One of Europe’s most celebrated minds arrives at Chelsea. He takes over an underperforming and fractured squad, relying on the tactical expertise that brought him domestic success at one of the continent’s leading clubs, adds yet another trophy to the club’s collection. That individual – a notoriously combustible character – then falls out with decision-makers at Stamford Bridge and so begins a bitter divorce costing Chelsea millions.
Indeed, that describes Antonio Conte’s time in charge of the West London giants (if you’ll forgive the lack of nuance) but, interestingly, it may be something we look back on as a summation of Thomas Tuchel and his time in charge of Chelsea. With one slight exception of course. Crucially, the shadow of Conte looms over the decision, with Chelsea having been burnt before.
The German, by all accounts, struggles to manage upwards in a way reminiscent of the Italian. Having fallen out with sporting directors at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, Thomas Tuchel is walking into a senior management team who even annoyed Frank Lampard so much that he was reportedly only staying at the club due to his obvious emotional connection. So, whatever happens, it’s likely to be as chaotic as ever in SW6 with Tuchel in charge.
A product of the prominent German school of pressing of which Ralf Rangnick is heralded as the key instigator, perhaps this appointment is also Chelsea merely jumping on the latest trend.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich are the last two Champions League winners and Roman Abramovich’s desire to see the club he’s pumped billions into over a two-decade period has been well-documented.
While Thomas Tuchel hasn’t enjoyed as much success as his aforementioned trophy-laden compatriots, he did manage to take PSG to their first-ever Champions League final while winning a domestic treble.
Last season, his side were Ligue 1’s best pressing team, with FBRef noting 30.9% of their actions were successful. Granted, you’d expect the Parisians to top most metrics given their financial dominance but, prior to his arrival in 2018, their superstar squad trailed bitter rivals Marseille on that front.
Getting a team containing the famed egos of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to press successfully at domestic level, where you’d largely expect PSG to win most games by virtue of the fact they have better players, is certainly no mean feat.
To balance that with winning every domestic trophy bar one available to him speaks of a man capable of transforming a team, turning them into a relentless pressing machine.
Given Chelsea have (at the time of writing) been the Premier League’s sixth-best pressers, we can reasonably expect a significant improvement if nothing else during his initial few months in charge.
Considering the level of attacking talent on their books, it does make for an exciting match, bringing yet another elite level manager to England to compete with Klopp, Pep Guardiola and even the arguably somewhat past it Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.
Thomas Tuchel gets forwards firing ? pic.twitter.com/smlVgkrVnT
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 26, 2021
Ultimately, however, what happens off the pitch under Thomas Tuchel will likely be more important than what happens on it. Granted, that sounds a little twee but the Chelsea hierarchy have proven to be unwilling to bend. Looking at the trophies they’ve won on a consistent basis, it’s hard to argue against it, even if it does go against logical planning.
With the Conte sacking having cost Chelsea close to £30m, perhaps the fact Tuchel has only been handed an eighteen month contract is telling.
The contract leaves only one summer transfer window as a potential touch point for any flare ups. Having already spent millions on their attacking line, another spree to that extent seems hugely unlikely, as Tuchel is surely aware.
By guarding against the danger a long, multi-million pound agreement comes with, Chelsea are learning their lesson. It’ll be interesting to see whether Tuchel can learn from his. Either way, expect fireworks.