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Tactical analysis: What has Tuchel changed at Chelsea after taking over from Lampard

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge in London on February 15, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea fired Frank Lampard in January after the club won just once in their last 5 Premier League games. New managerial appointment was announced the next day as the Blues welcomed former PSG manager Thomas Tuchel. And since his arrival, he has changed a few things at the club.

Frank Lampard was more inclined towards a 4-3-3 formation

During this season, Frank Lampard majorly played an attacking 4-3-3 formation. He preferred Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic to make up his front-three on most occasions, accompanied by Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech on other occasions.

His trust in his new summer signing can be best showcased by the fact that he played him in all league games, including his last 11 league games in charge of Chelsea where the German did not score even once. Pulisic played 12 games under Lampard despite being out with injuries on a few occasions.

This team featured two dynamic midfielders that were usually accompanied by a defensive midfielder like N’Golo Kante. The full-backs were attacking but knew their defensive responsibilities too. Reece James and Ben Chilwell were heavily preferred by the Englishman. James played 12 of the first 13 games this season, while Chilwell played 16 league games in a row from 3rd October 2020.

Chelsea back four facing a counter-attack against Manchester City this season in a 3-1 loss. The defence is in position despite being countered.

Even during counter-attacks (refer the image above), both the full-backs helped in defence, much like any full-back would in a 4-man backline. Kante was, of course, the defensive shield. In games where Havertz played, the No.10 was usually supported by a double pivot behind him (refer the image below).

Chelsea front four attacking Southampton, while the double pivot sits back.

Thomas Tuchel brings back shades of Antonio Conte

The new German manager has clearly had his own ideas. From his first game in charge, he has deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation with attacking full-backs. This is not too different from a flexible 5-man backline that Conte played during his time at Chelsea and won the league title with.

Also, another major difference between Tuchel and Lampard is their reliance on youth. Tuchel has generally sided with experience, while Lampard was more comfortable handing out starts to players like Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

This is most evident in the case of him playing the 34-year-old Olivier Giroud in 3 of his 5 league matches in charge. Werner, who hadn’t missed a league game under Lampard, didn’t feature in the first game Tuchel took charge of. Moreover, he has brought back Marcos Alonso from the verge of irrelevance to play him at left wing-back instead of Ben Chilwell.

Apart from his first game in charge, Tuchel has played Alonso on four consecutive occasions in the league. He justified preferring Alonso because of the Spaniard’s familiarity in that position.

Just look at how Marcos Alonso (circled in black) has positioned himself when Chelsea are attacking. (Chelsea vs Tottenham under Thomas Tuchel, Image Credits: Spurs TV on YouTube)

Moreover, the German tactician has brought over some new training methods at Stamford Bridge. In one training session, Chelsea players were seen training with small footballs. (h/t Daily Mail)

This is a tactic usually associated with improving ball control. This points towards him wanting his players to control the ball more and play a more possession-based game with an emphasis on passing. This is also evident by the fact that in all the league matches under him, Chelsea have had considerably more possession than their opponents.


So now we see what the two coaches have been doing differently. Tuchel is deploying a solid back-three, with two attacking full-backs on the flank, a stable midfield-two, and a narrow three-man attack which interchanges when necessary.

The flexible frontline: Chelsea started this game against Tottenham under Thomas Tuchel with Werner, Abraham, and Mount as the attacking three. Pulisic was brought on for Abraham, which saw him play as a left-sided forward, while Werner and Mount played largely down the middle.

And whatever the German is doing is working. Chelsea are yet to lose under him and have finally put together a decent string of performances. No defeats in 5 games under Tuchel in the league has seen them go up to 4th in the table.

Written by Aniket Rai

An ordinary football fan, doing what he loves.

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