Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel in profile
This time it was supposed to be different. The greatest player ever to play for the club, it was suppossed to be accepted there would be some “moments of pain” and “moments that are difficult”, as he he himself put it, along the way. It was thought in Frank Lampard, Chelsea were finally committing to a long-term project.
But 18 months into that project and it’s been torn up and tossed in the bin. Lampard’s out and Thomas Tuchel is coming in. The Blues are expected to announce the German as the top-scoring former midfielder’s replacement at some point today.
Tactically, Tuchel is renowned across Europe for his innovative thinking and he was picked as the man to replace Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund for a reason. He has previously admitted to being inspired by Pep Guardiola and it has shown.
But the 47-year-old’s spells with Dortmund, where he won the DFB Pokal to deliver their first major trophy since the 2011-12 double under Klopp, and with Paris Saint-Germain, included falling outs with the hierarchies that meant to his superiors, his team’s on-pitch achievements became secondary.
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Upon his departure from the Bundesliga giants, a statement from CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke read: “We – sporting director Michael Zorc and myself – also did not always see eye to eye with the coaching staff during this period.
“Unfortunately, we no longer believed the current coaching arrangement offered us a foundation for a successful future collaboration based on trust.”
Tuchel is said to have made certain demands in regards to transfers to Watzke and Zorc while at the Westfalenstadion which meant in spite of his tactical brilliance, he was ultimately too hard to work with. “Thomas is a difficult person, but a fantastic coach,” Watzke said more recently of his compatriot.
While similarly at PSG, despite back-to-back Ligue 1 titles and reaching the Champions League final, he clashed with sporting director Leonardo over the club’s transfer activity, both with incomings and outgoings.
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It also did not go down well when Tuchel supposedly joked in an interview that he was more of a sports minister than a manager at the Parc des Princes. Even at Mainz in his first major role he was known for rubbing people up the wrong way.
An abrasive personality in charge at Stamford Bridge? We’ve been here before. Given his tactical intelligence, it’s important to suggest there is good reason to believe that Tuchel can be a hit in west London and this season deliver a much-needed top-four finish.
There will certainly be plenty of interest in whether Tuchel can get more from his fellow Germans Timo Werner and Kai Havertz than predecessor Lampard managed. He’s also worked with both Christian Pulisic and Thiago Silva before and showed interest in signing Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho at PSG.
But there is an almost inevitability that Tuchel will end up clashing with Roman Abramovich, Marina Granovskaia and Chelsea’s hierarchy, and he’d hardly be the first head coach to do so under Abramovich.
Antonio Conte is the most recent example having angered the owner with his brutal treatment of striker Diego Costa before he left in 2017, while the Russian left the then-manager frustrated earlier the same summer by selling Nemanja Matic to Manchester United.
The Italian also did not get Romelu Lukaku and Alex Sandro, whom he pushed for after winning the league, and Chelsea’s poor recruitment went on to cost them as they dropped out of the top four.
Alvaro Morata failed at Chelsea despite a strong start while Tiemoue Bakayoko, Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater all flopped too. Rudiger is the only player signed that summer still a member of the first-team squad, and even he has only featured sporadically this season.
There were other contributing factors to Conte’s eventual sacking but his disagreements with those above him wee crucial to his downfall and he was vocal about the fact the club did not supply him the players he wanted. The fact he made his feelings clear publicly did not go down well.
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The 61-word statement that accompanied his departure spoke volumes about the soured relationship between the hierarchy and Conte, even though he delivered them a league title and an FA Cup in two seasons in charge.
By contrast, Jose Mourinho, who won the league and the League Cup, got 161 words of thanks while Lampard’s statement on Monday was 234 words long and far more sympathetic than the goodbye Conte got.
Given Tuchel has crossed the boards of his previous clubs on similar grounds, Chelsea would be wise to suitably back their new coach, particularly if they want him to deliver major honours.
There are already a great deal of talents at Tuchel’s disposal but the squad is far from complete in defence and in midfield and while Abramovich spent big last summer, he must accept that he will need to get his chequebook out again this coming summer window.
Tuchel will want to shape the team in his own image and denying the new manager what he wants will surely only lead to a repeat of what happened under Conte.
For another warning as to what can happen if a manager does not get the players he wants, see how Chelsea went from champions to 10th in Mourinho’s second spell.
The Portuguese was sacked seven months after winning the league with the Blues sat 16th a week before Christmas but Chelsea’s summer business was pitiful.
Pedro came in from Barcelona and was a valuable servant in his four years at the club but their other additions read: Baba Rahman, Asmir Begovic, Kenedy, Falcao on loan, Michael Hector, Nathan and Papy Djilobodji.
The drop-off in performance was catastrophic but the Chelsea board had to take some blame for Mourinho’s demise, as they watched rivals Manchester City sign Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi among others the same summer.
Mourinho was not as vocal as Conte in his discontent, though the Portuguese made his frustrations clear when a similar situation occured in his next job at United, but there are clear similarities. The managers did not get fully backed by the club and performances and results dipped.
It has also been claimed Lampard’s struggles began after he made demands to have players signed in the January window a year ago, but Hakim Ziyech was only signed the month after – and therefore could not join the side until the summer – and a request to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was snubbed. Lampard was frustrated by both.
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His desire to sign Declan Rice from West Ham, having apparently pushed for the midfielder to be brought in this month before he was axed, was also at odds with the board, with the club powerbrokers reluctant to spend big on a player they released from their academy in 2014.
Other suggestions are that Lampard might have walked away in the summer if it were any other job than Chelsea because of the internal politics of the club.
It does not exactly bode well then that a man who loves to have total power such as Tuchel, for as talented a manager he is, is taking over a club where power politics are nothing new over the past few decades.
Of course, Mourinho and Conte both delivered what Abramovich wanted, but the success didn’t last. Both times Chelsea’s decline was sudden and steep. Tuchel taking over promises to be a rollercoaster on and off the pitch but if he ends up being sacked after a battle with the board, Chelsea can’t pretend to be surprised.
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