Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel came off second best in the FA Cup final last weekend, although the West Londoners did manage to gain a modicum of revenge days later. After getting the better of Leicester at Stamford Bridge, their hopes of a top-four finish have been given a substantial boost.
The Blues are now primed and ready for this month’s Champions League final but they haven’t yet secured an invite to next season’s party and, if they avoid a fifth-place domestic finish on Sunday, they will travel to Portugal with their own form of holiday insurance. If they do secure entry to UEFA’s most coveted club competition, it will take a considerable amount of pressure off Thomas Tuchel going into the final.
The pressure on Tuchel will ramp up, though, if Chelsea’s season collapses in the next few days. Following an incredible start to his tenure, if failure to finish in the top-four is combined with a second Champions League final defeat in as many years for the German, the knives could quickly sharped for the former PSG boss.
Although Roman Abramovich is notorious for his ruthlessness, one would imagine that Tuchel will still be in charge in August whatever happens and, when you look at Chelsea’s league form since his arrival in January, it could bode well for next season.
When the 47-year-old took the reins from Frank Lampard, his first task was to oversee the visit of Wolves. His first 90 minutes in charge were only good for a frustrating stalemate but was hardly a precursor of things to come. The Premier League table since Tuchel’s arrival makes considerably good reading for Chelsea fans, with the club second in the league over that time.
From his 18 games, the Blues would find themselves four points behind fellow Champions League finalists Manchester City and seven points clear of Manchester United in third, while possessing a record of: P18, W11, D5, L2.
In football you don’t win any prizes for being near the top of an arbitrary form table. However, such an extended run of results does suggest that Chelsea could be more of a threat next time around if Tuchel can continue working his magic.
It may be a leap of faith to suggest that the Premier League title will be returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2017 but the Blues’ recent pedigree does suggest they will be in a position to at least mount a genuine challenge.
It’s something that the competition arguably needs once it restarts in August and, with Liverpool and Manchester City winning the last two editions at a canter, fans have been deprived a regular dose of title drama.
If Tuchel is to close the gap to Pep Guardiola’s men, there will need to be improvements over the summer but not too many. You get the feeling it will be closer to evolution rather than revolution.
There is no doubt that Chelsea’s previous managerial incumbent left behind a gift-wrapped squad for his successor and for that the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss may privately owe Frank Lampard a debt of gratitude.
However, a talented group of players can only get you so far and in the last days of Lampard’s tenure, they were only good for a rather lacklustre ninth place in the league.
So credit must go to the coaching methods of Tuchel which have lifted Chelsea since the start of the year and, although efforts on the field haven’t always been perfect, this is a club that is certainly more than just a work in progress.
Their progress could be accelerated further if they get the better of Manchester City next week and, if they are to win a first Champions League trophy since 2012, it will offer a warning signal to footballing foes both home and abroad.
Conquering Europe could serve as the perfect catalyst for Chelsea to start their latest period of domestic dominance and although they are known for operating within a cycle of boom and bust, it may finally be time to create another trophy dynasty in West London. Tuchel deserves a lot of credit for that.
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