Mission impossible? Thomas Tuchel warns Todd Boehly that Chelsea won’t catch Liverpool in one transfer window
Todd Boehly has been warned he faces an impossible job of trying to match Liverpool in his first season in charge at Chelsea.
The American sees the Merseysiders as a benchmark as a new era begins at Stamford Bridge, and watching Saturday’s FA Cup Final inside Wembley, he could be forgiven for thinking the gap is not too far to bridge after 120 minutes of stalemate.
But in a summer when Thomas Tuchel is desperate for funds to reshape his Chelsea squad, he will start from a position of weakness, with defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen departing as free agents.
That leaves him in need of two top-quality centre-backs, while a host of squandered chances underlined the necessity for at least one clinical forward.
Midfielders Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante were both half-fit, which sums up the injury-riddled campaigns endured by the pair.
Meanwhile Tuchel watched as a Liverpool, without the injured Fabinho, lined up with Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita in midfield, while Mo Salah, who broke down early on, was replaced by Diogo Jota. Roberto Firmino was another substitute.
There is top quality backing up every position in Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple-chasing squad, with the January addition of Luis Diaz another example of the ongoing improvements being made at Anfield.
While Chelsea have proved they can match Liverpool on one-off occasions, with Tuchel still to lose to Klopp over 90 minutes since taking over at Stamford Bridge, he accepts it is too much to ask to put together a comparable squad in one summer window.
“It’s maybe impossible, I have to say, maybe impossible,” he said. “They are improving their squad in every transfer window they have.
“It seems like we are losing key players. We are losing, of course, Toni [Rudiger], we’re losing Andreas. So, this is tough and we already have a gap to close.”
Boehly does intend to invest heavily in the first-team squad and has privately declared his intention to better even the success achieved by Roman Abramovich. But he is likely to be limited in how much he can do in his first summer as owner.
Much will rely on the work already carried out by transfer chief Marina Granovskaia and technical advisor Petr Cech. They were formulating plans before Abramovich was sanctioned and the club was forced to operate under a strict licence.
Sevilla’s Jules Kounde was the leading defensive target, regardless of whether or not Rudiger and Christensen signed the contracts offered to them. Conor Gallagher is returning from loan at Crystal Palace to boost options in midfield.
But issues up front have become more apparent during a time in which Chelsea have been unable to begin negotiations or make approaches for players. Romelu Lukaku’s future is a source of major doubt after his struggles to settle under Tuchel.
Christian Pulisic produced his latest erratic performance in the cup final to raise question marks over whether he will realise his potential at Chelsea, though Boehly will likely want to give a US icon every opportunity to succeed. But it feels increasingly likely that at least one new forward will be required in the summer.
Tuchel has now met with Boehly, having had a meal with him last week at the club’s Cobham training ground. He says recruitment has not yet been discussed, but is confident of the soon-to-be new owner’s intentions.
“He paid some money for it, so I don’t think he is keen to drop the ambition,” he said. “That would be a big surprise, so no I don’t doubt this. We will share our opinion in more detail over the next weeks and I am sure he is as ambitious to build a competitive Chelsea for the highest level.
“We had lunch together, but it was in the room where everybody was, like players and staff. He was very friendly, very open and it was a very informal meeting over lunch.
“It was like half an hour, 40 minutes so it was not too detailed. It was just to get a feeling and say hello, and we talked more about baseball and basketball actually. It was not the moment, we will do this next week, the next weeks.”
If Tuchel is to genuinely break up the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool, he is going to need Boehly’s intervention
By the time Boehly officially gets his hands on Chelsea, following Government and Premier League approval, Liverpool could be the holders of an unprecedented quadruple.
Their two trophies so far have been won at the expense of Chelsea, even if by the finest of margins, with Klopp’s deadly attack failing to breach Tuchel’s defence in 240 minutes of football at Wembley in the Carabao and FA Cup finals.
Those head-to-heads serve as a measure of Tuchel’s ability to stand up to Klopp. But if he is to genuinely break up the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool, he is going to need Boehly’s intervention.