London: Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel has been throwing his long arms in the air in familiar gestures of frustration even before his side have kicked a ball in anger in the new season.
A three-game close-season tour of the United States saw the Blues lose twice, going down on penalties to Charlotte before a 4-0 drubbing by Arsenal after which Tuchel urged Chelsea’s new owners to buy more players.
They did beat Udinese 3-1 in Italy on Friday, England forward Raheem Sterling scoring his first Chelsea goal since arriving from Manchester City.
With the clock ticking before a Premier League opener at Everton on Aug. 6, German Tuchel has sounded just as alarmed as at end of last season which ended trophyless for a Chelsea team who had stormed to Champions League success a year earlier.
“Unfortunately, it proved my point and the last week proves my point,” Tuchel said after the Arsenal loss in Florida in July.
“We got sanctioned (by the British government) and players left us, we know that some players are trying to leave us, and this is where it is. We had an urgent appeal for quality players and a huge amount of quality players.”
So far, Chelsea - freed from the strict sanctions imposed after Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich sold the club to U.S. investors in May - have made two significant additions to the team that finished 19 points behind champions Manchester City and 18 behind runners-up Liverpool.
Sterling should add bite to an attack that will no longer feature Romelu Lukaku, the club’s record signing who scored only eight league goals on his return to Stamford Bridge and has been loaned back to Inter Milan.
At the back, Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly looks like being a strong - albeit partial - reinforcement for a rearguard that has been stripped of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen who have left the club.
There have been question marks about the future of two more defenders - Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso - which could bode ill for the Blues who last season failed to come close to the defensive solidity of Tuchel’s first months in London.
Chelsea fans will hope the lack of progress in signing more players, so far at least, may offer a chance to home-grown talent like midfielder Conor Gallagher, versatile Ethan Ampadu and striker Armando Broja who were all on loan last season.
But with Manchester City and Liverpool so far ahead of Chelsea in the last campaign, and London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur making some big signings, the new season could prove a challenging one for the Stamford Bridge faithful.