After what has been a year like no other, the vast majority of the population will be looking forward to gathering around their TVs and watching England lock horns with Croatia in the first game of their Euro 2020 adventure at Wembley this afternoon.
Whatever your circumstances or profession, we have all, in one form or another, been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has dictated our daily lives ever since March last year.
The majority of the time has seen us isolated, cut off from society as we know it and making huge sacrifices in an attempt to reach the end of this very dark, long tunnel.
But, at a time when normality is hopefully edging closer to returning, football can unite people in so many ways, meaning this summer’s rearranged European Championship can do just that, as England look to try and build on the success they enjoyed at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
But whilst almost everyone will be keeping a very close eye on England’s opening game with Croatia, which will see the two sides stage a repeat of the 2018 World Cup semi-final, in the hope that the Three Lions will get off to the perfect start and give themselves a platform to build upon ahead of Friday’s mouth-watering assignment with Scotland, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel will also be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings, you would like to think.
Although the former Paris Saint-Germain boss will, of course, be rooting for his native Germany, the Chelsea chief will almost certainly be hoping to keep a close eye on as many games as possible, not only to see how his own players are doing on the international stage, but to also see if he can spot any gems that he may like to bring to Stamford Bridge in this summer’s transfer window.
As well as keeping a watchful eye on that front, Tuchel may also pay very close attention to England’s midfield for one reason in particular. That is because, as recently reported, the German is ready to reignite Chelsea’s interest in West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice. The Hammers ace was heavily linked with a move back to west London last summer, as former Blues boss Frank Lampard was desperate to add him to his armoury.
Following his January exit, Chelsea’s interest in Rice appeared to dwindle. Until now.
Tuchel is said to be keen on adding him to his midfield options at Stamford Bridge and believes that he could take his side, which will be looking to compete for the Premier League title next season, a step closer towards achieving that ambition.
In truth, Rice is almost certain to be a starter for England in the holding midfield role, with Jordan Henderson still working his way back to full fitness. That, immediately, should offer Tuchel hope that he can have a good look at him in large chunks, opposed to cameo appearances from the substitutes bench.
But that is not all. Southgate is likely to play with a 3-4-3 system this summer, which is similar to the Blues’ approach with the use of wing-backs. West Ham do not play with that sort of system, meaning Tuchel could use England’s Euro 2020 adventure to full effect and see how Rice looks in a system that relies so heavily on wing-backs and requires the defensive-midfielder to keep the back-three under as least pressure as possible.
Furthermore, and this is where Tuchel could make the most gains from watching Rice in action, the West Ham ace is poised to be linking-up with Chelsea star Mason Mount in midfield. The duo, who are the best of friends off the pitch, would no doubt love nothing more than being able to play alongside each other at club level.
The chemistry the pair have between themselves is massive, meaning if they can translate that onto the pitch then England and Southgate could be in for a real treat this summer. Both players have taken their respective games to the next level this season, announcing themselves, once and for all, as two of England’s brightest prospects.
Whilst Mount has a desire to get forward, pick up the ball in the final third and score goals, Rice, although his main responsibility is to keep the midfield in check, also likes to creep forward, albeit not into as such dangerous areas.
But it will be things like how Rice positions himself when Mount breaks forward, or how they relate with each other on the pitch, that Tuchel will be looking at.
The summer window is officially open and now the Blues can look to build on European glory and bolster the squad to push for Premier League supremacy.
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The German has his sights set on adding three new faces to his squad this summer and a new central-midfielder is believed to be amongst his targets.
Rice’s ceiling, just like Mount’s is massive, and Tuchel can now find out just how well they can link-up with each other and carry out their respective duties at the very top level of the game.
If Rice passes his audition, proving that he, alongside Mount, could take the Blues up another gear, Tuchel may well be asking Marina Granovskaia to do sum sums and launch a formal offer for the West Ham star.