Thomas Tuchel must prevent repeating Reece James mistake as crucial £300m Chelsea decision awaits

Thomas Tuchel knows how much work needs to be done at Chelsea over the summer, has admitted as much in the final press conference of the season at Stamford Bridge.

“There are too many things to clarify and give an opinion,” Tuchel said when revealing he had no time to go on holiday. “Of course, nowadays, you can have meetings on Zoom so it’s not necessary to do everything in person. The first days I will be here anyway and around because my children are in school, so it will start with a bit of a delay to the holidays.”

Tuchel will have a chance to reflect on a very long and draining 63-game season. One that felt even longer due to the uncertainty over a change in ownership, several gruelling runs, and devastating defeats in cup finals.

Tuchel is beloved amongst supporters, that became even clearer during the weeks after the club was impacted by sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich. Even with some frustrations over performances and results in the remaining weeks of the season, the majority are fully behind the German and believe that with the right recruitment, he can vastly improve the Blues in the coming years should he remain in the dugout.

Though for all of Tuchel’s strengths, there are a couple of flaws to improve upon. And myself and colleague Adam Newson are here to go through two changes that need to be made before the start of next season.

As clear as the need for attacking improvement is next season, part of what underlines that is the need for Thomas Tuchel to be braver and take more risks within games. This is not only linked to the attackers, it also relates to other areas of the pitch.

Maybe a change in formation in games Chelsea are expected to win, replacing a third centre-back with another attacking player to add numbers to overload low blocks that the Blues face on a pretty frequent basis. Too often when watching from my Stamford Bridge seat last season, it felt like the players were too apprehensive on the ball, scared to make an error with a more daring pass so they would play safe, allowing opponents to remain in their shape and make Chelsea’s method of attack highly predictable.

Another side issue to this wider problem of staying risk-averse is moving dangerous attacking players into more defensive positions. There really is no greater example than Reece James, deployed as the right-sided centre-back through April.

James is a superb and highly versatile talent, one who could probably excel anywhere on the pitch, however his flexibility maybe hinders him as it gives Tuchel the comfort to deploy him against speedy attacks. Though to do this effectively puts a handbrake on his talent at wingback, most notably his ability to glide forward, interchange with the wide player and move into central midfield.

Maybe due to Chelsea’s success under coaches like Mourinho, there is a tendency to look at players in a pragmatic way, rather than progressively. James’ numbers last year demonstrate how dangerous a creative threat he is becoming, and this is even more vital in a team that does not create a lot of opportunities.

With the potential signing of Jules Kounde to add more speed into Tuchel’s backline, I hope that James remains a wingback or fullback for the majority of next season.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, Chelsea have spent more than £300million on improving their frontline. A deal for Christian Pulisic worth £60m was the first to be completed; a £33m move for Hakim Ziyech followed; Timo Werner was signed for £49.5m from RB Leipzig; Kai Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen for £71m; Romelu Lukaku joined for a club-record £97.5m.

Yet top scorer for the Blues in the top flight last season? Academy graduate Mason Mount with ten. That is simply not good enough and something that must change next term if Chelsea are to have any chance of reigning in Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League.

Tuchel has already suggested he isn’t going to drastically move away from his 3-4-2-1 system: “I don’t think it’s a problem of structure that we have because we delivered in this structure at a very high level with our performances,” the Chelsea head coach said after the final game of the season.

“There were some reasons to play this structure in the way we played it and we were very successful and at a high level very stable. It’s not the plan to change.”

If the 3-4-2-1 system stays in place, Tuchel will have to give his attacking players greater creative licence. They can’t be afraid to take chances in possession and can’t be admonished if the ball is lost in a promising position. The first thought shouldn’t always be about playing safe.

Chelsea scored 76 goals in the Premier League in 2021/22, the third-highest total. It’s a respectable figure but well off Man City (99) and Liverpool (94). And until the Blues get closer to those figures, then they are destined to come up short in their pursuit of a first title in six seasons.

Thomas Tuchel knows how much work needs to be done at Chelsea over the summer, has admitted as much in the final press conference of the season at Stamford Bridge.

“There are too many things to clarify and give an opinion,” Tuchel said when revealing he had no time to go on holiday. “Of course, nowadays, you can have meetings on Zoom so it’s not necessary to do everything in person. The first days I will be here anyway and around because my children are in school, so it will start with a bit of a delay to the holidays.”

Tuchel will have a chance to reflect on a very long and draining 63-game season. One that felt even longer due to the uncertainty over a change in ownership, several gruelling runs, and devastating defeats in cup finals.

Tuchel is beloved amongst supporters, that became even clearer during the weeks after the club was impacted by sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich. Even with some frustrations over performances and results in the remaining weeks of the season, the majority are fully behind the German and believe that with the right recruitment, he can vastly improve the Blues in the coming years should he remain in the dugout.

Though for all of Tuchel’s strengths, there are a couple of flaws to improve upon. And myself and colleague Adam Newson are here to go through two changes that need to be made before the start of next season.

As clear as the need for attacking improvement is next season, part of what underlines that is the need for Thomas Tuchel to be braver and take more risks within games. This is not only linked to the attackers, it also relates to other areas of the pitch.

Maybe a change in formation in games Chelsea are expected to win, replacing a third centre-back with another attacking player to add numbers to overload low blocks that the Blues face on a pretty frequent basis. Too often when watching from my Stamford Bridge seat last season, it felt like the players were too apprehensive on the ball, scared to make an error with a more daring pass so they would play safe, allowing opponents to remain in their shape and make Chelsea’s method of attack highly predictable.

Another side issue to this wider problem of staying risk-averse is moving dangerous attacking players into more defensive positions. There really is no greater example than Reece James, deployed as the right-sided centre-back through April.

James is a superb and highly versatile talent, one who could probably excel anywhere on the pitch, however his flexibility maybe hinders him as it gives Tuchel the comfort to deploy him against speedy attacks. Though to do this effectively puts a handbrake on his talent at wingback, most notably his ability to glide forward, interchange with the wide player and move into central midfield.

Maybe due to Chelsea’s success under coaches like Mourinho, there is a tendency to look at players in a pragmatic way, rather than progressively. James’ numbers last year demonstrate how dangerous a creative threat he is becoming, and this is even more vital in a team that does not create a lot of opportunities.

With the potential signing of Jules Kounde to add more speed into Tuchel’s backline, I hope that James remains a wingback or fullback for the majority of next season.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, Chelsea have spent more than £300million on improving their frontline. A deal for Christian Pulisic worth £60m was the first to be completed; a £33m move for Hakim Ziyech followed; Timo Werner was signed for £49.5m from RB Leipzig; Kai Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen for £71m; Romelu Lukaku joined for a club-record £97.5m.

Yet top scorer for the Blues in the top flight last season? Academy graduate Mason Mount with ten. That is simply not good enough and something that must change next term if Chelsea are to have any chance of reigning in Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League.

Tuchel has already suggested he isn’t going to drastically move away from his 3-4-2-1 system: “I don’t think it’s a problem of structure that we have because we delivered in this structure at a very high level with our performances,” the Chelsea head coach said after the final game of the season.

“There were some reasons to play this structure in the way we played it and we were very successful and at a high level very stable. It’s not the plan to change.”

If the 3-4-2-1 system stays in place, Tuchel will have to give his attacking players greater creative licence. They can’t be afraid to take chances in possession and can’t be admonished if the ball is lost in a promising position. The first thought shouldn’t always be about playing safe.

Chelsea scored 76 goals in the Premier League in 2021/22, the third-highest total. It’s a respectable figure but well off Man City (99) and Liverpool (94). And until the Blues get closer to those figures, then they are destined to come up short in their pursuit of a first title in six seasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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