F365 Says: Chelsea have lucked out on legacy manager Tuchel

Will Ford
Tuchel Chelsea

Did the Roman Abramovich sanctions come at the perfect time for Chelsea? Is Thomas Tuchel their legacy manager?

No club in European football has successfully paired extreme manager turnover with extreme success like Chelsea in the last two decades: 14 managers, 21 trophies. There was sympathy for some of those managers, many of them sacked having recently won major trophies, to which the riposte from Chelsea fans – no doubt to the great annoyance of everyone else – was “yeah well, it works.” And it really has worked extraordinarily well.

All eight managers to win trophies at Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era won their biggest prize in their first season at the club. Of the combined seven Premier League and Champions League titles, only Jose Mourinho claimed one in his second season, with Premier League titles both in 2006 and 2015. Chelsea’s success is in no small part because of the hire-and-fire policy, not in spite of it.

After years of being told that Chelsea cannot possibly continue to be run in this way (apart from anything else, they would run out of world-class managers to appoint), there was finally acceptance – from fans, pundits and anyone else – that there would always be saloon doors at Stamford Bridge and actually that was just fine. Until it wasn’t.

Now, in the absence of their sugar daddy, Chelsea need to make moves towards becoming self-sufficient.

The priority for the new owner or owners should be the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge; the club simply cannot compete with other top European clubs when it comes to match-day revenue. A greater capacity and better corporate facilities are a must for Chelsea, assuming whoever takes over does not have Roman Abramovich’s bottomless pockets. And in reality, anyone who does is probably not someone the club wants to bed. The sex was lovely but it has left an unsightly rash and a worrying itch.

But stadiums are bloody expensive; Tottenham shelled out £1bn for their new home. Chelsea will need to make two major lifestyle changes to enable construction: they must have stability and they must cut costs. Thomas Tuchel is the key to both.

Abramovich has reportedly spent over £110m on compensation packages for sacked managers since he took over the club, with Antonio Conte pocketing the biggest pay-out, thought to be a staggering £26.6m. That kind of waste is no longer a) a viable option or b) actually required.

Had Vladimir Putin not invaded Ukraine and had Tuchel not won a trophy this season, the German would likely have been shown the door. That was the reality of managing Chelsea, a job that Tuchel himself had accepted in the knowledge that a Chelsea spell furthers your career and your bank balance. But for the first time in 20 years, the power dynamic at Chelsea has shifted from the club to the manager. Tuchel holds all the cards in this relationship – the problem for Chelsea is holding on to him, not calculating how much they will have to pay to be rid of him.

Chelsea are incredibly fortunate to have Tuchel. It’s hard to imagine any of his predecessors dealing with this sh*tstorm with such grace and humility, without any detriment to the performances of the team. He’s a brilliant manager, an excellent human being and the ideal person to have landed upon when stability is at a premium. They just need to persuade him to stay.

This could be an exciting time for Chelsea. Although the unbridled success has been wonderful, it’s hard not to be jealous of what the ‘legacy managers’ are doing at Manchester City and Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have got a real relationship with their fans – there is a genuine, mutual love at those clubs that’s never truly been given the time to develop at Chelsea.

Tuchel Klopp Chelsea Liverpool

And crucially, those managers have the final say in transfers. Players are bought to fit their system, not the club’s designs on glory with or without them, as has been the case at Chelsea. Romelu Lukaku was (and probably still is) one of the best strikers in Europe, but he is in no way suited to Tuchel’s style. Gone are the days in which Chelsea can spend £100m on a player without any thought as to how that player might perform in Chelsea blue under the current Chelsea manager, and that’s got to be a positive thing.

What Tuchel has done, Lukaku aside, is mould the Chelsea players perfectly to suit his style. Despite not signing any of the players himself, this is undoubtedly his team. And the defence aside, which remains a cause for concern with Andreas Christensen very likely to join Barcelona and the futures of Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger up in the air, this Chelsea squad does not currently have the look of one in drastic need of great investment. They may struggle to compete with City and Liverpool without additions, but they’re struggling to do that anyway. Any new signings, no matter the price tag, can and should be made with Tuchel in mind.

The expectations will need to be lowered, but not to the point where there’s no chance of trophies. There are wonderfully talented players in the Chelsea squad who are very used to winning the biggest knock-out games, and some very exciting academy products currently out on loan. Whether they can hang on to all of those players will of course depend on who takes over the club and whether they need to raise funds in the short term. There is still huge uncertainty.

But whoever the new owner is, their first call must be to Tuchel. Chelsea have lucked out on the ideal manager to lead them into the unknown and they must implore him to stay. It’s time for Chelsea to become Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.