Some continuity, finally, at Chelsea Football Club. A manager’s holiday seven games into the season, with more than £250m spent on players and a few wobbles whispered behind the scenes. This feels like home, safety, a club coming back to what they know. Nature is healing itself.
As of Wednesday morning 10am Tommy Tuchel is no longer at Chelsea. Tuchel no longer knows, in the opinion of the board, exactly what they want. But it seems Graham Potter, if Chelsea really feel like taking a punt on talent, brains and method, could spend more than one minute of your professional career at the level the club hopes to operate at.
An announcement is expected, and there will be time, so much time, to chew over that succession. But right now it’s a case of Vale Thomas. Let’s lay that hollow-eyed, thin-ankle ghost to rest. By whatever scales of justice here Tuchel’s time at Chelsea was truly extraordinary; just as his sack tells us something quite profound about the direction of travel at this point.
In total Tuchel lasted 595 days, just a few more than Frank Lampard. His tenure spanned one major honor (the biggest of all), three finals, two separate ownership regimes – denim-clad oligarch-bro billionaire Russian versus denim-clad investor-bro US billionaire – plus of course the three months that is unprecedented. geopolitical oddity, when the Chelsea manager had to publicly comment on issues ranging from the moral equivalence of conflict in Europe and the Middle East in the context of UK arms sales to Marcos Alonso’s ability to work in a high-pressure 3-4-3 system. .
Because of his glassy-eyed soul sickness in Zagreb, some personal issues since his move to London, and a payment of several million pounds for those two years not spent on his contract should, in the words of Sam from Casablanca, take the sting. for being sacked; and it’s hard not to wonder who is, right now, getting the rough end of this deal.
Tuchel will be working at another top European club before long. For Chelsea, well, what exactly? This is the obvious point of danger. By purely sporting standards, this is a careless, unsophisticated move, arguably the swindle of an owner with no inside knowledge of the industry (is this an issue? The exceptionalism of football grossly exaggerated) and is essentially fading away.
Who is – or was – the most competent football senior in Chelsea’s management team? Answer: Thomas Tuchel. Who started the summer advising the owner, to an unusual degree, about the massive spending spree? Answer: Thomas Tuchel.
In addition, of course, Tuchel is one of the best qualified candidates in the world – regardless of the question of credit in the bank – to negotiate the first version of the time in charge. Just last year he was named UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year, FIFA Coach of the Year and IFFHS Men’s World Club Coach of the Year. He has taken two different clubs to the Champions League final in the last three seasons. Chelsea are – somewhat misleadingly – only four points behind Manchester City.
Seriously? You are sacking this? And who exactly is advising the Chelsea board at the moment because almost everyone has left? Maybe we should ask Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang what to do, he’s been around a bit. Pierre, speak now if you think we should keep Tuchel? No? Nothing? Nicely.
Ultimately, the strangest thing about Tuchel’s time at Chelsea is the weirdest thing yet. As far back as March, as Jake Humphrey cut off with great, ritualistic solemnity from Tuchel’s post-match interview in Lille, as if he were addressing the nation from inside Yoda’s cave, Joe could be heard Cole suggesting that Tuchel should be prime minister. the United Kingdom, and it seemed fair enough.
But then, these were scary times. In the silence and general confusion it seemed for a while that Tuchel was essentially explaining the war in Ukraine to the British people through a series of post-match interviews that were not to come. Here is a man in a beanie hat and tracksuit who could at least offer some kind of gravitas and plain talk, the feeling that you are good in a crisis, like the neighbor who comes knocking on your door two days when who all fell. a society wearing a hunting cap and cagoule and offering to build a bivouac for you.
And this was really beyond the normal scale of turbulence. Let’s not forget, Chelsea’s entire operation was frozen. The proceeds from the sale of the club are still sitting in the bank account of the man described by the British government as a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”. Maybe Tuchel himself will now be put into escrow and given to war victims around the world. Little wonder that there might be some bumps, a slight drop in levels.
The other half of this, Phase One, the Tuchel Legacy, was arguably the single most skillful six-month feat of elite training in the history of modern English football, a Champions League-winning run that Tuchel left on the hump, which involved beating Atlético Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Chelsea had the resources and the players. But this was a clear and tangible triumph of personality and ingenuity. And Tuchel really wasn’t going to match that high, he always looked like he was running to catch up on his own from that point.
And of course there is always another story. Tuchel was hired by a completely different group of people, and there are whispers of tension. He is an angular, awkward figure, who has a history of falling out with candidates far less likely than the board of American investors. Obvious mistakes have also been made. Romelu Lukaku is not the player some people – especially Romelu Lukaku himself – would make him out to be. But Tuchel’s job was to make that investment work and he failed miserably.
The team certainly looked jaded, the gears jammed, movements stodgy. Despite seven signings the players looked exhausted, as did Tuchel. Perhaps the simplest conclusion is that this is another turn of the dead hand of Rome, a manager overexposed to the result, burning through his reserves of personal capital, which played out in a fast pace forward. All Chelsea managers must enter a period of physical retirement, looking unshaven and haggard in stained tracksuit bottoms, gimlet-eyed for the cameras. It certainly feels like Tuchel was there before his time.
Whoever comes in now will find a fine squad and a team with winning habits. Potter, if anything, has no experience at this level and doesn’t have much time to impose his slow burn methods. His appointment to reward talent and earn a promotion would be a win, just as it’s hard to imagine even Brighton supporters begging for the chance, if only to watch him. adapting and learning.
It will require extraordinary time and patience. So how are we looking at both? Three months in Boehly and his board revealed something more familiar. Response to results. Jump ship in midstream. Buy £250m of players with one manager, then hire another. Welcome back, Chelsea. You haven’t changed a bit.