Thomas Tuchel has made an instant impression at Chelsea, the new head coach enjoying a hugely encouraging honeymoon period since arriving at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel arrived as a replacement for the sacked Frank Lampard and has since overseen an impressive 14-game unbeaten run in all competitions, Chelsea moving into the Premier League’s top four and progressing to the latter stages of the FA Cup and Champions League.
The west London side’s unbeaten run has also included a huge 12 clean sheets, the club’s defensive solidity providing the platform for a remarkable upturn in results.
The change in management has also provided a fresh start for several players at Chelsea and we’ve decided to look at those to have benefitted most from Tuchel’s appointment.
Perhaps the most notable beneficiary of the change in coach, Antonio Rudiger’s career with Chelsea appeared all but over as he found himself fifth-choice centre-back last summer.
The Germany international was linked with moves to Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain, the latter then under the guidance of Tuchel, who has since made the defender an integral part of his Chelsea side.
Tuchel has favoured a back three formation since arriving at Stamford Bridge and it is a system which has delivered instant results, Rudiger’s domineering defending having added a new dimension to the Blues’ backline.
Rudiger’s renaissance has been a welcome boost for Chelsea and their new head coach, the centre-back outstanding in victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League’s last 16.
Having looked destined for an exit from the club just months ago, he is now one of the first names on the team sheet under the new regime.
Andreas Christensen has struggled for regular opportunities over the past three seasons, but has become a mainstay of the side in recent weeks after stepping in following an injury to Thiago Silva.
The Denmark international has thrived in the centre of the back three, a position which helps cover the flaws in his game and allows his strengths to flourish, the centre-back composed in possession and a fine distributor from deep.
Christensen boasts the fourth-best pass completion amongst all Premier League centre-backs this season, having found a teammate with 92.9% of his passes, a figure bettered by only teammate Silva and Manchester City pairing John Stones and Ruben Dias.
The 24-year-old was tipped to be the long-term solution at centre-back for Chelsea after impressing during a two-year loan with Borussia Monchengladbach as a youngster, but his four seasons in the first-team with the Blues have been mixed and have come under the guidance of four different managers.
Should Tuchel persist with the back three that has served his side so well in recent weeks, Christensen could become an increasingly influential figure if he can maintain his recent form.
N’Golo Kante is back to his very best and what a difference the indefatigable midfielder makes to Chelsea.
Kante’s performance in the Champions League win over Atletico Madrid last week had the pundits purring, with former Chelsea favourite Joe Cole admitting his presence was as good as having two players in the engine room.
The France international has been one of the Premier League’s leading lights since arriving into the division as a relative unknown, winning back-to-back league titles with Leicester and Chelsea and establishing himself as arguably the best defensive midfielder in world football.
Recent seasons have seen questionable positional experiments from managers and a succession of injuries, though Kante has made a mockery of suggestions he is past his peak in recent outings.
After an energy-sapping workload over the past three seasons, an injury-enforced break has reinvigorated the midfielder who has become the dynamic destroyer of the Chelsea midfield again.
N'Golo Kanté was absolutely everywhere against Atletico Madrid 👏
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 22, 2021
Kante’s ability to regain and recycle possession has been invaluable to the Blues in recent weeks, his industrious displays in shutting down opponents helping towards a superb defensive record.
Tuchel’s first summer of recruitment will be fascinating as he addresses the flaws in a squad he inherited, though Kante looks likely to be a central figure in the side as the club move forward next season.
Just when it appears Marcos Alonso’s days at Chelsea are numbered, the flying full-back finds a way to work his way back into the club’s plans.
Alonso has been in and out of favour more times than we care to count during his five seasons at Stamford Bridge, though has forced his way back into the reckoning after being frozen out entirely by Lampard.
The Spain international had not made a match-day squad in the Premier League since being hauled off at half-time of the 3-3 draw with West Brom in September, as Chelsea found themselves three goals down at the interval.
Named on the bench for Tuchel’s first game in charge against Wolves, Alonso has since started eight fixtures in all competitions, scoring on his return to league action against Burnley.
Alonso’s return to favour has very much proven to be a case of horses for courses. The 30-year-old, in truth, is an average defender but a player who is tailor-made for a system involving wing-backs.
The greater freedom provided by Tuchel’s system has brought the best from a wide player with huge forward threat, with Alonso edging out summer signing Ben Chilwell for regular minutes at present.
Chelsea’s club captain and longest-serving player had begun to be phased out by former teammate Lampard, making just nine league appearances before Tuchel’s appointment in late January.
Azpilicueta had found himself under fierce competition from academy graduate Reece James for a position at right-back, the latter providing greater dynamism and forward threat after being handed his opportunity under the former manager.
— Nischal Schwager-Patel (@Nischal_SP) March 18, 2021
Tuchel’s arrival has seen Azpilicueta re-establish himself as an automatic starter in the side, producing a number of excellent displays as a third centre-back following the change in system.
The role is one that perfectly suits the Spaniard at this stage of his career, covering the right-flank diligently without the need for marauding runs into opposition territory.
The return of the captain to the side has also provided leadership and organisation to a backline that has thrived under the new head coach, Azpilicueta slotting back into the side seamlessly and an ever-dependable member of Tuchel’s defence.