Thomas Tuchel is wading through his first major crisis as Chelsea manager.
Despite having delivered Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup finals during his time as manager, things haven’t necessarily been all plain sailing when it comes to the Premier League.
The Blues are now facing the very real possibility of a battle to stay in the top four having won the same amount of games in England’s top-flight since December 11 as Norwich City.
Worrying times at Chelsea
Since Chelsea‘s dramatic 3-2 win over Leeds United over a month ago, Tuchel’s side have slumped to five draws, one defeat and one win to fall 12 points behind Manchester City in the title race.
While you’d like to hope that Tuchel has enough credit in the bank to avoid Roman Abramovich’s axe at this stage, the comparisons with Frank Lampard’s final months at the club are certainly damning.
The eight points that Tuchel has amassed in his last seven Premier League games is just one better than the seven that Lampard managed before he was sent packing at this point last season.
However, let’s face it, Abramovich would be out of his mind to sack Chelsea’s Champions League-winning coach so hastily and a lot of the internal reviewing should actually revolve around the players.
Brighton 1-1 Chelsea Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Tuchel’s crop of players
So, as Chelsea enter a critical point in a season that could either find its feet again or completely implode from this point onwards, we wanted to rank and rate the playing squad at the heart of it.
Which players can Tuchel really rely on the most as his job, remarkably, looks less and less secure by the day? Well, we’ve sought to tackle that question with our trusty medium of a Tiermaker.
Ranking the club’s first-team players from ‘World-class’ to ‘Sell ASAP’ with five tiers in between, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how Chelsea are shaping up at such a fascinating crisis point.
Naturally, all of the ratings are decided upon by the opinion of your humble writer, but rest assured that statistics, the eye test and what makes business sense will all factor into my choices.
Plus, be sure to bear in mind that anybody playing for Chelsea is an incredibly talented individual worthy of praise, so even the lowest-ranked stars are still exceptionally gifted at the highest level.
Ranking Chelsea’s 2021/22 squad
But enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because we’ve got Chelsea’s entire 2021/22 squad to rank and you can check out the final decision that yours truly came to down below:
Ross Barkley and Timo Werner
Now, this might seem harsher than we actually want it to because Werner’s place in this category is largely down to business as opposed to us thinking that he’s some sort of passenger at Chelsea.
As well as generally being a lovely and down-to-earth bloke, Werner is a top-class striker when his confidence is high and always delivers 100% effort with indefatigable pressing and runs in behind.
However, the longer that his woeful run of form in front of goals goes on in west London, the more and more it makes sense for both parties to end their marriage before his stock drops even further.
I’m inclined to think that it’s in the interest of both Chelsea’s coffers and Werner’s career for them to part ways as soon as possible because things simply haven’t worked out in the Premier League.
As for Barkley, he needs to seek pastures new to be in with a shot at returning to the England squad for the World Cup because he’s currently feeding off scraps and running on fumes at the Bridge.
Probably not good enough
Marcos Alonso, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic
Look, Alonso has it within him to embark upon exciting purple patches where a sudden avalanche of goals and assists have Fantasy Premier League players signing him up en masse.
However, there has simply been too much evidence in recent games to suggest that Alonso isn’t good enough to fill in for Ben Chilwell as Chelsea’s number one left-back week in, week out.
And as much as we’re willing on Loftus-Cheek to make the grade at Chelsea, we just haven’t seen enough from over 100 games and eight years in the famous blue jersey to indicate that he will.
Finally, as harsh as it might sound for a 23-year-old, it’s not spoken about enough just how subpar 16 goals and six assists in 64 Premier League appearances really is for Pulisic at £55 million.
Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah
Ok, sure, Sarr and Chalobah aren’t exactly babies at 22 years old, but we don’t want to jump to conclusions after just 29 appearances in Chelsea’s first-team between the two of them so far.
While both players have performed above and beyond what supporters have expected of them this season, there’s not enough data at this stage to project how their Chelsea careers might pan out.
Useful to have in the squad
Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilcueta and Marcus Bettinelli
Call this something of a no man’s land if you will, but the simple fact of the matter is that all three players have had the chance to prove themselves without being an obvious candidate to either keep or sell.
While Arrizabalaga has been a dreadful liability at times in the Premier League, he’s nonetheless proven himself as one of the division’s best back-up goalkeepers since Edouard Mendy arrived.
And there’s only so much we can say about Bettinelli either way when he ultimately does a fine job as Chelsea’s third-choice shot-stopper who boosts their homegrown quota in the process.
However, Azpilicueta is most certainly the outlier of the group as both the club captain and a Chelsea legend that is simply too important in the dressing room for us to call for his exit.
At the same time, we’ve seen ‘Dave’ fade enough to suggest that he’s not indispensable any longer, but booting him out the back door would certainly deal a blow to the squad’s morale and cohesion.
Let him prove his worth
Saul Niguez, Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech
Welcome to a quartet of Chelsea players that have flattered to deceive this season despite having given us enough evidence that they’re top-class players who can really make the grade in blue.
As far as Saul is concerned, we simply can’t dig him out too much when he’s only had 164 minutes of Premier League action to show off the scintillating ability that everybody knows he possesses.
Meanwhile, Havertz has only shown his future-world-beater talent in flashes at Stamford Bridge and we just want to see him kick on a little bit more before we suggest that Chelsea simply can’t afford to sell him.
Maybe we’re being generous to Hudson-Odoi because he has been given over 120 appearances to prove himself, but at 21 years old, there’s still time for him to become a real hero in west London.
And although the jury is still rightfully out on what Ziyech can offer for the Blues, his output has competed enough with players like Pulisic and Werner for us to hold out hope for slightly longer.
Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Andreas Christensen, Mason Mount and Thiago Silva
This tier very much does what it says on the tin and regardless of whether you thought Jorginho was vastly overrated in the Ballon d’Or rankings or not, there’s no escaping his importance to Chelsea.
Similarly, Kovacic is the type of classy operator that any Champions League club would love to have in their squad, while Christensen has come on leaps and bounds under Tuchel’s stewardship.
James is on course to thrust his name into the conversation for the world’s best right-back and it was incredibly sad to see Chilwell’s breath-taking run of form this season curtailed by injuries.
As for Mount, the England star has arguably been Chelsea’s most underrated player all season long because his tally of seven goals and six assists in 2021/22 just hasn’t been talked about enough.
And while we wouldn’t go quite as far as to say that Silva is still world-class, there’s no denying that the Brazilian veteran has been an invaluable addition of experience and determination to the squad.
Romelu Lukaku, Edouard Mendy, Antonio Rudiger and N’Golo Kante
Yes, you read that right, Lukaku truly is world-class and we won’t hear anything otherwise as things stand because a poorly-timed interview and patchy run of form doesn’t suddenly wipe out his supreme talent.
Lest we forget that we’re talking about one of the youngest players to ever reach 100 Premier League goals who’s fresh from smashing home 64 goals in just 95 matches for Inter Milan.
So, yes, he’s still got plenty of evidence to his name as one of the best number nines in the sport and five goals in 15 league games this season isn’t the disaster that it’s being made out to be.
Meanwhile, in less controversial news, we’d be barmy not to call the latest winner of The Best FIFA Goalkeeper award anything short of world-class – and boy does Mendy deserve it.
Rudiger has enjoyed a stellar 12 months where he’s risen from exile under Lampard to one of the best centre-backs in the world with half of Europe’s biggest clubs sniffing around for his signature.
And anyone who saw a single second of Kante in the Champions League last season, hauling himself into Ballon d’Or contention in the process, knows that he’s northing short of ‘world-class’.
Plenty of quality at Tuchel’s disposal
Let’s be honest here, Tuchel isn’t short of resources to things around.
Sure, injuries and the ongoing COVID-19 situation have meant that Tuchel hasn’t always had all these top-class players at his disposal, but Chelsea aren’t exactly lacking in terms of squad depth.
However, it just goes to show that what a club has on paper isn’t necessarily enough to produce the goods in practice and the Lukaku situation is the perfect example of that for the Blues.
The simple fact of the matter is that Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the men’s game, but the situation around him has conspired in a way that has been highly detrimental to Chelsea’s season.
And just a few tumultuous weeks – both in relation to Lukaku’s scenario and issues elsewhere – have been all it’s taken to see Chelsea’s title challenge implode up against the omnipotent Pep Guardiola.
As such, while the murmurings about Tuchel’s job security at this stage remain farcical, there’s no denying that he has plenty of work to do if he wants to turn things around at Stamford Bridge.