News Live Scores
Chelsea

From in-fighting to Istanbul: How Tuchel turned Chelsea into Champions League finalists

10:00 GMT+3 06/05/2021
Thomas Tuchel Chelsea GFX
Since replacing Frank Lampard in January, the German coach has overseen a dramatic change of fortunes, which culminated with victory over Real Madrid

When Thomas Tuchel walked through the door at Chelsea's Cobham training ground for the first time on January 26, he was quietly confident of what he could achieve in west London.

Despite his new team being 10th in the Premier League, with new signings struggling to settle and a defence that was horribly out of form, the ex-Paris Saint-Germain boss believed he could turn them around, and quickly.

By the time his four-month anniversary rolls around at the end of May, he will be preparing his side for the Champions League final.

Tuchel was meant to improve Chelsea, but what he has achieved is remarkable given how low on confidence the Blues squad were upon his arrival.

A top-four finish and FA Cup could also be secured before the season is out, but leading his side to European football's showpiece event in Istanbul on May 29 will headline Tuchel's first half-season in charge.

Chelsea fans lit blue flares to guide their team into the stadium for Wednesday evening's semi-final second leg against Real Madrid - doing all they could short of being inside Stamford Bridge to cheer the team on in person.

This inexperienced Chelsea side were supposed to be no match for 13-time champions, but across both legs the Premier League team were dominant, and should have won by more than the eventual 3-1 aggregate score.

It all feels a long way from the dire 0-0 draw with Wolves that began Tuchel's tenure following the sacking of Frank Lampard.

"When I came in, I was pretty happy with what I saw from the first training session ahead of Wolves," Tuchel said as he reflected on his achievements so far after his side's 2-0 win over Zinedine Zidane's almost-perennial finalists.

"I was very happy with what I saw individually and it was very strong and brave behaviour. That never stopped.

"It is a pleasure to be in this dressing room and be part of this. I feel part of this. It is my job to give my energy, knowledge and guidance, and to lead this group. I do what I can in the best way I can.

"We have so much support. I don't have the feeling that it is only me. I play my part but the players did what we see here. What we saw was pretty strong because we adapted to multiple situations.

"We have answers to a lot of questions that are asked."

Dynamic pressing, the blocking of passing lanes and quick transitions have been the cornerstones of Tuchel's Chelsea success, and they were all on show again against Madrid.

Driven by their V8 engine in midfield, N'Golo Kante, the Blues overpowered their Spanish visitors, with Timo Werner and Mason Mount providing the goals. Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva will also feel they too should have got on the scoresheet.

A couple of top-class saves from Edouard Mendy in the first half apart, Chelsea were barely troubled in defence as they kept their 18th clean sheet of Tuchel's 24-match reign.

Andreas Christensen - one of the many players who have taken their game to a new level under Tuchel - had called on Chelsea to be "horrible to play against" ahead of kick-off, and Tuchel felt they followed through on that notion in a performance that belied the difference in experience between the two XIs.

"Today, for example, we cannot always find a skilful solution," Tuchel said. "At times, we hang in and fight.

"We use our bodies, we use our work rate and if we couldn't out-play them, we were ready to out-work them with hunger and energy."

Hunger and energy were two words not normally associated with Lampard's Chelsea, and in truth a number of the club's summer signings were brought in to take the club to the next level in terms of quality on the ball, rather than off it.

But Tuchel's fun training sessions have allowed him to bring a previously fractured squad together and build a bond between his players that means they will put their bodies on the line for one another.

While it feels like he is closing in on a preferred XI, he has mastered the art of rotation, ensuring all members of the squad are kept happy, which in turn has lifted the intensity levels in training as players fight to regain their starting spots.

His ability to communicate his tactical requirements, meanwhile, must be heralded during a season where there is precious little time on the training field to drill changes, like his switch to a 3-4-3 formation, into a group.

He now possesses Europe's meanest defence, and as such has the best-equipped team to keep Manchester City at bay in Istanbul, like they did in April's FA Cup semi-final win at Wembley.

The final of that competition offers the chance of silverware, as too will the trip to Turkey a fortnight later. Given Tuchel's primary mission was to secure a top-four finish, he is not doing too badly.

He joins Avram Grant and Roberto Di Matteo as the only Chelsea managers guide the club to the Champions League final, with all three having taken over the coaching reins midway through the campaign.

Unlike his predecessors, though, Tuchel should be around for the long haul.

Chelsea are Champions League finalists. But their manager is only just getting started.