Little over a month since his dismissal by French giants Paris Saint-Germain, the reputable Thomas Tuchel may well be closing in on a new managerial position.
The German chief is the favourite to replace Frank Lampard at Chelsea after the former midfielder was sacked on Monday following a poor run of form. Lampard had only been in charge at Stamford Bridge for 18 months, but with only one win in five matches, the club decided that a change was required.
Chelsea, who sit ninth in the table, are hopeful that Tuchel will be able to attend their next Premier League game against Wolves on Wednesday.
Tuchel took his first step on the managerial ladder with FC Augsburg II in July 2007, and has since managed German Bundesliga outfits Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund.
His spell at Dortmund petered out with just one major honour – the DFB-Pokal, or German Cup – though he would secure a move to PSG within a year, where he would achieve much greater success.
With PSG, Tuchel won back-to-back league titles, and four additional domestic honours, while he reached the Final of the Champions League in 2019-20, only to be beaten by Bayern Munich.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will be expecting Tuchel to conjure a similar haul if appointed as their new head coach, having last lifted the Premier League title in 2016-17. Their last trophy win was the 2018-19 Europa League, but Chelsea would much prefer to be challenging for the Champions League, a competition they last won in 2011-12.
So if Tuchel were to succeed Lampard at Stamford Bridge, what would be his five most pressing concerns?
Establish a system
One of Lampard’s chief failings was the absence of a consistent set up.
From his first day until his last day, Lampard did not know his best eleven, or know his best system. Part of the problem was indeed filtering in more than £200 million worth of new talent, but he didn’t have time on his side.
For Tuchel, identifying and imposing a preferred tactical approach should not be a problem, because he is goes about his work in a very meticulous manner. He will succeed where Lampard failed in terms of communication, and implementation of ideas.
At his previous clubs, Tuchel’s extensive regime included diet plans, monitoring sleeping patterns of players, heavy reliance on analytics and overhauling scouting process.
It remains to be seen whether Tuchel would be granted such a controlling stake though it’s merely the tools of a man that wants to succeed, and who wants to succeed by doing it his way.
Fix a £118 million problem
Lampard also failed to get the best out of his new signings, in particular, £118 million duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. Tuchel did endure some criticism for failing to maximise the potential of an all-star PSG squad, but he would already have something in common with Chelsea’s newest imports – his roots.
Even then, he still won trophies and reached a Champions League Final. He’d be able to connect more easily with both Havertz and Werner and implement them into his own system, which could finally see him get the best out of those players.
Havertz cost the club £71 million and Werner a further £47m, so it is imperative that Chelsea finally reap the rewards of that generous spend. Tuchel has also worked previously with the likes of Thiago Silva and Christian Pulisic, which should also help him carry influence over the squad.
Trim the squad
Tuchel’s potential appointment will inevitably arrive too late to complete any significant transfer business. I wouldn’t expect incomings, only outgoings – if anything at all this month.
Nevertheless, the summer will be a crucial time for him and the club. There’s still a lot of deadwood in the squad, including a large number of players out on loan, and Tuchel needs to finally address that.
Danny Drinkwater, Baba Rahman, Michy Batshuayi, Charly Musonda, Davide Zappacosta, Victor Moses, Kenedy, Marco van Ginkel and Tiemoue Bakayoko are all unlikely to break into the first-team.
Meanwhile, a decision may have to be made regarding Kepa Arrizabalaga. Chelsea spent £71.6m on the transfer in 2018, a world record fee for a goalkeeper, but he has proven too error prone.
Lampard then identified Edouard Mendy as the club’s new number one, meaning Chelsea have a £71m signing playing backup. Form would suggest it is deservingly so, but consider the money spent for his services and they’d be better off trying to recoup as much as they can while they can.
Tuchel will certainly need to do a little trimming to the squad before adding too many of his own players.
Champions League progression
What Lampard did manage to do was breeze through the group-stage of the Champions League with relative ease. They won four and drew two of their six games, including a thumping 4-0 win over Sevilla.
Their table-topping exploits landed them a knockout round tie against Atletico Madrid, one of the more challenging opponents available. Atletico have been excellent under Diego Simeone for a number of years and it will be an intriguing battle between the two sides next month.
It is therefore imperative that Tuchel continues on Lampard’s good work and nullifies this particular threat. He won’t have all that much time to implement all his ideas in time but failure to progress in Europe’s premier competition will give him an early unwanted black mark in the eyes of Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea begin life without Lampard at home to Wolves, who have been struggling for form themselves in the continued absence of Raul Jimenez. Whether Tuchel is through the door yet or not, it’s a crucial game for Chelsea to return to winning ways.
Following that, Chelsea host Burnley. That’s another fixture they’d expect to win, despite Liverpool’s defeat at home to Burnley last week. Potentially, that’s six points already in the bank as they look to move swiftly up the table.
February then presents numerous challenges, including Premier League matches against Tottenham, Manchester United, and the impressive Southampton, as well as the first European meeting with Atletico Madrid.
Between now and the end of February, Chelsea need to take 12 points against Wolves, Burnley, Sheffield United and Newcastle. The rest is a bonus, so long as they are back in the top four.
If Tuchel can tick each of those boxes, whilst avoiding any repeats of inner conflicts at his previous clubs, then he is sure to survive Chelsea’s cutthroat hierarchy much longer than Lampard. Maybe he’ll also have a title or two to show for it.