It’s hard to believe that Chelsea were in some sort of crisis four months ago when club legend Frank Lampard was controversially sacked as manager.
At the time, a place in the top four in the Premier League was highly questionable and a Champions League draw in the last 16 against LaLiga leader Atlético Madrid looked ominous to say the least.
Enter Thomas Tuchel. The German manager has dramatically flipped his performances at Stamford Bridge, culminating in a memorable victory in Porto over the weekend – but how? Sportsmail looks at the most important factors.
Chelsea were crowned champions of the Champions League on Saturday night after victory in Porto
Thomas Tuchel turned a side with no confidence and results in January
RE-INTEGRATE FORGOTTEN STARS
One of the first steps Tuchel took in his appointment at the end of January was to reintegrate star players who had fallen out of favor under Lampard.
Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta came in and Antonio Rudiger was also consistently back in the starting lineup.
Together with Thiago Silva – with Frenchman Kurt Zouma missing the player – the trio formed a reliable and strong defensive back-three who became Tuchel’s hallmark in the weeks and months that followed.
In fact, it was Azpilicueta – who has now won every major trophy in club football at Stamford Bridge, by the way – who scored the first goal of the Tuchel era.
Frank Lampard was fired with the Blues ninth in the league – now they are European winners
Cesar Azpilicuet (right) and Antonio Rudiger (left) were vital to Tuchel in defense
Marcos Alonso rediscovered some form – and he was the other goalscorer in that first win against Burnley, although the Spaniard made regular substitutions with Ben Chilwell.
There is no doubt that it has been a generally difficult opening season in English football for Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
The pair were brought to the club for a combined £138 million from the Bundesliga last summer and struggled to adapt early on, with the 21-year-old struggling for fitness and Werner struggling to find the net.
But Tuchel persevered with the pair and rushed through to the Estadio do Dragao on Saturday night, where they worked very well together.
Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester City
Could Werner have scored a bag full of more goals than his total of 12 in all competitions? Definitely. He could have scored at least two on Saturday had he had his finishing shoes on.
But despite his problems, his pace of work and attitude has never been shaky. The same goes for Havertz, who got what he deserved with his winning goal at the weekend.
The pair came to Chelsea to win trophies, and they have just won the biggest trophy in club football. And next season they can only get better.
Havertz (left) and Timo Werner celebrate their triumph on Saturday after a tough first season
KANTE IS GOOD AND REALLY BACK
In recent months, N’Golo Kante has remained phenomenal in the North.
Man-of-the-match in each of Chelsea’s last three Champions League games, there is even talk in the wake of Saturday that the midfielder could be lining up for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
To say it would be far fetched to be the best in the world in January would undoubtedly be an understatement.
Take Saturday’s opponent Manchester City as a clear example of Kante’s meteoric rise. In the 3-0 home defeat in January, the World Cup winner looked ragged, lacked even energy and spring.
But four months later, Kante is back at his dominant, influential best. Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Co found it much harder to express their creativity at work. Tuchel should have a lot of credit for that.
N’Golo Kante was man-of-the-match on Saturday when he added another trophy to his collection
BIG GAMES, BIG MOMENTS
Tuchel’s record in major competitions since his arrival is nothing short of sensational. And it reads like this.
Tottenham, win. Liverpool, win. Atletico Madrid, win. Manchester United, draw. Porto, win. Manchester City, win – twice. Real Madrid, win.
The only problem was a rough patch earlier this month, when successive defeats to Arsenal in the league and Leicester in the FA Cup final seemed to derail all of the German’s good work.
Mason Mount celebrates his match winner against then champions Liverpool in March
Now they were lucky on the last day of the Premier League season. Fortunately, a disappointing defeat at Aston Villa was not decisive in the end.
But on Saturday, Tuchel got his tactics in order again – and his players delivered. The big players – Mason Mount in particular – came out in the big moments.
And that brings in silverware.
Tuchel has faced Pep Guardiola three times in the past two months, in three different competitions.
The net result? Three wins. All by a margin of one goal.
His back-three formation has proven to be incredibly effective not only in defensive solidity, but also in allowing players like Chilwell and Reece James to come forward to great effect.
In midfield, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Kante have proved extremely effective, allowing players like Mount, Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech to take the lead.
Tuchel has used passion but also humility and his own personal touches to help the Blues win
That’s Tuchel’s other key card – he’s used his team incredibly well, amid challenges on two fronts and fighting for a top four place.
The German has proved impressive in encouraging a side that was rumored to have lost patience with Lampard. And he did it with humility too.
Last year’s finalist at PSG, this time Tuchel has gone a step further – and no one can say he doesn’t fully deserve this win.
Tuchel celebrated the Champions League trophy with his family after the Porto . final