Mateo Kovacic explains how Thomas Tuchel has made the difference at Chelsea and why winning the Champions League would make it a ‘perfect’ first season for our head coach.
Tuchel took over at Stamford Bridge in January and has made an instant impact in his first four months in England, guiding us to the FA Cup and Champions League finals, as well as securing a top-four finish in the Premier League.
For that reason, Kovacic feels it has already been a good season for the Blues, but he is hoping to make it even better by lifting silverware when we meet Manchester City in Saturday’s Champions League final.
‘He came in and from the first minute the players felt a great connection with him,’ said the midfielder. ‘From the first meeting and the first game it was like he’d been here for two years, so everything came quite naturally and we approached his way of playing well, we understood each other from the day he came.
‘He did a good job and we had a great season in the end, because we came to the Champions League final, reached the FA Cup final, got top four. So it’s a good season, but not perfect because we need to win a trophy.’
Kovacic also highlighted our defence as an area Tuchel has improved during his time in west London, after the team kept 18 clean sheets in the 29 matches under the German so far, including conceding just two goals in our six Champions League knockout games going into Saturday’s final.
‘I think the team changed completely, how we approached the games. We were more confident, solid at the back and not conceding a lot of goals, not conceding many chances. We became quite solid and we were playing quite confidently.
‘We changed to a back three and I think it suits us really well with the defenders we have. It was a big change, a good change, which improved from game to game, we are doing well in this system. So I think he changed a lot and this team can only become better in my opinion.’
Tuchel has also enjoyed a good record against our Champions League final opponents Manchester City, beating them in both meetings with Chelsea, 1-0 in April’s FA Cup semi-final and 2-1 in the Premier League earlier this month, although Kovacic insists those previous results won’t have any influence on the outcome of Saturday’s final.
‘We won against them twice this season, but it’s a different game. Every game is different and we just have to forget the other games. Obviously we will look at the good things we have done and the bad things we have done against them, to try to be better, but it will be a new game and no team is favourite.
‘City obviously are a great team, they won the Premier League this year, they had a great season. Maybe we are the underdogs in the final, but it is one game, we need to show our best and we have equal chances. We will be confident to try and be at our highest level to win this game.
‘It will never be easy against City or in the Champions League final, it’s meant to be a tough game, and we are prepared for a big, tough game.’