SUMMERTIME goes hand in hand with excess baggage as millions of us head off abroad for a fortnight in the sun.

But it has a whole different meaning to Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, now just a few weeks away from welcoming many of his players back from their jollies to start the hard work of preparing for next season.

The first day of pre-season training is Saturday, July 2 for the non- internationals, with the rest drifting back in dribs and drabs after that.

Even so, Tuchel will be at their Cobham training ground, smiling but facing the most challenging task of any Premier League boss — and of his coaching career.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel at the end of the Premier League match at Villa Park. (Alamy)

The Blues are into more settled times in the boardroom, with the turbulence of regime change and the club’s sale successfully completed.

But American tycoon Todd Boehly, who leads the new owners with a view to reconstructing the team into one that can push for their first title in six years, must clear a large space in his diary to resolve all the issues within the senior squad and beyond.

Everywhere Tuchel looks there are obstacles to overcome.

He could field an entire XI of players who either want to leave, want to sign new contracts or are yet to convince the demanding German they have a long-term future at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea finished third last season, a long way adrift of top two Manchester City and Liverpool.

Tuchel admits it will be “impossible” to play catch-up in just a few short weeks before his side kick-off their season at Everton on August 6.

From the back to the front there are talks to be had, deals to be struck or players to ship out — no other top-flight boss has so much in his in tray.

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It starts between the posts with frustrated keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.The world’s most expensive goalkeeper cost Chelsea £71.6million four years ago when he was just 23.


But his prospects of becoming the regular No 1 have dwindled, rather than improved

The decisive low point arrived in February’s Club World Cup.

Having shone in the triumphant semi-final against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, he prayed he had done enough to keep his place to face Palmeiras — only to be ditched for Edouard Mendy, who breezed in from the Africa Cup of Nations as the Blues beat the Brazilians 2-1 in extra-time.

It is an episode Kepa has not forgotten and will be hard to come back from.

Tuchel has no doubt Mendy is his first choice but offloading a super-expensive player on big wages, who has hardly played, is a big ask.
Chelsea’s defence is full of holes.

Unofficial leader Antonio Rudiger is off to Real Madrid on a free transfer.

It is almost impossible to replace someone like the aggressive German, both physically and financially.

Andreas Christensen is also leaving, robbing Tuchel of two experienced centre-halves.

Left behind is Thiago Silva. World class, yes, and 38 in September.

With club captain Cesar Azpilicueta also unsettled and wanting to return home to Spain, the back line has more gaps than the Tube.


Left-back Marcos Alonso makes no secret of his wish to go, leaving Ben Chilwell behind with just two minutes on a pitch following a serious knee injury last November.

It will take months for the one-time England star to have 100 per cent confidence in his recovering leg.

In the middle of the park there is engineering work needed, too.

Classy midfielder Jorginho has expressed a desire to return to Italy.

Image: PA

Saul Niguez has packed his bags and gone back to Atletico Madrid following a disastrous season-long loan at Stamford Bridge that fell way short of expectations on all sides. At least Tuchel can count on the drive and commitment of 23-year-old Mason Mount — for the foreseeable future at least.

The academy graduate is tipped to be the next captain, if and when Azpilicueta leaves.

Yet if nothing is done this summer, one of the brightest talents in English football will kick-off the season with less than two years left on his contract.


Tuchel prides himself on staying out of contract talks but needs to make sure this one is sorted sooner rather than later.

Loyalty and affection are all very well but cementing a contract for Mount is not going to be straightforward and is going to cost Chelsea.

The club are under pressure to get proceedings underway as soon as possible, along with 22-year-old England defender Reece James, who is under contract until summer 2025.

N’Golo Kante, the fulcrum of the entire team — described as “our De Bruyne, Mbappe and Mo Salah” — has one year left on his contract.

With praise like that, only a massive new deal will suffice and that is going to hit the coffers hard.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is still to deliver regularly on the potential Tuchel alludes to all too frequently.

Tuchel wants this 6ft 3in athletic midfielder — who clearly has the skill — to come out of his shell.

Rewind two or three years and forward Callum Hudson-Odoi was an England player.

At present he is battling to overcome a nagging long-term Achilles problem that wrecked last season.

But up front the biggest question mark of all hangs over Romelu Lukaku.


Just eight Prem goals for £97.5m is a poor return since rejoining Chelsea from Inter Milan last summer.

The Belgian wants to go back to Italy and Chelsea are happy to help him pack.

But wages of £325,000 a week make him hard to shift and it also poses Tuchel with the problem of who can replace him.

Chelsea’s US owners know only too well of Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic in action vs Everton. (Image Credit: Alamy)

The man from Pennsylvania is captain of his country and just the face Boehly needs to promote the club stateside.

Yet Pulisic has failed to deliver on a regular basis, is injury prone and chooses international duty to complain about his lack of game-time under Tuchel.

It is yet another item on the manager’s packed agenda before he even thinks about picking a team to face Everton.


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