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English football is waiting to see what Thomas Tuchel does next.
It will take something special to top last season’s Champions League triumph by virtue of a third-straight win against Pep Guardiola; the culmination of a four-month turnaround in Chelsea’s fortunes that even Roman Abramovich could not have expected when turning to the German in January.
But that is precisely what Tuchel must do in his first full season at Stamford Bridge, with a contract extension triggered and the financial backing to break the club transfer record on £97.5million Romelu Lukaku.
Anything other than winning the Premier League or retaining the Champions League crown would be considered a backwards step. And anyone who has seen how Abramovich operates knows he will accept only one direction where his football club is concerned.
Tuchel knows that. The pragmatism and wit with which he took on the job after Frank Lampard’s brutal sacking was one of the standout features of his first months in the job.
He had already been sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on the back of reaching the Champions League Final and winning back-to-back French titles. He arrived in London like a man with nothing lose, living out of a suitcase, with his family left behind in Paris and no guarantee of employment longer than an 18-month contract to remind him how precarious his position was.
His attitude? Immediate success was the only way to guarantee his future. And he embraced it.
Which is why it was so unexpected to hear him try to dampen expectation around Chelsea amid early claims they are among the favourites to win the title this season.
Of course, they are – even without the addition of Lukaku. That they were nowhere near challenging Manchester City around the turn of the year is precisely why Lampard was shown the door. And Tuchel can expect little more patience even after conquering Europe.
Roberto Di Matteo lasted six months after becoming the first Chelsea manager to deliver the trophy Abramovich craves more than any other.
Few would expect Tuchel to be worried about his position come Christmas. He inherited a squad with a depth of strength to rival any in England’s top flight – and has demonstrated his ability to maximise his resources. Add the guaranteed goals of Lukaku and he has acquired the missing piece.
It could be argued that the signing of Lukaku has left City playing catch up to the point that it is now imperative they convince Tottenham to sell Harry Kane. Without a goalscorer of their own, they are in danger of being left behind by this Chelsea team.
On Sunday we should get the first taste of what much a threat a Lukaku-led Chelsea are to their title rivals.
Tuchel said: “It’s about profile and it was a very productive discussion we had about what to bring into this group. There were not many names and one of the absolute top solutions was Romelu.
“Does this add the pressure on me, personally? Yes, but I don’t feel it. But I am also not hiding from it. Of course not. Because we try to make the squad better and to be better is to be on the same level like last season, but consistently over a longer period.
“This is what I demand of myself and it does not work without quality. We are not doing magic on the sidelines.
“We can only push for things that people have and Romelu brings something to the squad on which we are absolutely aware and convinced by. So at the moment it is more fun than pressure. It looks like the perfect fit.”
Lukaku will offer a new dimension to a team that have only scored more than two goals against one Premier League side under Tuchel – Crystal Palace.
The notion that Chelsea are an unadventurous team that is difficult to beat, ignores the number of chances they wasted last season and the increasing tendency of opponents to drop deep when starved of the ball.
Even still, the expectation is that they will become more expansive with a goalscorer of the highest quality to aim for, while Lukaku’s very presence should provide more openings for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and any forward option at Tuchel’s disposal.
But the German is also keen to manage expectations where this is concerned – warning the fantasy football of a PSG, who have added Lionel Messi to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, is not about to be replicated at Chelsea.
“For me it is more about energy than style and the style of a game also has to fit the club,” said Tuchel. “So for me it is pretty normal that Paris plays a different football than Chelsea and Chelsea plays a different football than Real Madrid and Real Madrid, maybe in the same country, a different football than Barcelona. This is inherited. This comes over ages and centuries.
“This has to do with the country, with the tradition, how each game is played in some countries, so I think we should not try to copy other teams because the copy is never the original.
“I was very happy with our energy that we produced in the last season and this is what we are talking about. I think that Chelsea is a very energetic, very athletic style of playing. It is forward-thinking, it is an attacking style of playing, but an attacking style of play for Chelsea in the Premier League is very different to the role that PSG plays in the domestic league.”
Chelsea’s energy, athleticism and attack can only be enhanced by the arrival of Lukaku – as will their title prospects.