Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea

Gaurav Mukherjee
8 min readMay 27, 2022


Coming off the back of an impressive season under Frank Lampard, Chelsea went all out in the summer to beef up the squad as they put their trust in their club legend to lead them back to trophy wins. Chelsea gave Lampard a war chest acquiring multiple attacking players for a sum of over 200 million pounds during the summer ahead of the 2020/21 season. All eyes were on Lampard, he delivered with a young core after losing Hazard to Real Madrid the past season, now with even more funding, he was expected to challenge for the Premier League. Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech were the marquee signings coming into the new season.

After an unimpressive first half of the season, with Chelsea only winning 8 games and 14 points off the league leaders forced the board’s hands to finally get rid of Frank Lampard. Reports claimed he was losing control of the dressing room and the players had played a huge part in getting him sacked.

Then came Thomas Tuchel, who himself had been sacked by Paris-Saint Germain earlier in the season in December. The former Dortmund manager got into public spat with PSG hierarchy after they failed to properly upgrade PSG’s squad ahead of the season, despite Tuchel leading the Parisiens to a Champions League final in August.

Tuchel was hired and took charge of the London club on the 26th of January and first result was a 0–0 draw against Wolves in the Premier league. But ever since that result and new system under Tuchel, Chelsea have gathered the second most points in the league since matchday 20. The Blues are only 5 points behind Manchester City over the same period, with 6 wins, 4 draws and zero losses since January. Chelsea have shut up shop, only conceding 2 goals over the past 10 games, the best defensive record over that streatch.

The Blues also managed to knock the formidable Atlectico Madrid and Real Madrid out of the Champions League round of 16 and semi-final respectively before eventually winning the crown after beating Manchester City 1–0 in the final. So how has Thomas Tuchel achieved this level of success over the past few months? Was it the tactics, the players or the mixture of both? Let’s take a look at Tuchel’s Blues.

Building from the back

Tuchels’s Chelsea side is a stark contrast from his free-flowing attacking Dotmund side and is more similer to his latter years at PSG where he found most of his success at the club, adapting his system and lineup to work around the constant injuries and poor form from Neymar and Kylian Mbappe that season.

At Chelsea, Tuchel has been able to stabilize the team by implementing a more cautious, measured appraoch to possession-based football, with emphasis on defending by keeping the ball with numerical superiority in defence. His 3–4–3 system has two pivot players because it fits very good to the opponents to defend.

Tuchels deploys a 3–4–3/3–4–2–1 with a back three inclunding the captain Cesar Azpilicueta, veteran Thiago Silva and a much improve Antonio Rudiger. Two wingbacks mainly Reece James and Ben Chilwell, a double midfield pivot of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic sometimes who has improved largely under Tuchel’s guidance. Up front is a combination of three attackers, with one operating as the “main” striker or false 9.

One of the reasons why Tuchel’s system works so well is the fact that he plays with three or five defenders (depending of the phase of play) rather than the orthodox back four. A back three more than often provides a more stable base, as it gives an extra body in defence and three players cover the width of the pitch better than just two centre backs.

Also the back three or back five as a natural structure provides a lot of angles and passing lanes with exponentially increases the variety of the ways a team can build up from the back.

There are more options and very importantly, the ability to overload the first phase of the play with even more bodies. when the opponents press becomes overwhelming, the 3–4–3 provides unique outlet options, the ball can be floated to either wingback hugging the touchline or the ball can be played into the channels for the front three to recieve with their back to goal.

In the defensive phase, a 3v2 at the back gives them numerical superiority so that opponents don’t catch them and even if they do a mistake they are still 2v2 at the back. In a back 4 Silva doesn’t like to come on and cover. he stays and protect the goal. In a back 3 he doesn’t need to do that job.


Reece James and Ben Chilwell are great wingbacks as they have the energy to run their own flanks consistenly throughout the whole 90 minutes of the game. They can be creative as well in the final third of the attacking phase were both the wingbacks are always level on going forward.

When the ball is deep they can be deeper to help to overload on one side of the pitch to have a combination play and the diagonal switch is always on to the other wingback who needs to arrive and can be at the half pitch.

It’s also necessary that one of the wingbacks come in field (Inverted wingbacks) so that they don’t get isolated when the ball is in the opposite side of the field.


As mentioned earlier, the 3–4–3 provides a variety of angles and lanes to play into, it is also the same in attack. The shape creates a lot of triangles all over the pitch, the main pattern Tuchel’s Chelsea side use is the Wingback-Midfielder-Wide Forward triangle which forms naturally down the side due to the shape.

The front 5 in the attacking phase need to have the freedom to find their positions and to adapt to what the opponents might offer. They should think about scoring and not about covering against counter attacks and the two pivot players have to be as high as possible for balance as mentioned by Tuchel in a recent interview with Glenn Hoddle.

The 3–4–3 also places a player in each of the five zones of positional play; the wing backs maintaining the width, two wingers occupying the half spaces and the striker/false 9 havering around the central areas.

Out of Possession

When out of possession in the defensive phase, the 3–4–3 provides solidity in a deep block, as the shape essesntially becomes a 5–4–1 where the wide areas, central areas and the half spaces each have a player to cover the gaps.

Chelsea do a decent job of defending with the ball using possession, but their counterpress has been one of the best ways they have improved defensively. Whenever Chelsea losse the ball, they press instantly to try to win the ball back and often foul when it fails.

One of Chelsea’s best performances this season came against Arsenal in the first half of the Premier League season. Looking back at it, it was one of the best counter pressing performances this season, the coordinations, the movements, the emphasis on the ball handler, all facets of the press were very good during that game.

One thing that people do not realize about this Chelsea squad is that a lot of them played in the same shape under both Frank Lampard and Antonio Conte in recent seasons, which facilitated their transitions from the 4–3–3 to the 3–4–3.

Tuchel re-integrated Marcos Alonso who was phenomenal as a wingback during Conte’s reign. He contribuited a lot on both sides of the pitch; his length and height allowed Chelsea to always have an outball when they were under the press and his runs into the box were always an option during attacks.

Cesar Azpilicueta, who was also being slowly phased out of Lampard’s Chelsea side, has also found his groove again, operating as the right sided centre back rather than being used a full back when he clearly lost his athleticism due to age. Antonio Rudiger’s athleticism has been very useful defending transitions in the back three, and Andreas Christensen has finally shown the signs of promise he showed a couple of years ago because he now plays in a system that provides him more protection because he was often targeted in a back four.


Thomas Tuchel came into a Chelsea side in disarray, with a disrupted locked room and a whole host of misfiring, underperforming big money transfers. He has managed to tighten the team defensively, while also using his tactics and system to get the best out of some Chelsea players who looked on their way out of the club.

A lot can be said about Lampard not being afforded a lot of time, and the players sabotaging Lampard, but you cannot deny the instant impact of Thomas Tuchel. Finishing top 4 in the Premier League with a Champions League title last season has been very impressive although this season started well for them but defeat to Liverpool in both the domestic cup finals has been a disappointment from them. The question for Tuchel now is how he handles the pressure and how he improves his squad under the new owners this summer. One thing is constant; Tuchel and his 3–4–3 are here to stay and Chelsea’s future is in great hands.

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Gaurav Mukherjee

Sports Management student who has a passion for football and tactics.