Politicians often asked to be judged on their first 100 days in office. Maybe football managers should do the same.
Thomas Tuchel hits that milestone on Thursday, by which time we’ll know if Chelsea have a Champions League final to look forward to or not.
The German has barely made a mistake since replacing Frank Lampard on January 26: 15 wins from 23 games, just two losses, a remarkable 17 clean sheets and progress to the FA Cup final.
Thomas Tuchel faces a real dilemma in choosing his front line for Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
Chelsea have the advantage of an away goal after Christian Pulisic scored in Madrid last week
If Tuchel can beat Real Madrid on Wednesday night and take Chelsea to Istanbul’s showpiece on May 29, he arguably would have a concrete claim to a manager’s most impressive start ever.
Everything at first glance seems hunky dory for Tuchel ahead of the Stamford Bridge game – an away goal on the bench thanks to Christian Pulisic last week and a comfortable weekend win over Fulham with no new injury worries.
As Tuchel said on Saturday, “we are absolutely in a place and a situation you want to have arrived.”
But Real will not surrender quietly and chances are Chelsea will have to score at least once to win the draw.
That gave Tuchel quite a headache. Which of its expensive attack options can be trusted with the task at hand?
Last week in Madrid, he joined Pulisic and Mason Mount as striker Timo Werner.
Pulisic shot Chelsea’s goal in the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in the first leg last week
Kai Havertz scored two goals when Chelsea comfortably beat Fulham 2-0 this weekend
Both Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz came in with about a quarter of the game to go after Pulisic’s opener was canceled by Karim Benzema.
Against Fulham on Saturday, Werner and Havertz formed a two-pronged offensive force, backed by Ziyech in the No. 10 role. Mount played back further.
So Chelsea’s flexibility in attack can be described as both Tuchel’s friend and enemy at this point. Many options, many combinations, but with possibly one exception, not a 100 percent guaranteed choice.
Let’s start with Werner. It seems remarkable that the £ 53 million forward can end his first season at Chelsea with Champions League and FA Cup winners’ medals, given all the criticism that has come his way.
This draw would be so much more comfortable for Chelsea if Werner didn’t miss that six-yard sitter last week and Real’s former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was caught on camera as he seemed to be joking with Olivier Giroud about how easy it was to get out. stay.
Thibaut Courtois joked that all he had to do was stick out his foot to deny Timo Werner a goal
Werner (center) missed a sitter after being played by Pulisic against Real Madrid
It was another night to forget for Werner as he struggled for goal again
The fact that Werner now has more assists (13) than goals (11) this season is either an embarrassing indictment of his finishing skills in a Chelsea shirt, or a sign that Tuchel has evolved his game into something more rounded.
His assist for Havertz against Fulham was a reward for another hard-working performance as he roamed the forward, but Chelsea paid the big bucks for Werner to score goals and he doesn’t do that often enough.
To put it this way, Tuchel’s thoughts will revolve around whether Werner can be trusted to throw away that one crucial opportunity against Real Madrid. At this point, you wouldn’t support him.
After being left on the bench last week, Havertz did as much as he could against Fulham to convince Tuchel that he deserves to start the second leg.
Two goals covered a man-of-the-match feat in the false nine roll, and based on recent evidence, the £ 89 million German youngster is the most reliable option in the front three.
Havertz did as much as he could against Fulham to convince Tuchel to start him this week
Chelsea top scorers
12 – Tammy Abraham
11 – Timo Werner, Olivier Giroud
8 – Mason Mount, Kai Havertz
7 – Jorginho
Chelsea assists makers
10 – Timo Werner
7 – Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell
6 – Kai Havertz
5 – Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James
4 – Tammy Abraham, Judge Ziyech
With Raphael Varane injured for Real and a potentially rusty Sergio Ramos about to step into their back line, not having a real No. 9 could be an advantage.
“Maybe we don’t play a striker at all, then Ramos has nothing to fight against,” Tuchel said Saturday. He smiled as he said it, but Havertz certainly has the trappings to completely throw Real back.
On the other hand, Fulham stares through the Premier League relegation and Havertz, with eight goals and eight assists this season, is blowing hot and cold.
Ziyech couldn’t have imagined going from flying winger to number 10 during his first season at Chelsea, but Tuchel’s preference for full-backs made it a reality.
The game against Fulham was just the last in which he played center stage in recent months and despite opportunities to make life more comfortable for Chelsea in the first half, he struggled to make too much of an impact and was sent off to N’Golo Kante. after 66 minutes.
Last weekend, Chelsea legend Frank Leboeuf claimed that Ziyech is ‘very frustrated’ when he is not on the wing, calling him a ‘copy-cat of Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez’.
Hakim Ziyech has transformed from a flying winger to a less than effective number 10 lately
Ziyech is far from a regular starter for Tuchel’s Chelsea as he adjusts to a central position
Ziyech has started with just three of the 10 Champions League appearances he has been available for this season and only 14 Premier League appearances.
You wonder if he has a role to play in Tuchel’s plans and he increasingly looks like a very expensive square pin clamped in a round hole.
Pulisic hopes that the goal he scored in Madrid will give him a starting place in the return leg. The American remained on the bench against Fulham, which could be interpreted as a means of keeping him fresh for Real.
Once again he was forced to change his role to a more central position under Tuchel, with whom he previously worked at Borussia Dortmund.
Pulisic starts off about as regularly as Ziyech and it will in all likelihood be a straight choice between the two before Wednesday.
Tuchel smiles as Pulisic celebrates his crucial goal in the first leg in Spain last week
Mason Mount was made necessary by Tuchel as he was under predecessor Frank Lampard
The only guaranteed starter is Mount, whose ability to play in virtually any midfield or attacking midfield position makes him invaluable.
Tuchel could probably have ruled him out against Fulham to keep his legs for the Real return, but he didn’t and it is becoming increasingly clear that he values Mount as much as Frank Lampard.
If Mount is an assured choice in the front trio, the other four will continue to fight for two places. Unlike the England international, Tuchel is not completely convinced by any of them.
And what’s remarkable is that Chelsea’s main goalscorer this season – Tammy Abraham – and an 11-time player – Olivier Giroud – will be lucky enough to secure a seat on the bench.
All of this makes Tuchel’s job so diabolically difficult ahead of Chelsea’s most important game so far.