Premier League • England

Tuchel backs Aubameyang to live up to Chelsea challenge and overcome ‘curse’, denying ‘big issue’ with new signing

Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea May 2022

Thomas Tuchel believes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be up for the challenge of being Chelsea’s number nine after denying what others may perceive to be an issue with the striker.

Aubameyang has reunited with his former Borussia Dortmund head coach Tuchel at Chelsea. It represents a return to the Premier League for the former Arsenal forward just half a year after he left for Barcelona.

His record in La Liga was good, but he became surplus to requirements after their addition of Robert Lewandowski. Therefore, Chelsea have taken advantage to lure him to Stamford Bridge.

After letting Romelu Lukaku return to Inter Milan earlier in the summer, it means Chelsea have replenished their ranks up front.

Tuchel will have to wait a while to use Aubameyang due to a jaw injury. However, once he gets a protective mask, he might be able to start training next week.

After that, it will be intriguing to see how Aubameyang gets on in Chelsea colours. Several strikers have struggled at Stamford Bridge despite successes elsewhere, but Tuchel thinks he has a chance of lifting the so-called curse of their number nine shirt.

The German said at a press conference: “It’s on us to prove it, for me to find a position, to create enough support for him and on him to finish our attacks.

“He is not afraid of the past and what a number means. He is ready to write his own history.”

Tuchel added: “Auba is always happy to fight for something and accept the challenge. The more challenges he has, the better it is. If he wants to overcome the number nine curse, or he wants to prove someone wrong in London – the more, the better.

“I know him as a person with an open heart. A very positive influence in any group. He is happy to be on the pitch and score goals; this is what we want.”

Aubameyang enjoyed a range of fortunes with Arsenal. He became their captain at one point but his form deteriorated towards the end of his time at the Emirates Stadium.

After getting back on track with Barcelona, though, Tuchel believes the Gabonese star is capable of making an impact back in London.

He said: “I imagine everyone is happy he chose the club in blue now instead of the club in red. They will see very early about what he is.

“He’s about using his speed to score. He’s a very hard working striker, he’s the first line of pressing, he’s very strong in counter pressing. That’s what made him special in Dortmund with me and the captain of Arsenal. He won some trophies there.”

Thomas Tuchel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

One of the criticisms that came Aubameyang’s way during his Arsenal days, though, was about his discipline. Precisely, there were concerns over his punctuality.

However, Tuchel has never encountered any such significant problems with the player himself before.

He said: “Nothing big. There was never a big issue.

“He has a problem with his time, but he never misses a meeting or something like this. But to arrive 60 minutes before is sometimes a struggle. Never a major concern.”

Tuchel glad ‘relentless’ pursuit of Fofana was successful

Another high-profile player to have joined Chelsea in the time since their most recent fixture has been Wesley Fofana.

The defender finally completed a long-awaited move from Leicester City, coincidentally one of Chelsea’s most recent opponents.

Fofana will help to fill the void left by Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, along with the more senior new arrival, Kalidou Koulibaly.

Asked how excited he is to finally have Fofana at his disposal, Tuchel replied: “Very. He is the profile we identified very early as a replacement for Toni and Andreas.

“Todd was relentless on it and we never gave up. We managed to fulfil this transfer.

“Wesley is young, fast and very strong in set-pieces, defending and attacking.”

Chelsea have also brought in Denis Zakaria on loan from Juventus to strengthen their midfield. However, while waiting for a work permit, he cannot play against West Ham on Saturday.

Tuchel hopes to have the Switzerland international available by Tuesday, for their Champions League opener against Dinamo Zagreb.

‘Turbulent’ transfer window ends in positive manner

Overall, the head coach is happy with how Chelsea conducted themselves in what could have been a turbulent transfer window amid a change of ownership.

At one stage, it wasn’t clear if they would even be able to make transfers at all. In the end, though, they have evolved their squad, also bringing in the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marc Cucurella.

Tuchel said: “The players we got are very good players and very good personalities. Everything was needed to inspire the group. We made excellent signings.

“It does not help when we talk about the price too much. This is how the market was for us, maybe we weren’t in the perfect position to find the right price.”

He added: “It was quite turbulent but there was no choice not to do it because of the situation. We were late in the transfer market.

“Of course, everybody took their responsibility. The new owners stepped in and didn’t sleep at all. It was of course like this and that’s why I’m happy it’s closed now and the focus turns to football.

“There’s nobody to blame, there was no other option than doing it the way we did it. We got many good players in, and good personalities.”

READ MORE: Jamie Carragher ‘delighted’ to see Aubameyang return; weighs in on Tuchel’s Chelsea future