
This was Tuhel’s first open dispute with a player since his arrival, underscoring his reputation as a one-man coach who is not afraid to speak out.
Tuhel said Monday that he spoke with Hudson-Odoy in front of the training squad and that the matter was over.
Sometimes you think, “Should I have done it? “, Tuhel said,” because the media, the appearance, the family make it bigger than expected. And yet I did it and I had the desired reaction.
“I said after the game that this is the solution for today, this is the lesson you need to learn about it. For me too. “
In fact, Tuhel still has a lot to learn about his team, emphasizing the size of his task against Atletico, while he seems to outsmart the coach in Simeone, who has been in office since 2011.
“You know you reach the highest level when you play Atletico in the first round of knockouts,” Tuhel said. “We feel confident. We feel excited. “