Tuchel proves himself Chelsea's true game-changer with Tottenham tactical masterclass

Getty/Goal

Match statistics: Tottenham 0-3 Chelsea

While Chelsea have undoubtedly found their missing piece on the field in Romelu Lukaku this season, there is no doubt that their ultimate game-changer since the start of 2021 has been Thomas Tuchel.

The German boss certainly has a squad any manager in the world would love to work with at his disposal, but the way in which he has marshalled them since replacing Frank Lampard in January has showcased his supreme coaching ability.

No more so was that on show than against Tottenham on Sunday.

At half-time in north London, it was clear that Nuno Espirito Santo was winning the tactical battle. The Portuguese unveiled an uncharacteristic high-pressing system, unsettling Chelsea's build-up play while creating opportunities for Spurs' strong attacking unit.

The Blues were able to lean on some brilliant last-ditch defending from centre-back trio Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger to keep the scores level, but they were undoubtedly on the ropes away to their capital rivals.

Tuchel attempted to fix the problems during the opening 45 minutes, pulling the likes of Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount over to the touchline for numerous individual chats.

But after a half of screaming at his players from the technical area, he deciced a harder reset was needed. 

Spurs had dominated the midfield through their powerful holding players, and as such Tuchel took the ruthless decision at half-time to withdraw last season's Player of the Year, Mount and replace him with N'Golo Kante.

Kante Chelsea Tottenham 2021

Within seconds, it was apparent that Chelsea had re-exerted control, now possessing three holding midfielders which in turn allowed Tuchel to pushing his wing-backs much higher up the pitch.

Of course, not every team has a squad deep enough to have player of Kante's quality on the bench, but the masterstroke from Tuchel was the switch from his preferred 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2 formation, and have the confidence to do it so early in the match.

Just two minutes into the second half, Hugo Lloris was forced to tip a Marcos Alonso volley over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Thiago Silva found space to head in Alonso's corner.

Within 12 minutes of the game restarting, Kante himself all-but put the game to bed with his long-range strike deflecting off Eric Dier and past a wrong-footed Lloris.

"I was absolutely not happy with the first 45 minutes," Tuchel told Sky Sports post-match. "In general, we lacked intent, energy and relentlessness in duels and 50-50 balls.

"It was a hard choice for Mason Mountm and it was a bit more defensive with N'Golo Kantem but I wanted to give energy.

"In the second half, it was a very good performance and a deserved win. It was a very good reaction, so I am happy with the performance in the second half."

For Chelsea's rivals, their dogged defensive approach must be infuriating to both watch and play against. Even when they put in poor performances as a team, the opposition is shut out, leaving Tuchel the option of fixing attacking problems from his bench.

Thiago Silva Chelsea 2021

That was exactly what he did once his side went 2-0 up, taking off Havertz and replacing him with compatriot Timo Werner, whose pace and direct running makes him the ideal forward to stretch the game when protecting a lead.

That helped the Blues ease to victory, and though Werner did waste a couple of decent opportunities to round out the scoring, he did lay on the assist for Antonio Rudiger to find the net in stoppage time with a cut-back cross from the byline.

Ultimately, Chelsea will still have some mild concerns about the quality of their play in the first half. A pattern is emerging, with their recent wins over Aston Villa and Zenit having seen them spend large spells struggling, only to come out the other end with all three points.

Ideally, Tuchel would like to see his side control bigger portions of these matches, but he has time to fix these problems on the training pitch thanks to the platform he has built thus far.

Article continues below

Since the start of the Premier League season, they have unbeaten in six games in all competitions, have conceded just one goal (a Mohamed Salah penalty) and played away games at Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

That run sees them sit level on points with Liverpool and Manchester United at the top of the table, unquestionably title challengers and potentially favourites.

Such a status is only possible because of the work Tuchel has done. If there were any questions whether he belongs among the world's elite coaches, he continues to answer them emphatically.