As evenings go, beating Italian giants Juventus 4-0 in front of a packed Stamford Bridge to celebrate your 50th game in charge must have been up there for Thomas Tuchel.
The Chelsea manager reached his half-century with a resoundingly dominant performance in the Champions League on Tuesday, his players epitomising everything which has been positive under his tenure.
Statistics show his first 50 matches have outstripped elite Premier League rivals like Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp’s comparative records, with more wins and far fewer goals conceded than both.
But how impressive have they actually been? Is there anything to improve on? And what does the next 50 look like? Sportsmail takes a deep dive into Tuchel’s spectacular start at Stamford Bridge…
Thomas Tuchel’s first 50 matches as Chelsea boss outstrips Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp
An inauspicious first match
A frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Wolves on January 28 was not the auspicious start many had hoped for after the sacking of club legend Frank Lampard, who many observers felt could have been given a little more time.
That point, secured after Pedro Neto hit the crossbar with a one-on-one, pushed them up to eighth, three points behind Tottenham and Everton, who had played two games fewer.
Ten months on, the Blues are light years ahead of those two teams, and if you peek at the league table now, you can see why Roman Abramovich chose to twist rather than stick with Lampard.
Chelsea are top – not a false position either – are three clear of City and four clear of Liverpool, having conceded a league-low four goals in 12 games and scored 30 this campaign, second only to City.
They’ve been transformed from a side lying in mid-table halfway through last season to genuine title contenders, and, theoretically, are still on for an admittedly unlikely quadruple, including a defence of their Champions League crown.
Tuchel has a better record than Pep Guardiola (l) and Jurgen Klopp (r) in his first 50 matches
What do the numbers say?
The statistics read 32 wins, 11 draws and seven losses from Tuchel’s first 50 matches, with 81 scored and 24 conceded, plus two trophies – the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup.
That compares favourably to Guardiola at City (29 wins, 11 draws, 10 losses, 105 scored, 56 conceded) and Klopp at Liverpool (23 wins, 16 draws, 11 losses, 86 scored, 57 conceded), with 107 points compared to 98 and 85 respectively.
The wins at home and away from Stamford Bridge are split equally at 15 each, while beating City at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final and in Porto in the Champions League final last season were the two victories gained on neutral territory.
Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and Antonio Rudiger (right) have been regulars in a peerless defence
Beating Juventus took Chelsea’s unbeaten run to 10, four away from Tuchel’s Chelsea record of 14, with fixtures against Manchester United, Watford, high-flying West Ham and Russian side Zenit St Petersburg to come.
His attacking numbers aren’t especially outstanding: 13 European sides have scored more goals in that period – including both Liverpool and City, with 89 and 111 respectively.
However, Tuchel’s side really come into their own with their defensive statistics, with easily fewer than half the amount of goals conceded in Guardiola and Klopp’s first 50 games, and 31 clean sheets underlining the club’s peerless backline.
A startlingly impressive record of just 24 goals conceded represents the best of any side in Europe’s top leagues since Tuchel took charge, with LaLiga outfit Sevilla and City next best in terms of clean sheets, nine shutouts further back with 22.
His players have scored a remarkable 81 goals since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as boss
Context is needed
For balance, Tuchel inherited a clearly stronger squad than Klopp did at Liverpool.
Klopp’s side in his first season had Simon Mignolet, Joe Allen and Jordon Ibe as regulars, a backline of Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno, and Jerome Sinclair, Connor Randall and Joao Teixeira on his first bench.
The German then constructed his side over several years and several transfer windows, eventually becoming the high-pressing, high-octane side Liverpool is today, perhaps explaining Klopp’s comparatively weaker start as manager.
However, Guardiola can have no such excuses, with world-class stars like Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero helping the Spaniard make a strong start at the Etihad.
Defenders Dejan Lovren (second left) and Alberto Moreno (second right) were part of a weak-looking Liverpool backline when Klopp first arrived – the relative strength of Tuchel’s Chelsea squad when he arrived at the club after Lampard’s spending must be taken into consideration
Similarly, 14 of the players in Chelsea’s matchday squad against Juventus on Tuesday were involved in that opening draw with Wolves, showing that a core of fundamentally solid players was already available to Tuchel.
Although Tuchel has only made one major signing as boss, bringing in striker Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan for £97.5m, Lampard was backed to the tune of £222m in summer 2020, bringing in Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy – all players Tuchel benefited from.
That said, the 48-year-old was not responsible for those acquisitions – he’s had to work with players he may not necessarily have wanted – and summer sales mean for this season Chelsea made around £41m in net profit.
Therefore, despite an expensively assembled squad and the comparative weakness of the Liverpool team in Klopp’s first 50 games, it wouldn’t be fair to say Tuchel has bought his way to a better start than Pep and Klopp. He’s earned it.
Tuchel the tactical master
Tinkerman Tuchel, an ultra-flexible tactical mind, used 10 different formations while at Paris Saint-Germain. Largely, his Chelsea reign has been based on just one: a set-up of 3-4-2-1, but with regular rotation and players used interchangeably.
It allows the evergreen Thiago Silva to marshal a three-man back-line, often next to Antonio Rudiger, with dynamic wing-backs like Reece James and Ben Chilwell given the license to bomb on and join attacks.
The Blues will continue their defence of their European crown in the knockout stages next year
Tuchel has seemingly perfected the blend of experience from the likes of Mendy, Silva, Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Lukaku with fresh young players – three academy products scoring against Juventus to delight fans.
Havertz, Werner, James, Chilwell, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Andreas Christensen and Trevoh Chalobah are all 25 years old or younger, indicating a core part of his squad is set up to continue their dominance in future.
Tuchel may want his forward line to be more clinical, as demonstrated by 1-0 losses against City and Juventus, 1-1 draws against Southampton in the cup and Burnley, and narrow 1-0 wins against Brentford and Malmo in the last 12 games, for example.
But with a clinical, cold-blooded assassin like Lukaku up front and Havertz, Pulisic and Mount returning from injury, finishing off chances more regularly will surely only be a matter of time.
If Tuchel can maintain or even improve upon the performances and results from his first 50 games, the current era of Chelsea dominance could well continue.
Tuchel’s excellent record shows Chelsea’s dramatic turnaround since Lampard was sacked
Chelsea’s results in the last 10 matches of former boss Lampard’s tenure at Stamford Bridge