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pressure is on Why Thomas Tuchel will need to win the Premier League next season to survive at Chelsea

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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel knows silverware is essential if he is not suffer the same path as previous managers at Stamford Bridge. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel knows silverware is essential if he is not suffer the same path as previous managers at Stamford Bridge. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel knows silverware is essential if he is not suffer the same path as previous managers at Stamford Bridge. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel have moved into another crucial week which, given the relentless nature of the club, seems to be just about every week.

But it is not as if Chelsea are in crisis. Far from it. They are solidly in the Champions League places while Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur flail around behind them.

United are a mess, Arsenal are out of every other competition and have only fourth place to aim for, and Tottenham are almost existentially fretting about where they are heading and whether Antonio Conte and Harry Kane will still be there come next season.

Chelsea are not in that company. They are bracketed with Manchester City and Liverpool and are one of the best clubs in Europe, never mind England, with an elite manager and a formidable squad.

Yet neither are they in the Premier League title race or having to fight for fourth. Instead Chelsea find themselves in a strange kind of (successful) state of being somewhere in between.

In fact, since winning the title in 2017, under Conte, Chelsea have not been remotely close to being champions. The following year they finished 30 points behind. The year after that 26, then 33, and then 19. Currently they are 13 points behind. Maybe the gap is closing, but slowly.

Only once during that time have they finished outside the top four, but not once have they mounted a title challenge.

They had a transfer ban to contend with and they have been unlucky in that they are competing against a Pep Guardiola-led City and a Jurgen Klopp-led Liverpool, but they would still expect to be closer.

This season will be the fifth year in a row without a Premier League title, the longest drought since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. And he will be well aware of that.

Instead, Chelsea have become the ultimate cup team, winning the FA Cup, the Europa League and then, under Tuchel, the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup. That is an impressive return.

The German, therefore, has been phenomenally successful in his 13 months in charge. The issue is that if that success is built on cups then it means the head coach is always walking a tightrope. After all, how do you evaluate the runners-up in a final? There may be a medal and a day out, but it is less solid than being in a title race.

Chelsea continue their defence of the Champions League with the first leg of the last-16 tie against Lille tonight, followed by the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday. Chelsea are also in the FA Cup, in which they should beat Championship side Luton Town.

If Tuchel does not win at least one of those trophies, and notwithstanding the fact that Chelsea can now call themselves – for the first time – the “champions of the world”, then will the focus fall on him on whether he is actually the right man to take on Guardiola and Klopp?

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It would be a harsh assessment, but this is the club where the harshest assessments are made. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked a year after winning the Premier League and FA Cup because that season Chelsea finished second and did not win anything.

So it can also be flipped. Would Ancelotti have saved himself had Chelsea been runners-up in the league but won a cup? Probably!

And Tuchel knows that. He knows he has to keep delivering the silverware or the mood will swing.

But Tuchel has to be careful. Roberto Di Matteo also won the Champions League after taking over mid-season, when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked in 2012. But it did not save him from being dismissed only a few months later.

Tuchel is a far more competent manager and will deliver Champions League football for next season, but it is a warning.

No matter what Chelsea win this season, perhaps bar retaining the Champions League, questions will be asked internally about the league campaign, especially if the gap to the top two is not narrowed and after spending a club-record £97.5 million on Romelu Lukaku last summer.

History has shown that when Abramovich’s shiny new striker does not work out then it is usually the coach who pays the price.

Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata – the failure to get the best out of them has contributed to the downfall of several managers. And are Chelsea playing to Lukaku’s strengths and giving him the best chance of success?

It does not appear so. Tuchel prefers a possession-based game which does not suit Lukaku, who played his best football at Inter Milan where Conte demanded quick counter-attacks. So who bought him and why?

Further cup success would gloss over this. Every Chelsea manager knows he has to deliver. Tuchel went into the job with his eyes wide open. There was no talk of time or “projects”. It gives him a greater chance of survival but, no matter what Chelsea win this season, they will demand more of a title challenge in the next campaign.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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