The view was that trigger-happy Roman Abramovich sacked an inexperienced manager (one of their own) attempting to get a young squad flourishing in the midst of a Premier League covered with riches.
But with the club languishing down in ninth, it was never going to end well for Lampard – whom more than anybody else knows just how ruthless Abramovich can be if the team is performing below par.
Thomas Tuchel has overseen a mini-revival at Chelsea after replacing legend Frank Lampard
Tuchel enjoyed his best result yet when Chelsea beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 in Champions League
Tuchel wasn’t shown much love when Lampard was sacked but he has turned results around
So in came Tuchel almost immediately and with the fury still very much there from Lampard’s dismissal, it appeared it would take time for Chelsea fans to warm to him.
But eight matches later, and all of a sudden the mood is bright again among the team and the fans. Football, eh?
Chelsea were in disarray when Lampard was sacked and Champions League football looked to be passing them by but almost instantly Tuchel has got them back in prime position.
A comparison between Lampard’s final eight games and Tuchel’s first eight fixtures (stats courtesy of sofascore.com)
The German manager has guided the Blues to six wins out of eight in all competitions, including four consecutive victories in the Premier League prior to their draw at Southampton last weekend.
Ahead of this Sunday’s crunch encounter at home to Manchester United, Chelsea have risen to fifth in the Premier League, just two points below West Ham who are in unusual European territory.
And it is hard to look past the immediate impact Tuchel has made at Stamford Bridge.
Bar Manchester City, who are on a ridiculous 20-match winning streak in all competitions, Chelsea are the second most in-form team in the Premier League since Tuchel took the reigns – winning four and drawing twice in six games.
And the Blues have been pretty efficient during this spell, scoring eight times and conceding just twice – keeping four clean sheets.
Tuchel has implemented a clear philosophy on his new side, and it is paying off following an alarming slump under their legendary former midfielder.
While in attacking aspects the comparisons aren’t that significant, elsewhere on the pitch his meticulous planning is bearing fruit and the displays are clearly showing Chelsea have become well structured already.
Tuchel likes to play an intense attacking style of football, dominating the tempo of the game and bringing his wing backs into play – like Marcos Alonso and Callum Hudson-Odoi at present – restoring the 3-4-2-1 shape that was so successful for Chelsea under Antonio Conte.
Tuchel’s men are in impressive form since he took over last month (stats prior to this weekend)
And his structured philosophy is certainly having a welcome outcome on the defensive side of things.
Under Lampard, Chelsea were too open at the back and struggled to find that balance between attack and defence with opposing teams punishing them far too often.
Tuchel, thanks to his fine planning, has made Chelsea much more compact when they don’t have the ball.
Attacking players are pressing without leaving huge holes in behind them, while the team appears much more structurally organised and they have a clearer understanding of individual roles.
When comparing Lampard’s last eight games in all competitions to Tuchel’s first eight, Chelsea are now down in an attacking sense. The German’s side are scoring 0.5 goals less per game while producing nearly four fewer shots each match.
But that will not alarm Tuchel in the slightest as he can already see his vision successfully working.
Chelsea, with Jorginho at the heart of Tuchel’s midfield, have enjoyed 68.6 per cent possession on average per game since his arrival – up 4 per cent from when Lampard was in charge.
Tuchel has implemented a possession-based ideal with Jorginho at the heart of proceedings
And they are completing almost 70 more passes per match under Tuchel, which is helping to nullify the opposition threat as they enjoy the majority share of possession – as was particularly evident in the big wins at Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.
In terms of players knowing their individual roles better, this is certainly the case with the team’s defence now well regimented – conceding just 0.25 goals per game compared to 1.25 in the last eight games of their former manager’s tenure.
The Blues are now winning over six more duels per game, clearances per match are up by almost two while their tackle rate is exactly the same.
Chelsea are now working in unison and that was again evident as Tuchel claimed his biggest scalp yet as the club’s manager against Atletico Madrid ‘away’ in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Atletico aren’t the rigid, well-structured team they once were. Diego Simeone has ditched his trusted 4-4-2 system for a more flexible possession based formation – which enables his side to hold the ball up and try to compose the game.
But Tuchel simply didn’t give Simeone’s new plan a chance to work.
The Blues enjoyed 64 per cent possession and made a massive 586 passes compared to Atletico’s 298.
And the presence of Jorginho in the holding midfield role clearly paid off as his calmness allowed Chelsea to dictate the rhythm with his side enjoying a success rate of 87 per cent of their passes.
And their domination with the ball allowed Chelsea to roam up the other end of the pitch, breaking between the lines with their assured passing.
The Blues had almost double the amount of shots as Atletico while five of their 11 were on target compared to the LaLiga side’s zero.
Yet in defence when they did come under threat, Chelsea were quick to snuff out the danger – making 62 successful recoveries, 10 interceptions and winning 42 duels.
Tuchel has started to get the best out of £53million summer signing Timo Werner again
It encapsulated Tuchel’s football philosophy, with his own side running the pace of the game while also remaining structurally sound in defence to ensure the opposition couldn’t pose a threat.
But while he deserves to be winning plaudits for his tactics, his man-management skills have also been on display so far and many players – who were once under-performing or struggling for match time under Lampard – are now thriving.
And perhaps none more so than £53million summer signing Timo Werner. The German international has struggled for goals all season but his impact with and without the ball is much clearer to see under Tuchel.
Werner, who finally ended his 14-game Premier League goal drought against Newcastle earlier this month, has been much more direct under the former PSG boss. He has made 2.17 penalty area entries per game now compared to 1.39 under Lampard while offloading 2.50 shots in total per match now, up almost 0.4.
The German is looking much more comfortable and efficient working under Tuchel, drifting in and out from the wing to act as an extra No 10 while providing a goal threat.
Furthermore, forgotten man Antonio Rudiger has enjoyed a renaissance in west London. The experienced German international has clearly been well drilled under Tuchel, just like the rest of the backline, and that is evident from the stats.
He is making 1.13 tackles per game compared to 0.67 before while duels won per match are up to 3.88 from 2.89. And when he does lose the ball, he isn’t allowing the opposition to punish him, making 6.25 recoveries per game compared to 4.67 beforehand under Lampard.
And finally club captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who was becoming frustrated with his lack of game time under Lampard, has also seen an upturn in form.
The experienced Spanish right back’s defensive stats are now up again, winning 6.71 duels per game compared to just 4.50 beforehand.
He is making 1.43 interceptions per game compared to 0.75 before while on the aerial front, he is coming out on top 3.71 times every fixture which is up from 1.75.
The stats above – in particular Rudiger and Azpilicueta – highlight just how closely Tuchel has worked on the tactical aspect of things, ensuring that a group of individuals know their job down to a T, which in turn is allowing the defence to execute their game-plan to perfection.
There is a long way to go and Chelsea fans certainly won’t be getting carried away but Tuchel in the short space of time he has been there, has repaid the faith Abramovich has shown in him.
Yes tougher tests lie ahead, but the away wins at Atletico and Tottenham show that the future could be bright at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel has revived a Chelsea team bereft in confidence and lacking identity, and after gaining the upper-hand over Atletico in their Champions League last-16 tie while dragging themselves firmly back into contention for a top four spot, it could be an exciting end to the season for the club.
Up next it’s United on Sunday. If Tuchel can guide Chelsea to all three points, then that will be the biggest statement yet and with confidence sky high, an unlikely top four finish only weeks ago may just be on the cards.
Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta have also enjoyed an upturn in form under Tuchel