Thomas Tuchel won the Champions League for Chelsea, expertly guided them through the worst of times and has been sacked before he had the chance to reap the rewards of his loyalty. I really hate my club sometimes.
Five months ago, Chelsea were on the brink of ruin. Thomas Tuchel eased the nerves. Not only was he in the process of managing Chelsea to two domestic cup finals, masterminding the complete domination of the eventual European champions in their own backyard, while securing Champions League qualification for this season, but also expertly fielding questions about Roman Abramovich and the future of the club. Uncertainty shrouded Chelsea, but it felt as though everything would be alright as long as Tuchel was around.
How do Chelsea repay the faith shown by him? By f***ing him off at the earliest possible opportunity.
Last night’s defeat to Dinamo Zagreb was terrible, and we’ll come to that; for me, as a Chelsea fan, it was the first time I had any real doubt as to the direction the club was heading. You could say that it’s the perfect time to sack Tuchel. If Chelsea continued playing as they did on Tuesday for the rest of the season, they would have finished comfortably outside the top four, and that’s something Todd Boehly is clearly (and understandably) desperate to avoid. It’s perhaps best to nip things in the bud at the first sign of real trouble, rather than waiting for the possibility of that trouble developing to the point of no return.
But even for Chelsea, who are possibly the most infamously hair-trigger club in world football, this was an extraordinarily early shot to kill. I’m not sure he would be gone if Abramovich was still there, which in itself is an incredible thought.
We were told when Boehly arrived at the club that, for the first time in two decades, the manager would have the final say on transfers. True to his word, despite the new owner wanting Cristiano Ronaldo, Tuchel said no and that was that. The seven players, bought for £250m, were therefore ‘Tuchel signings’. The last of which, signed 130 hours before his dismissal (give or take), was about as Tuchel a signing as it’s possible to be. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – whom Tuchel had described as “my player” even before he had agreed to join – played 59 minutes of football under Daddy before Daddy was shown the door.
There will be people reading this with tiny violins in mind. Poor old Tuchel had a squad already brimming with talent and was handed seven further very talented footballers on a plate; it’s a fair point. It’s also necessary to point out Tuchel’s failings. He’s never managed to organise his attack to a point of any sort of consistency. Attempts to change the formation to improve one aspect of the game has led to problems with another. And things do seem to have got worse with time, with a nadir on Tuesday night where it didn’t seem as though the players knew what to do or how to play with each other.
Tuchel took responsibility for the defeat, as he should, as he is primarily to blame – it’s his job to motivate and organise his team. But he’s got to be given time to do that.
He has had time, quite a lot of it, but with a group of players he and Boehly had clearly agreed weren’t cut out to achieve the goals they had in mind, whatever they were. Almost all Chelsea fans would agree with that – they’ve watched enough of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech to know that they would not drive Chelsea to the Premier League title.
And by the way, even with that smorgasbord of underperforming players he didn’t really want, Tuchel’s 2.07 points per game is the third best of any permanent Chelsea manager in history behind Jose Mourinho (2.11) and Maurizio Sarri (2.07), who oversaw a Europa League rather than Champions League campaign in his one season at the club.
We can assume therefore, given they clearly both knew of the need for multiple expensive additions, that Boehly has sacked Tuchel on the basis of seven games of football at the start of this season. Chelsea have won three of those games and also logged a draw with Tottenham, who they tore to shreds for the best part of 90 minutes.
They have looked ropey, even in the games they’ve won, and there have been clear signs of the team failing to gel. But that’s got to be expected. Many of these players don’t know how to play with each other because they quite literally have never played with each other. Wesley Fofana has played two games for Chelsea; Aubameyang one; Denis Zakaria didn’t even get the chance to play for the manager who signed him.
There are Chelsea fans – and I know this because I’ve been arguing with a few already – who are relieved Tuchel has been shown the door. But their argument for his dismissal is based, in a large part, on what happened in the second half of last season, which is both perplexing and makes me want to bash either their heads together or my own against the keyboard as I type this. Don’t get me started on Mediawatch.
How spoilt are Chelsea fans? They should still be bowing at the feet of a man who came very close to winning three domestic cups on top of the Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup while guiding a broken club through the most tumultuous time in its history.
They’re already talking about Mauricio Pochettino and Graham Potter, and exciting though I understand those prospects (particularly the latter) to be, the disrespect shown by my football club and its supporters is once again making me feel sick to my stomach.
So thank you, Thomas Tuchel, from one Chelsea fan who is very pleased he still has a club to support, counts his lucky stars you were the man at the helm through the bad times, and wishes you could had been given the opportunity to lead them back to the good. Best of luck to you – you deserve better.