Thomas Tuchel is my all-time favorite Chelsea manager – more than Mourinho, more than Conte, more than Ancelotti, more than anyone. I will always hold him close to my heart for his tactics, personality, demeanor, and a long list of other things. But I love Chelsea more than any other coach.
It is important to remain rational and not emotional. This separation hurts everyone equally. We all wanted him to build a long-term plan with us but it didn’t happen.
I don’t mean to belittle Tuchel or make him look bad. He did an amazing job in every sense of the word, and he’s probably the best ambassador we’ve ever had. It pains me to write this because I wanted him to be Sir Alex. But it didn’t work and now it’s time to analyze why this is the right time to break up.
The biggest headlines is our shape in 2022. While there are mitigating factors, our league shape since January has been weak. Transfer bans, injuries and all the other chaos around the club doesn’t explain Chelsea’s possession of central mid-table stats for 9 straight months. We should have been better. However, this is not actually the biggest reason behind Tuchel’s downfall.
More than our shape, Tuchel’s downfall was the direction he wanted to go. We kept talking about rebuilding only in order to buy experienced and/or expensive players. When you do that, there is no rebuilding. There are only instant results. Tuchel’s words and actions continued to indicate this as well – he was not in the mood to build a young team from the ground up. He wanted to win and he wanted to win now. This is definitely a fair hunt but we clearly haven’t won in a while. So what does it give?
Do we want to keep giving him millions or do we want to realize that things aren’t working?
Rebuild teams don’t sign prime-age players with more than 40,000 career minutes in consecutive summers at the expense of some of the country’s best young talent. They don’t hire winning managers now either.
Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) 26 July 2022
We could have caught Tuchel playing a bunch of 20-year-olds and losing. Losing with a young team means that you are going through a crucial part of the learning curve. There is the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Losing with a group of 30-year-olds is no fun. There is nothing to look forward to. It just means things aren’t quite right – both tactically and in terms of personnel.
There is no “process” in a team that includes 37-year-old Silva, 33-year-old Aubameyang, 33-year-old Azpilicueta, 31-year-old Koulibaly and 31-year-old Jorginho. The band has been aging gradually throughout Tuchel’s tenure.
Tuchel was given the opportunity to retain and introduce young players – either from the market or from the academy – but chose against it in order to get experienced players. He required a super experienced team to be able to win at this very moment. He asked us to judge him based on this. And that’s all we do – judge him according to the conditions he created. There was no long-term progress and no short-term results. This is the sad truth.
Our new owners want to go in the direction of sustainable growth and young players – hence the investment in the young elite. Tuchel doesn’t want that. What message are you sending Carney Chukwuemeka that he is one of the best teenagers in the world and that the manager won’t give him a minute even when everyone is out?
Signing elite youth as we have been lately – and will likely continue to do so – was giving them to Tuchel a repeat of 2013 and Jose Mourinho’s status. Young players can only realize their potential if the manager is willing to give them a chance. Our companions were wise enough to realize this in advance. Tuchel wasn’t delivering results, he wasn’t developing players either. So what was the point?
In terms of key numbers, we’ve been worse than Lampard’s era for quite some time now, especially in the attack situation. Tuchel is an elite and elite tactician – but he hasn’t shown that consistently for long. We can talk everything we want about his team in Dortmund but he couldn’t coach an attack here. Chelsea created about 1.4 xG without penalty under Tuchel in the league, compared to about 1.6 under Lampard, an inferior coach with an inferior team. Other advanced offensive metrics followed the same pattern.
Ironically, despite the huge difference in quality and experience, Lampard and Tuchel were sacked for similar footballing reasons – they couldn’t balance defense and attack. Lampard overemphasized the offense and was fired when it stopped shooting. Tuchel did so in defense.
Player development has been another big concern since 2021. How many players can we say with confidence that are better now than they were in 2021? Now compare that to the time and money spent. Is it rational?
If a player is bad, you blame the player. But if the whole team is bad, you blame the system – the tactics and the benefit, that is, the coach.
Tuchel’s ability to identify and solve problems in the team has become a problem. He didn’t know what to ask and that’s a big long-term warning. The striker’s entire story is summed up by her. He spent months leaving Tammy Abraham for “tactical fitness” only to sign Romelu Lukaku and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an older player who does exactly what Tammy does but perhaps worse.
Honestly, it’s possible that Tuchel’s talent-selecting and team-building skills were the reason he got into this poor position in the first place. He got what he wanted–because of his results–but in the end, his poor decisions caught him off guard and he could no longer justify them. some examples:
- Saul’s Decision – Chomini
- Lukaku’s epic
- Sending many talented alumni of the academy away to go after lower level and more expensive players
- Constant false profiling of players, causing them to do things they are not good at
Our pursuit of a midfielder this summer has also made a huge impact. Tuchel continued for months not needing anyone and then made a sudden turn at the end of the window. As a sports director, how do you deal with that? More importantly, as a coach, how do you not realize that the midfield is a major weakness until so late?
By the end of August we had a manager who wasn’t very good at building a team, didn’t do a great job developing the players here and didn’t have a strong talent identity. Its main selling point was its short term results and those results faded, with no prospects of a comeback. What option do we have?
We’ve been on the 2015-2016 track for a while but this time, we’ve avoided the biggest mistake of the time: sticking with our manager for too long based on past laurels. Tuchel’s dismissal now ensures that he is not left humiliated and that his head remains held high. The situation couldn’t have improved from here – the stats, the performance of new signings, player development, general morale all point in that direction – and he would leave with his reputation and dignity.
A new manager won’t make us Manchester Overnight but it gives us a better chance of catching them in the long run. If it doesn’t work, we will reassess what went wrong and avoid making those mistakes within 12 months. We don’t have a short term project. We have a long-term plan – it will involve a lot of losses and pains of growing and developing step by step. Unfortunately, Tuchel has shown through his actions that he does not want to be a part of that process.
Our first goal should be to take poor results on the chin and make the team smaller and more offensive. 2019-20 is the model. He showed that we can make the team younger, more offensive and still have a top 4. Statistically, in terms of basic numbers, this is still our best season since 2014-2015. Follow this model but with a better tactical mind at the helm: This should be our long-term goal.
Another goal, for both the fans and the club, should be to avoid chasing instant results. It is always toxic and always ends badly. Tuchel himself was fired for chasing immediate results and giving up on team development. But from now on, such decisions must be allowed. No more “win today, worry tomorrow” mentality. We need to lay the foundation today to ensure we win tomorrow – and beyond. If we focus on developing players now, we will naturally become a much better team in the future.
It’s easy to think we’ll catch up with City with just one more signature for big money. It’s the same trap that causes people to lose their money gambling – try one more and they will make money! City’s winning machine is far ahead. It will take a long process, with a lot of defeats and pains along the way. The city itself has gone through it too.
All that said, I’m really going to miss Tuchel. I will miss his mastery lessons in the big matches, his personality in press conferences and I doubt any manager would have the same behavior as he did in tough times. The class hasn’t completely sunk in yet and I still wish it was part of our trip. But his actions showed that this was the right moment to break up, for the good of all.
We can all be incredibly grateful for everything he’s done for us – that would take an article three times longer, at least – and also acknowledge that it’s time for both of us to go our own way.
At his first press conference, Tuchel said: “We set the standards very high – for me too, which I’m asking myself – to take this team to the top. Will I do that? I don’t know.”
Well, he’s already done it. We did it. It got us to the top, and that was just the beginning. Phil Gluck, Thomas, we will all miss you.