Thomas Tuchel has a historic season as Chelsea manager within his grasp if the team are successful in the final five games of the season, starting tomorrow against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
The challenge for a coveted top-four place is going well with the Blues currently third and six points ahead of fifth-place West Ham with three Premier League games left to play, and seven clear of Liverpool who have a game in hand. In addition, there are of course two massive cup finals to contest, one domestic and the other on the big European stage.
As he faces the climax to the season, Tuchel has acknowledged the contribution from Frank Lampard whom he took over from in January and who started the campaigns in each of those competitions.
‘You can only arrive in the final in FA Cup or the final of the Champions League if you make it through the group stage, and Frank had an amazing record in the group stage of the Champions League, and he won all the FA Cup games that were there to win,’ said Tuchel, ‘so this lays the foundation to arrive in the finals and I will never forget it.
‘I was well aware that Frank has created his own legacy here at Chelsea, well deserved as a player, and then he started to make his legacy bigger as a coach. We are well aware that we stepped in halfway through the season and we try to fulfil the job that he has begun.’
Tuchel referred back again to a message he received from Lampard wishing him well as his successor soon after the change in management, and how welcome that was.
‘It showed me that Frank is like what you see from the outside,’ he added. ‘He is one of the big, big players and one of the key figures of this club. When you think about Chelsea you think about Frank Lampard and how he is and how he played football. That showed his character and the message was exactly like this and was a pleasure to receive.’
Thinking back to his early days in charge at Chelsea, Tuchel did not have a personal expectation that he would lift the team so high in the table so quickly and reach cup finals. He knew club demands meant plenty of pressure on him but preferred to concentrate on the immediate work rather than where it would lead.
‘Maybe you set the bar too low,’ he pointed out, ‘so that is why normally I do not have too many expectations when I start working with a team and trying to put the bar higher and higher every day. Take care of the process and the results normally will take care of themselves.
‘The club did a change because they felt they needed a change but they were very convinced about the quality and the mentality of the team, so this was the target to put everything out and let the players shine and push them to the limits.
‘We know very well that you need a little luck and you need momentum and we caught all that.
‘We agreed pretty soon that if we play with Chelsea in any competition we play to win it. This club is now built to win games consistently and win competitions, this is what we agreed on in pretty much the first minute of our talks and from there we tried everything and until now we haven’t won anything. We have to play two finals and we have to end up in the top four. This is still the challenge. It is not finished.’