KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Thomas Tuchel will be busy on the training ground after seeing his new Chelsea team misfiring on his Stamford Bridge managerial debut.
Chelsea dominated all 90 Premier League minutes but were forced to settle for a goalless draw against a Wolves team who sat back in defence for all the match, as if in fear of the new man’s magic powers. Next outing for the Blues is at home to Burnley on Sunday.
Tuchel was first considered by Chelsea during Antonio Conte’s reign but they kept faith at the time with the Italian so the 47-year-old’s arrival had been signalled for several years. He has signed an 18-month contract and been left under no doubt that he will be expected to achieve immediate results.
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Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s executive director, said: “It is never easy to change head coach in the middle of a season but there is still much to play for and much to achieve, this season and beyond.”
Chelsea had slipped from second in the table to 10th over the past two months under Frank Lampard. Tuchel is being expected to lift them back up into the top four Champions League slots, win the FA Cup in which they were runners-up last season and make significant progress in the Champions League.
Next month sees the Blues visit second-tier Barnsley in the FA Cup and resume Champions League action away to Atletico de Madrid. In both competitions progress to the quarter-finals will be demanded by Granovskaia, chairman Bruce Buck and owner Roman Abramovich.
Tuchel wasted no time starting work once he had flown in to London, undergone the necessary health controls and been ‘admitted’ to the Chelsea security bubble. He summoned the players for a rare evening training session on Tuesday night.
He has a valuable working knowledge of Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Antonio Rudiger as well as the ex-Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva. He will also have initial opinions of the rest of the squad on the basis of his own studies and access to his support staff’s video analysis.
One unknown factor is how much Tuchel will lean on the academy. Lampard had delighted the fans by turning Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James into England internationals. Previously the academy had been used as only a money-making exercise.
Tuchel’s first team selection saw four changes compared with Lampard’s league match, a 2-0 defeat at Leicester on Tuesday last week. Three of Lampard’s youngsters – Mount, James and Abraham – were all been dropped to the substitutes bench along with Pulisic. Werner was already there.
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Tuchel, the fifth German to manage in the Premier League, said he had gone for experience because he had not had a proper opportunity to assess his squad. Certainly his team obeyed his instructions to press with possession off a high line. Wolves did help Chelsea, however, by sitting deep in anticipation of a fierce Blues response to events of the past three days.
Chelsea commanded 79pc of possession in the first half and managed 433 successful passes – their most in the first half of a Premier League game since the start of the 2003-04 season. Yet they rarely slipping in behind the Wolves defence on the wings and created only chance, wasted by Olivier Giroud.
Tuchel would not have been happy when the teams went in for fresh instructions at the interval but the early exchanges of the second half brought much of the same.
Havertz did find space on the left on the hour and pulled the ball back only for Ben Chilwell to shoot over the bar. It was a bad miss after Chelsea’s best move of the match. Next Havertz had a shot blocked before Wolves came closest to an opening goal when Neto hit the bar on a rare counter-attack.
This prompted Tuchel to ring the changes, bringing on Pulisic and Abraham for Chilwell and Giroud. Mateo Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi and Havertz went close in the closing minutes but this Chelsea will not frighten Liverpool or the Manchester clubs for a long time yet.