Thomas Tuchel is the new Chelsea manager.
It’s easy to lose track of the managerial merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge, such is Roman Abramovich’s penchant for wielding his axe, but you couldn’t have missed the Frank Lampard news on Monday.
That’s because Chelsea made the decision to exact one of their most heartbreaking sackings since the 2003 takeover by showing their all-time record goalscorer the door.
Tuchel takes over
Despite a stellar first year that saw Lampard qualify for the Champions League despite a transfer ban and Eden Hazard’s departure, second-season-syndrome started to set in at the Bridge.
With just three wins in the Premier League since November, Chelsea were not seeing the expected returns from their £200 million of summer spending, thus taking the decision to switch coaches.
As a result, the last few days have been consumed with fans, pundits and reporters alike hypothesising how Chelsea will line up and evolve with Tuchel in their technical area.
New man at Stamford Bridge
With the former Paris Saint-Germain coach championing attacking full-backs, heavy-metal football in the final third and an iron-fisted rule, you can be certain that Tuchel’s tenure will be anything but uneventful.
And while, yes, it’s impossible to forecast exactly how Chelsea will move forward under their new boss, there are enough clues and precedents for us to have a good stab at making a prediction.
Besides, it’s a win-win situation, because we either look like football geniuses if we’re right or we can laugh at ourselves for being so wide of the mark if we turn out to be completely wrong.
Predictions for Tuchel’s reign
Either way, I’m pretty sure we’ve got you intrigued, so check out our nine predictions for Chelsea with Tuchel in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
1. Mason Mount dropped to the bench
We take no pleasure in saying this, trust us, because Mount – who is valued at £40.5 million – has arguably been Chelsea’s best player this season and this has nothing to do with all the Lampard memes…
Anyhow, those disclaimers aside, it’s difficult to see where Mount fits into Tuchel’s favoured 4-3-3 formation given his infatuation with robust, defensively-astute midfielders at the Parce des Princes.
I think Tuchel’s most-used midfield would see N’Golo Kante coupled with Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho, while his compatriot, Kai Havertz, will get the nod over Mount behind the front three.
2. Timo Werner scores 15 Premier League goals
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Werner has been a flop in the Premier League – check out that can of worms here – and one of the biggest goals of Tuchel’s appointment is bringing out the best in Chelsea’s German signings.
And considering Werner is just a whisker away from being Chelsea’s top scorer already this season, I can definitely foresee a strong end to the season that boosts his current Premier League tally of four.
With Tuchel poised to consistently play Werner in his preferred position of centre-forward, I see him finishing the season as Chelsea’s leading goal-getter with the ‘flop’ claims jettisoned into the past.
3. Antonio Rudiger signs a new contract
While all the focus on Tuchel’s arrival might have revolved around Havertz and Werner getting their form back on track, Rudiger is the third German who could benefit from their compatriot’s arrival.
Reports of Rudiger helping to dig Lampard’s grave seem a little far-fetched, but it’s clear that the ex-AS Roma man didn’t have the backing of Chelsea’s departing boss in the way he might from the replacement.
As a result, I can see a world in which Rudiger forms a centre-back partnership with Kurt Zouma, forcing Chelsea to act on securing his future at the club with his contract expiring in 18 months.
4. Kepa finishes the season as number one
But Rudiger isn’t the only player who can benefit from the inevitable second chances presented by Tuchel’s arrival and it could pull Kepa’s self-destructing Chelsea career out of the fire.
I anticipate that Edouard Mendy’s shakier performances in recent weeks will continue into the spring, leading to Kepa getting a chance in the Premier League that he’ll grab with both hands.
It’s easy to forget that Kepa’s first year at Stamford Bridge was actually pretty impressive, so I don’t think it’s from without the realms of possibility that he’ll discover that solidity under Tuchel’s watch.
5. Chelsea qualify for the Champions League
With speculation that Abramovich still expects a title challenge this season and the inevitability of a new-manager-bounce, you can expect to see the Blues climbing the Premier League ladder again.
I anticipate that the Manchester clubs and Liverpool will stay the course with the most composure, sewing up the top three places, but I think Champions League qualification is well within the Blues’ grasps.
There’s simply too much quality in this Chelsea side, that could well be enlivened by Tuchel’s arrival, to write off their chances of beating Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur to fourth place.
6. Tammy Abraham signs for West Ham
Now, this isn’t a criticism of Abraham because I actually think he’s one of the Premier League’s most underrated players and has led the goalscoring charts in every full season he’s played for Chelsea.
However, with Werner poised to get the nod as Chelsea’s number nine and Olivier Giroud looking like his most natural back-up as Tuchel’s new Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, things aren’t looking good for Abraham.
But I can foresee a long line of Premier League clubs hunting for the £36 million-rated striker in the summer and with David Moyes on the hunt after flogging Sebastien Haller, then West Ham could be the answer.
7. Thiago Silva misses out on a contract renewal
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’ll know that Tuchel’s man-management can often cause friction in the dressing room, so we’re anticipating at least one flare of coach-player drama in 2021.
And Silva looks like the natural fit for that friction after making some choice comments about Tuchel as recently as December, potentially wiping out his chances of a contract renewal in the summer.
Speaking to RMC, Silva reacted to Tuchel’s PSG dismissal by saying: “It’s difficult but it was predictable that this [sacking] was going to happen.”
8. Marco Verratti arrives from PSG
It’s still early days to predict who Tuchel will bring to west London, particularly given that Chelsea practically emptied their coffers last summer, but you can expect at least one marquee signing in 2021.
I don’t buy that Chelsea will go all out for Erling Braut Haaland when Tuchel could revive Werner’s form, but I do buy that he’ll look for a midfielder who suits his style better than Kovacic or Jorginho.
Could Verratti be that player? Although it remains to be seen whether he’d fancy a move to England, given his links to Tuchel and his dynamism in every third, I wouldn’t write off a summer approach.
9. Tuchel sacked halfway through 2022/23 season
Now, beyond the summer, we don’t want to get too carried away with long-sighted predictions about what could happen in the 2021/22 season and beyond because, well, the footballing landscape can change in an instant.
But we’re going to make an exception when it comes to Tuchel’s job security because if there’s anything predictable about Chelsea under Abramovich, it’s the consistent impatience with managers when things get tough.
As a result, we’re inclined to agree with Gary Neville that Tuchel will suffer the same fate as Lampard in due course and we’re out nailing our flag to the mast of October or November 2022.
Will Tuchel succeed?
Have we predicted the future? Have we heck, but we’ve given it our best shot.
In a sport where almost-relegated Leicester went on to win the Premier League title, it’s certainly possible that Mount will become Tuchel’s star player and Werner will continue to struggle.
Nevertheless, we have good reason to think that Tuchel’s reign at Stamford Bridge will be markedly different from that of Lampard’s and we back at least three of our predictions to transpire this year.
If nothing else, we can feel pretty certain that Tuchel will be sacked at some point. It’s the circle of life for Abramovich, after all.