It was “a statement” team announcement. As whispers gave way to fact, Thomas Tuchel’s first selection as Chelsea manager was bursting with narrative as much as it was intrigue.
No Mason Mount or Reece James – pillars of Frank Lampard’s vision for the club.
No Timo Werner, one of the individuals whose under-performance under the previous regime had, in-part, led Roman Abramovich to Tuchel.
And then there was the formation.
After years of being seemingly synonymous with a 4-3-3, Tuchel had Chelsea set up in a 3-5-2 with, gasp, Callum Hudson-Odoi at right wing-back and voluntarily selected Cesar Azpilicueta at centre-back over Kurt Zouma.
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What was this devilry? Was Tuchel just trolling us all?
Well, kind of, because as rumours first began to surface of his intended starting XI against Wolves and then the announcement was made at 5pm, the passage of debate essentially revolved around the new manager immediately putting his stamp upon his new team.
Except that wasn’t really the case. Tuchel, with admirable honesty, conceded he simply picked a side based upon the players he knew. Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Azpilicueta, Olivier Giroud – these are established internationals and significant figures on the European stage.
Even to a relentless analyst like Tuchel, he wouldn’t be as familiar with Mount, James’, Tammy Abraham’s or Billy Gilmour’s specific attributes. At least not as much as he would want.
We can only take the German’s words at face value but, at the same time, it’s inconceivable a man known for details – the “Professor”, remember – hadn’t done significant research on this squad and he did, after all, select Hudson-Odoi at right wing-back.
An odd decision for a coach with apparently minimal knowledge of certain aspects of his squad.