Next season’s title race? Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has improved them so fast and their victory over Manchester City suggests that they are now the greatest rivals to Pep Guardiola’s side
- Chelsea oozed control, poise and energy in their win over Manchester City
- Hakim Ziyech scored the winning goal to send them to next month’s FA Cup final
- Thomas Tuchel has galvanised a team who had been running out of steam
- If they can land a genuine scorer they will be title contenders next season
This was a prelude to next season, Chelsea running the champions-elect all the way, and not only that but defeating them.
If Pep Guardiola looked concerned, so he should. As should Jurgen Klopp. As should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They all have a new adversary to contend with: Thomas Tuchel, the manager who, out of nowhere, has rescued Chelsea’s season.
Chelsea were running out of steam before Thomas Tuchel joined and galvanised 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 challengers
It was not just Saturday’s win over Manchester City at Wembley, but the manner of it, that gave pointers towards Chelsea’s inevitable re-emergence as Premier League contenders.
They oozed control, poise and energy — and for a 15-minute spell at the end of the match they were able to keep City at arm’s length. No mean feat.
‘The manager said to us before the game that if we wanted to win, we needed to be brave — especially when we did get the ball, we needed to play forward and be brave on it,’ explained defender Ben Chilwell.
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, Dias 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 before the game was important for us going into it.
‘We had meetings during the week about where we could exploit and hurt them, so it was just about executing the game plan. And we did that.’
This was more than a victory to clinch 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 laying down a marker. This was all about saying: you may run away with the Premier League this season but we’ll be with you every step of the way next time. Speaking before Saturday’s clash, Guardiola said: ‘Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe at the moment.’ The City boss saw nothing at Wembley to alter his assessment.
Of course, Tuchel will stress to his players not to get ahead of themselves. Glory awaits this season if they play their cards right.
Chelsea will fancy their chances in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and they will be favourites heading into the FA Cup final.
Failing that, qualifying for next season’s Champions League with a top-four finish should be seen as a success in itself, given the position Chelsea were in when Tuchel arrived in January — ninth in the table after 19 matches.
The German has galvanised Chelsea. A team who looked to be running out of steam have been fired up and are flattening all before them.
Chelsea will be a force next season especially if they can sign striker Erling Haaland
All this in the space of 12 weeks — that’s some impact from Tuchel. In those three months, he has masterminded victories over Guardiola, Klopp’s Liverpool, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid — all without conceding a goal.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a flash in the pan. Under Tuchel, Chelsea have become a well-oiled machine; virtually impenetrable with just enough firepower to see them over the line.
Tuchel wants a new centre forward to lead his attack next season and Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund is the club’s dream signing. If they can land a genuine goalscorer, they will be title contenders next season.
And to think, Tuchel has not even had a pre-season to work with these players yet.
The upward trajectory has been sharp. Expect it to be even sharper in 2021-22.
MARTIN KEOWN: Pep’s passing machine splutters
Thomas Tuchel’s plan worked to perfection. His safe and secure approach, with a back five and two midfield sitters — plus the ability to break quickly through Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and the wing backs — stopped Pep Guardiola’s ultimate passing machine working.
It was always a risk for Guardiola to make eight changes to his line-up and alter his usual tactics by playing two midfield sitters, Rodri and Fernandinho, when he usually plays one. That left only Kevin De Bruyne in an advanced midfield role when City normally have two. Without their usual shape, City were not effective at pressing high up the pitch and lost fluidity on the ball.
It wasn’t until Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden came off the bench that City returned to their normal shape. So the Quadruple dream is over, but perhaps another interesting battle between these bosses awaits in the Champions League final.
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