Does nerdy vegetarian Tuchel have any hope in England?
Thomas Tuchel seems a decent guy with a clear plan for what he wants to achieve at Chelsea and how he wants to do it.
That much seems obvious from his early days in the job. It also seems obvious that he has almost no chance of staying beyond his 18-month contract – a deal that in itself is quite revealing as it requires Champions League qualification to be extended. Requires is key there; it’s almost impossible to imagine Chelsea offering him a new deal without a Big Cup spot.
Chelsea lurching from their tried-and-trusted managerial merry-go-round system and attempting to mimic the ‘project’ managers other dafter clubs appoint with their dreary ideas of stability and planning for the future and not having 827 players on loan at Vitesse Arnhem was always a strange one given the success of their previous strategy, and attempting it with an absolute rookie manager who was an undoubted club legend but had never shown anything to remotely indicate he was worthy of such a role was pure lunacy.
With Tuchel, Chelsea appear to have fallen halfway between the two. They’ve gone back to the short-termism, but with a manager who talks like exactly the sort of manager they should have actually trusted with a long-term project.
But that’s the other problem. Tuchel is clearly a nerd. I’m sure he’s very nice, but he is obviously a nerd. A nerd who has replaced the beloved Super Frank. The English media are not going to allow him to be a success if there’s anything they can do about it. He will clearly do far more in his 18 months at the club than Lampard did in his 18 months, but you will never be able to guess that from the coverage he will inevitably receive. Watching his pre-Tottenham press conference, it’s painfully clear exactly how easily he could become a figure of fun. The moment things turn sour and he starts talking about the number of final-third recoveries in a home defeat to Fulham he’s going to get ripped to shreds.
He tries to be a vegetarian and doesn’t even like beer, for crying out loud. We knew he was no PFM, but now we’re not sure he’s even definitely German.
To be absolutely clear here, it’s far too early to tell whether Tuchel will actually be any good at being Chelsea manager. He certainly could be – there’s far more evidence than there ever was for Lampard – and he’s got the very ideal First Big Test against a woefully misfiring Spurs. But it doesn’t actually matter. Failing to crack the top four this year shouldn’t cause the sky to fall completely, but the very moment he’s not in a title race next season the vultures will circle. He’s a bit too earnest, a bit too serious. He’s the wrong kind of foreigner. The bookish, oddball type rather than a manic Jurgen or alpha Pep or cartoon supervillain Jose.
He is not going to give the press boys any of the good stuff that they need. His press conference on Wednesday was quite fascinating about his process, about how performances are more important than results and that praising a performance that ends in a draw or defeat isn’t just arse-covering but has to be for an identifiable reason. None of that will wash – this is football, mate. Football is, as we know, A Results Business. There’s no room for that wishy-washy hippy nonsense.
He wouldn’t even be drawn into a slanging match with Jose Mourinho ahead of tonight’s meeting with Spurs, for crying out loud. He wouldn’t even talk about a personality clash between the poindexter and the school bully. Come on, mate, there’s two days of column inches to fill here. He spoke in glowing terms about Harry Kane and swerved a Dele Alli-shaped trap.
He’s the wrong kind of clever, the wrong kind of foreign and the wrong kind of respectful, and he’s managing Chelsea having shamefully stolen the job off a national treasure.
Eighteen months seems wildly optimistic really, Champions League or no Champions League.