Thomas Tuchel’s transformation of Chelsea has been of the greatest achievements of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
To tactically reshape the team within a few months of his arrival, taking the Blues from 10th to fourth and qualifying for the Champions League final, would be impressive in normal times.
But to do it in the middle of an exhausting pandemic-hit season – when the boundaries have been shifted, when there is so little time on the training ground – is something else.
Chelsea won 20 points from their first 19 Premier League games this season but, after replacing Frank Lampard with Tuchel, claimed 38 from the second 19.
The German virtually doubled their number of points-per-game average and, prior to the defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, he had a 66.6 per cent win percentage – the highest of any manager since Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge.
Here’s how he did it…
Played pandemic football: calm, consistent, & midfield-heavy
Prior to his appointment, Tuchel was renowned for his tactical flexibility – frequently changing formation – and his somewhat frantic attacking football from the Jurgen Klopp school of hard pressing and vertical lines. That is not the Tuchel Chelsea fans know.
Adapting to the unique conditions of this season Tuchel has implemented slow, calm, possession-heavy football that focuses the vast majority of Chelsea’s build-up play through the centre of the pitch.
He has followed Pep Guardiola’s lead in that regard, cramming the midfield with bodies in order to magnetise the ball towards the control centre, where Chelsea’s technicians can prevent the chaos of pandemic football.