Next season’s title race? Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has improved them so quickly and their win over Manchester City suggests they are now Pep Guardiola’s biggest rivals.
- Chelsea radiated control, poise and energy in their victory over Manchester City
- Hakim Ziyech scored the winning goal to send them to next month’s FA Cup final
- Thomas Tuchel galvanized a team that was running out of steam
- If they can bring in a real scorer, they’ll be title contenders next season
This was a prelude to next season, in which Chelsea would have the chosen champions at their head all the time, and not only that, but also beat them.
If Pep Guardiola looked concerned, he should too. Just like Jurgen Klopp. Just like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They all have a new opponent to contend with: Thomas Tuchel, the manager who saved Chelsea’s season out of nowhere.
Chelsea was running out of steam before Thomas Tuchel joined the team
Hakim Ziyech scored the winner for Chelsea against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final
Pep Guardiola should be concerned about Chelsea, who could be potential title challenges
Not only was it Saturday’s win over Manchester City at Wembley, but the way it happened gave clues to Chelsea’s inevitable return as Premier League contenders.
They radiated control, poise and energy – and for a period of 15 minutes at the end of the game, they were able to keep City at bay. No small feat.
“The manager told us before the game that if we wanted to win, we had to be brave – especially when we got the ball, we had to play forward and be brave,” defender Ben Chilwell explains.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Kepa 7; Rudiger 7, Silva 7 (Zouma 88min), Azpilicueta 6; James 8, Kante 9, Jorginho 7, Chilwell 7; Ziyech 8.5 (Emerson 79), Werner 6 (Havertz 79), Mount 8 (Pulisic 70, 6).
Subs not used: Caballero, Alonso, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Gilmour.
Scorer: Ziyech 55.
Booked: James, Azpilicueta.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Steffen 7; Cancelo 6, Days 6, Laporte 6, Mendy 6; Fernandinho 6, Rodri 6; Torres 5 (Gundogan 64, 7), De Bruyne (Foden 48, 7), Sterling 6; Jesus 6.
Subs not used: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez.
Booked: Fernandinho, Laporte, Dias.
Referee: Mike Dean 8.
‘The confidence he gave us for the game was important for us to take it up.
‘We had meetings during the week about where to exploit and hurt them, so it was just about executing the game plan. And we did. ‘
This was more than a win to secure a place in Chelsea’s fourth FA Cup final in five seasons. This was more than Tuchel’s first win over Guardiola.
This was all about putting down a marker. This was all about saying you may walk away with the Premier League this season, but we’ll be with you every step of the way next time. Guardiola said before Saturday’s game: “Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe right now.” The City boss saw nothing at Wembley that could change his judgment.
Of course, Tuchel will emphasize to his players that they are not ahead. Glory awaits this season when they play their cards right.
Chelsea will see their chances in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and they will be favorites on their way to the FA Cup final.
Failing that, qualifying for next season’s Champions League with a top-four finish should be considered a success in itself, given the position Chelsea were in when Tuchel arrived in January – ninth in the rankings after 19 games.
The German galvanized Chelsea. A team that seemed to be gaining steam has been set on fire and is flattening out for all of them.
Chelsea will be a force next season, especially if they can sign striker Erling Haaland
All this in a span of 12 weeks – that’s only Tuchel impact. In those three months, he has taken victories over Guardiola, Liverpool from Klopp, Tottenham from Jose Mourinho, Everton from Carlo Ancelotti and Atletico Madrid from Diego Simeone – all without conceding a goal.
Make no mistake, this is not a flash in the pan. Chelsea has become a well-oiled machine under Tuchel; virtually impenetrable with just enough firepower to see them across the line.
Tuchel wants a new striker to lead his attack next season and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland is the club’s dream. If they can bring in a real goalscorer, they’ll be title contenders next season.
And to think that Tuchel has not even had any preparation to work with these players.
The upward trajectory has been sharp. Expect it to be even sharper in 2021-22.
MARTIN KEOWN: Pep’s passing machine sputters
Thomas Tuchel’s plan worked to perfection. His safe approach, with five behind and two midfielders – plus the ability to quickly break through Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and the fullbacks – stopped the work of Pep Guardiola’s ultimate passing machine.
It has always been a risk for Guardiola to make eight changes to his line-up and change his usual tactics by playing two midfielders, Rodri and Fernandinho, while he usually plays one. That only left Kevin De Bruyne in an advanced midfield role when City normally has two. Without their usual form, City was ineffective in pressing high on the field and lost the smoothness of the ball.
It wasn’t until Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden got off the couch that City returned to their normal form. So the Quadruple dream is over, but there may be an interesting battle between these bosses in the Champions League final.