When you look at the Chelsea team of 2021, there is a very short list of players who are deemed as ‘Untouchables’ and have earned the right to start every single week. ‘Untouchables’ is a term seemingly coined by Jose Mourinho to describe players who are consistent and are permanently on the team sheet despite the opposition. In 2006, Mourinho listed his Chelsea Untouchables as Essien, Makelele, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Petr Cech. The names listed by Mourinho have a common theme. Every single player listed was willing to fight for the badge, possessed leadership qualities and knew their role to perfection.
Mourinho is a manager who needs players he trusts and especially during his time at Chelsea and Manchester United, he was not worried about criticising underperforming players and shaming them publicly. In this sense, Thomas Tuchel is the polar opposite of Jose Mourinho. It is very clear that Tuchel sees team cohesion and morale as key parts of a title winning side, which explains his recurring theme of never blaming defeats solely on one player. Despite this, a solid ‘spine’ is what many feel is lacking within this Chelsea team as of this moment and to achieve the task of implementing this spine into the Chelsea starting eleven, Tuchel would need to reserve spaces in the team for his most trusted players. This would undoubtedly upset some fringe members of the squad, which on the positive side could possibly bring about a much needed clearance of dead wood.
The only ‘Untouchables’ present in Tuchel’s Chelsea squad are Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount. This is worrying for a number of reasons, the lack of permanent starters present in the squad causes a lot of tinkering to be done from game to game. Tuchel is notorious for his changing of formation and personnel depending on the opposition, but in the Premier League there has to be some familiarity within the starting eleven.
Mendy is a suitable option for the calibre of goalkeeper needed to challenge for titles and his winning mentality and class has been shown countless times this season. Azpilicueta is still a top right back on his day and one of the most consistent full backs in recent Premier League history, however his decreasing pace is a worrying sign and his performances have somewhat become inconsistent throughout the past season. Tuchel has made it clear several times that he feels the captain of the club should be a regular starter within the team, something Frank Lampard disagreed with. Mason Mount in his breakout year has fought for the badge when others wouldn’t and backed up his performances with an increase in goals and assists. Mason has also shown up in some of our biggest games this season, scoring a fantastic goal against Liverpool in a 1-0 win at Anfield and also securing Chelsea’s place in a Champions League final with a goal against Real Madrid. Showing up in big games is essential to be regarded as an ‘Untouchable’ for Chelsea FC and the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard lived for the big occasions.
The likes of Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount unfortunately dwindle in comparison to the ‘Untouchables’ of 2006 but players of that nature are hard to come by these days. Players with bundles of skill and flair that are able to compete in the Premier League are easy to come by, but players willing to fight for the badge week in, week out and players that can perform on the biggest stage frequently are a rare breed in todays market.
Looking at the 2006/07 season of the Premier League, Lampard featured in 37 games, John Terry featured in 28 games, Carvalho featured in 31 games and Drogba featured in 36 games. A poor run of form at the end of the season prevented Chelsea from lifting the Premier League trophy for a third consecutive year. However, it is clear to see that a team with permanent starters brings familiarity and solidarity to everyone else on the pitch. Patterns of play become natural and consistency becomes effortless, every player on the pitch knows their roles and this helps to secure the defence, midfield and attack. Permanent starters set the foundations for the whole team to succeed. Reliable players doing reliable jobs to set the whole team up for success. Of course, every player listed as an ‘Untouchable’ by Jose was exceptional but these permanent starters do not have to be phenomenal footballers to become an ‘Untouchable’.
In an era where the highly sought after signings cost upwards of £50m and fans only want the best of the best to join their clubs, it is often tough to identify how a winning team with a winning mentality is established. Apart from the odd occasion in football history, not many exceptional teams are filled with eleven exceptional players. Using our Champions League final starting eleven from 2012, we can easily see that some of the players involved on that day were nowhere near world class. Bosingwa and Mikel both started the Champions League final in Munich and had been main stays in the team for the duration of the competition. Mikel played in 9 games and Bosingwa played in 11 throughout the 2011/12 campiagn. Neither of these two players were regarded as world class for their positions and sometimes you don’t have to be to succeed. There is no doubt that Bosingwa and Mikel provided much needed experience and calmness to players like Ryan Bertrand, who was featuring in his first ever European game for the Blues.
This summer will be pivotal in Tuchel deciding his ‘Untouchables’ during his reign at Stamford Bridge. As with every transfer window looming, Chelsea have obviously been linked with anyone and everyone. Transfers at this point for Chelsea FC are impossible to predict and there is still so much to play for this season but there is some big decisions for Thomas Tuchel to make throughout pre-season and the beckoning summer transfer window. Establishing his set of ‘Untouchables’ , in my eyes signifies that Tuchel accepts the fact that permanent starters are essential to a Premier League winning side and evidently showcases his ever-growing intention to win trophies at Chelsea.
Written by Frankie