Chelsea fans around the globe would have been having terrible flashbacks on Saturday afternoon as relegation threatened West Brom ran the Blues ragged at Stamford Bridge. To say it was an embarrassing afternoon in west London would be an understatement.
With Thiago Silva sent for an early shower after two yellow cards inside the first 30 minutes, Sam Allardyce’s side went on to thrash Thomas Tuchel’s 10 men. Matheus Pereira’s double fired the visitors into a 2-1 lead before the break, whilst a brace from Callum Robinson and a strike from Mbaye Diagne followed in the second half.
Perhaps under the reign of Lampard, the result would have been hard to fathom but still somewhat believable. Yet since Tuchel’s arrival in January, nobody would have seen the result coming by any stretch of the imagination. It’s certainly a wake-up call for the Blues, who were on a 14-game unbeaten streak.
Worryingly, however, some of the cracks that the German boss seemed to immediately paper over when he replaced Lampard at the helm reappeared, both on the pitch and in the aftermath.
Tuchel had made Chelsea defensively solid, a trait they lacked under Lampard. Yet they were torn apart by the Baggies, who had only scored 20 times in 29 league outings prior to their trip to Stamford Bridge. Of course, the red card shown to Silva played its part. However, attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech was sacrificed for centre-back Andreas Christensen to help Chelsea at the back almost immediately after the sending off.
One of the major tasks that faced the former Paris Saint-Germain boss when he arrived at the club was to get Timo Werner firing. But he has scored just one goal under Tuchel, and that was against Newcastle back in mid-February. Getting Kai Havertz back on form is also proving to be a difficult task.
Off the pitch, there are clearly rifts as well. Tammy Abraham hasn’t featured for the Blues since their 1-1 draw away to Southampton on February 20th. An apparent injury has played its part in that. However, Abraham has returned to training, but still can’t make it into Tuchel’s matchday squads, which has led to rumours of a potential falling out between the new gaffer and the 23-year-old.
That aside, news broke from The Telegraph on Sunday that Antonio Rüdiger, who was cast out by Lampard before being brought back into the fold by Tuchel, had been involved in a training ground bust-up with out-of-favour goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Tuchel confirmed that things ‘got heated’ between the pair after a reported late tackle on the goalkeeper from the centre-back and it is believed that Rüdiger was dismissed from the session due to his actions. After bringing the dressing room closer following similar situations under Lampard, this was the last thing Chelsea fans would have wanted to read in the Sunday papers as the race for a top four spot heats up.
In his first 14 games in charge, Tuchel turned around Chelsea’s season and made them much more favourable in the Premier League winner odds. However, he must now ensure that his side can bounce back from this and prove that the defeat against West Brom was a one-off freak result. The last thing he will want to do is miss out on the lucrative Champions League spots.