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Rating Chelsea's season so far: Tuchel gone but problems still remain for goal-shy Blues

3:00 PM MYT 29/09/2022
Rating Chelsea's season so far 2022-23 Tuchel James Sterling Havertz
Chelsea's campaign has not gone to plan so far, leading to an early and unexpected change in the dugout as the axe fell on Thomas Tuchel

Not even the most ardent supporter would have backed Chelsea to mount a serious title challenge in 2022-23 following a tempestuous few months at the back end of last season and an unhappy pre-season.

Equally, few would have expected fan-favourite head coach Thomas Tuchel to be sacked just one month and seven games into the new campaign, with the club toiling in seventh place in the Premier League following consecutive away defeats to Leeds and Southampton. A humiliating loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League proved to be the final straw.

If life comes at you fast, then football comes at you faster.

Graham Potter has now been installed at the helm, an appointment that is exciting and unsettling in equal measure - especially given the club could swiftly slip into crisis mode if they do not find some form, with recent history dictating that Chelsea are prone to capitulating every few seasons.

But if the new ownership are to be believed, Potter will be given the necessary time to imprint his philosophy on the squad and turn their fortunes around.

Despite his burgeoning reputation, Potter has his work cut out, with his first game in charge - a 1-1 draw with Red Bull Salzburg at Stamford Bridge - offering few insights into what is to come and providing little reassurance that things will change.

The postponement of Chelsea's two most recent league matches should, however, have provided Potter time to implement some of his ideas and get a good look at his squad.

So, how do you assess the tumultuous opening weeks of the campaign? Who have the (few) standout performers been, who does Potter need to whip into shape and what does the short-term future hold for the Blues?

GOAL takes a look below...

  • Reece James 2022-23

    Best player

    Amid the occasional chaos around him, Reece James has been a picture of consistency.

    The full-back's marauding runs down the right-hand side have become one of Chelsea's key attacking outlets, with his crossing and shooting ability second to very few.

    James has already provided a goal and an assist in five Premier League games, netting his side's second goal in the pulsating 2-2 derby draw against Tottenham in August.

    And while all the talk ahead of the World Cup revolves around Trent Alexander-Arnold, James could not have done much more to earn himself a place in Gareth Southgate's line up for Qatar.

  • Koulibaly Chelsea Tottenham

    Best performance

    The options here are scant, with Chelsea having toiled even in victory so far this season.

    Ironically, the 2-2 draw with Tottenham represents their best overall performance, and they would have been bitterly disappointed to only take a point from the game.

    The Blues utterly dominated the first period, but only had Kalidou Koulibaly's fine volley to show for it at half-time. Spurs improved after the break, but the hosts seemed destined for victory after Reece James had cancelled out Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's equaliser, only for Harry Kane to score a stoppage-time header amid some very sloppy defending.

    It's a low bar, but at times in that game, Chelsea played the kind of possession-based football that supporters perhaps would have expected on a regular basis thereafter.

    Instead, things started going badly wrong.

  •  K Koulibaly Chelsea 2022-23

    Best goal

    Chelsea really did save their best for that Tottenham game, huh?

    An honourable mention to Raheem Sterling's fine finish against Salzburg in the Champions League, but it's difficult to look past Kalidou Koulibaly's volley for this accolade.

    The centre-back met Marc Cucurella's corner and sent it crashing into the back of the net with the technique of a seasoned striker, opening the scoring and his account for the club on his home debut. It doesn't get much better than that.

  • Raheem Sterling Chelsea Champions League 2022-23

    Best new signing

    While Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly have quietly gone about their business and settled in well - barring the latter's red card at Leeds - Raheem Sterling's impact at the other end of the pitch since joining from Man City is difficult to ignore.

    Although he has frustrated at times and spurned some decent openings, the 27-year-old's five goal involvements in just eight matches reflect that he is probably the only Chelsea forward who is pulling his weight at present.

    The England international produced a clutch brace against Leicester as the Blues' 10 men snatched three points, and his finish against Salzburg was straight out of the top drawer.

    The distraction an out-and-out striker like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will provide could make Sterling an even more potent threat, too.

  • Jorginho Chelsea Leeds 2022-23

    Biggest disappointment

    The dismal defeat to Dinamo Zagreb certainly left Chelsea's season at its lowest ebb and would ultimately lead to Tuchel's dismissal, but an equally embarrassing 3-0 thrashing at Leeds ranks as the lowest of the low points.

    Off the back of that decent showing against Spurs there was optimism, but the Blues were dismantled as Leeds treated the historic rivalry with the respect it deserves, swarming their meek visitors and dominating from start to finish at a raucous Elland Road.

    Chelsea were pedestrian, while their cause wasn't aided by a calamitous error from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy - who gifted the ball to Brenden Aaronson to gleefully open the scoring. It was all downhill from there, and the visitors' misery was compounded by a late and needless second yellow card for Kalidou Koulibaly.

    That Tuchel's men were unable to lay a glove on a Leeds side in indifferent form spoke volumes.

  • Graham Potter Chelsea 2022-23

    Biggest positive

    It's fair to say the positives are few and far between at this stage, but there is reason to be hopeful at least.

    Chelsea moved quickly to appoint Graham Potter, and recent postponements have given him plenty of time to work with his players on the training pitch so as to arrest this slide in form.

    His squad's clean bill of health (barring any late international break drama) will also enable Potter to field what he feels is his strongest side and build some cohesion in a fairly favourable run of fixtures domestically.

    That line up will likely include Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose arrival is a significant boost for an attack that has been far too goal-shy in recent weeks and months. His presence alone could unshackle the likes of Kai Havertz and Chelsea's other struggling forwards.

  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek Chelsea 2022-23

    Surprise package

    As a result of Mateo Kovacic and N'Golo Kante's injury problems, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been more involved than many would have expected this season

    The 26-year-old's driving runs are able to get Chelsea up the pitch swiftly and give them a completely different dimension to the more conservative approach of Jorginho, Kovacic and Kante.

    Although he undoubtedly needs to add more goals and a better end product, Loftus-Cheek has given himself a fighting chance of keeping his place under the new manager.

  • Kai Havertz Chelsea West Ham 2022-23

    Could do better

    Chelsea's disappointing start means a whole host of names fall into this category - namely in attack.

    His tireless running and work ethic have endeared him to the fans, but patience may soon run out with Kai Havertz if he cannot restore the regular goal contributions and splash of flair to his game that made him such an exciting talent at Bayer Leverkusen. Aubameyang's arrival may yet give the German a more free role, and as England recently discovered, he can be devastating in those areas.

    Though not regular starters, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech must both prove to Potter that they can do the business on a consistent basis to nail down a starting spot.

    In midfield, much was expected of Conor Gallagher following his hugely successful loan at Crystal Palace last season, but he is yet to live up to the billing and got himself needlessly sent off against Leicester.

    Elsewhere, Jorginho has looked like a world-beating defensive midfielder at times, only for high-profile lapses to ruin otherwise faultless displays.

  • Cause for concern

    In an ideal world, any causes for concern will have melted away a few weeks into Graham Potter's tenure, but they are unlikely to be a quick fix with an understandable hangover from the Tuchel era.

    Goalscoring remains a huge issue, but Potter's possession-based, attacking philosophy should lend itself to more chances being created, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will need to hit the ground running to ensure those chances are converted into goals.

    Chelsea have looked far less assured at the back this season too, evidenced by the fact they conceded more goals in their opening three league games this campaign (5) than they had in 12 in 2021-22 (4). Again, a solution may well be at hand with greater stability likely to come once Kalidou Koulibaly, Thiago Silva and new man Wesley Fofana have developed more of an understanding, but things need to change quickly.

    Of course, the main, overarching concern is whether Potter has the coaching ability to galvanise this vastly underperforming squad full of big egos despite his relative inexperience at the very highest level. Todd Boehly will certainly hope that is the case.

  • Thomas Tuchel Chelsea 2022-23

    Tuchel's job (& Potter's to come)

    No-one expected Thomas Tuchel to lose his job with the season still in its infancy - least of all the German himself - with many believing the days of Roman Abramovich's hiring and firing were over.

    But while he was hugely popular among the fanbase and obviously delivered the Champions League, it is impossible to ignore that Chelsea have not played consistently well since the heady days of late 2021.

    Relieved of his duties after 100 games in charge, his side had conceded more than twice as many goals in his second 50 matches than in his first.

    While Tuchel's tactical decisions had become questionable on the pitch (such as briefly playing Sterling in central midfield), once it emerged after his sacking that he had lost certain sections of the dressing room, already clashed with the new ownership and disengaged with Boehly's project, it was evident that his position had become untenable for those behind the scenes.

    Chelsea looked improved in Potter's first game in charge against Salzburg, but were ultimately frustrated after 90 minutes once again. There is a long road ahead.