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Why Chelsea should not rush into giving Thomas Tuchel a new contract

There are a number of priorities for Chelsea to worry about at the moment and giving Thomas Tuchel a new contract should surely now be relegated to last on the list.

Less than two weeks ago Tuchel smiled as he revealed preliminary talks had already taken place with the new owners over extending his current agreement beyond 2024. Such an upbeat mood seemed like a distant memory though as he answered questions on the 2-1 loss at Southampton, the club’s second consecutive defeat away from home in the Premier League.

All the indications from the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium up until now is that they want to run the club with more stability than predecessor Roman Abramovich did as far as head coaches are concerned. So the fact a dialogue started regarding Tuchel’s long-term future at Stamford Bridge isn’t a great surprise.

Tuchel has proved his worth since taking over in January 2021. There was the Champions League win four months later and no-one should underestimate the difficult circumstances he managed in last season when the club were operating under sanctions. Two more trophies were added to the cabinet and they were unfortunate to lose both domestic cup finals on penalties.

Still, unlike the last time he was given a pay-rise and an extension — within days of that Champions League triumph over Manchester City in 2021 — the timing doesn’t feel right to discuss another.


Tuchel won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021 (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Tuchel was rightly rewarded with an extra two years by the previous regime because he had just brought great success to the club. Results can quickly turnaround but no-one can say the same applies to Chelsea at the moment.

The team have begun the campaign poorly. It’s not just because they boast only seven points from five matches, but they have played well in just one of those matches and that was the 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham.

This form is not a blip, it’s a continuation of where they left off at the end of the last campaign when they accrued only 15 points from the last 10 matches to limp home in a distant third behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

If you look at the form table below, which takes into account every club’s results over their last 15 Premier League games (a table conducted before the rest of the mid-week fixtures and minus the teams who have been relegated and promoted for obvious reasons), then Chelsea currently sit in a very disappointing ninth spot. Brighton, Brentford and Leeds are among the teams that rank above them, along with their more traditional competition Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Form table: Last 15 PL games

TEAMPLAYEDWONDRAWNLOSTPOINTS

15

11

4

0

37

15

11

3

1

36

15

10

4

1

34

15

10

0

5

30

15

8

4

3

28

15

7

4

4

25

15

7

3

5

24

15

6

5

4

23

15

6

4

5

22

15

5

5

5

20

15

5

2

8

17

15

4

5

6

17

15

4

5

6

17

15

4

2

9

14

15

3

4

8

13

15

3

3

9

12

15

3

3

9

12

There were mitigating circumstances why Chelsea’s last campaign ended in underwhelming fashion. The uncertainty over the club’s future was a constant distraction, plus fatigue really set in. The club played 63 games in all, one of the highest amounts in their modern history. Losing the Champions League quarter-final to Real Madrid in April was difficult to recover from mentally, especially with a top-four finish in the Premier League virtually assured, such was the gap they had over the teams below them.

But there is no justification for how 2022-23 has begun. This is the time when enthusiasm, energy and optimism should be at its peak, especially after the Boehly-Clearlake takeover and all the money they’re investing in the squad.

Tuchel had nearly £140million ($163.6m) of new talent in his starting line-up at Southampton in Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella but you couldn’t tell for long periods. Wesley Fofana might be the next addition to join them on the pitch for their next fixture against West Ham having agreed to join from Leicester for a fee believed to be under £70m. Tuchel is being given the tools to maintain Chelsea as a major force, although this poor start might provoke more transfer activity to bring in a forward and possibly a creative midfielder before the window shuts.

After Southampton equalised in the 28th minute, cancelling out Sterling’s neat finish five minutes earlier, Chelsea looked increasingly sluggish and lacking ideas going forward and the home side deservedly went on to secure three points. It has become an all too familiar theme.

Tuchel has earned a lot of plaudits since taking over, but he has struggled to make his side a consistent threat in attack. That wasn’t so much of a problem when keeping clean sheet after clean sheet for most of 2021, but they have now kept opponents scoreless just 18 times in their last 48 fixtures (all competitions) and let in eight from the past four league games.

Tuchel bemoaned the fact that key players N’Golo Kante (hamstring) and Reece James (illness) were missing, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek (leg) had to come off at half-time and an unfit Mateo Kovacic, who started training last week after injury, replaced him.

In fairness, after complaining about it, the German admitted he didn’t want to use it as justification for what went wrong, adding: “I better not go down this road because I don’t want to give any chance for anybody – myself, staff players – any room for excuses. We need to find solutions. It’s too easy to push us off the track, too easy to win challenges, too easy to bully us.

“What will help is the closing of the transfer window. We will know then who has the full commitment, what we demand, what role everybody needs to play and fulfil. And then everybody, including myself, needs to step up to a new level of performance because these are ok performances, not a disaster, but they are ok and ok can never be enough for us.”

Tuchel isn’t wanting to shy away from taking responsibility and nor should he. Perhaps for the first time as Chelsea coach he is coming under some negative scrutiny, even from sections of the fanbase. However, there is plenty of time for him to get things back on an upward trajectory again and make 2022-23 a success.

Still, when talking about the possibility of a new contract earlier this month he did go on to declare that “it is for the best if I focus on my team and being competitive”. That should certainly remain the case for some time before negotiations resume.

(Top photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

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