Thomas Tuchel is my favorite Chelsea manager of all time – more than Mourinho, more than Conte, more than Ancelotti, more than anyone else. I will always hold him close to my heart because of his tactics, because of his personality, because of his behavior and because of a long list of other things. But I love Chelsea more than any manager.
It is important to remain rational and not emotional. This layoff hurts everyone equally. We all wanted him to build a long term plan with us but it didn’t happen.
I don’t mean to belittle Tuchel or make him sound bad. He did a phenomenal job in every sense of the word and was perhaps the best ambassador we ever had. It pains me to write this because I wanted him to be our knight Alex. But he didn’t work and now it’s time to analyze why this is the right time to break up.
The biggest headliner is our form in 2022. Although there are mitigating factors, our league form since January has been poor. The transfer ban, injuries and all the other chaos around the club does not explain Chelsea owning the below statistics of a mid-table team for 9 straight months. We should be better. However, this is actually not the biggest reason behind Tuchel’s downfall.
More than our form, Tuchel’s downfall was mainly caused by the direction he wanted to take. We kept talking about rebuilds only for us to buy extremely experienced and/or expensive players. When you do that, there is no rebuild. There are only immediate results. Tuchel’s words and actions continued to refer to this as well – he was in no mood to build a young team from the ground up. He wanted to win and he wanted to win now. That’s certainly a fair pursuit, but we clearly haven’t been winning for a while. So what gives?
Do we want to keep giving him millions or do we want to recognize that things are not working?
Rebuilding teams don’t sign prime-age players with 40,000+ senior career minutes in consecutive summers at the expense of some of the best young talent in the country. They also don’t hire win-now managers.
– Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) July 26, 2022
We could have digested Tuchel playing a bunch of 20-year-olds and losing. Losing with a young team means you are going through a crucial part of the learning process. It is the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Losing to a bunch of 30 year olds is no fun. There is nothing to wait for. It just means things aren’t right – either tactically or personnel-wise.
There is no “process” in a team with 37-year-old Silva, 33-year-old Aubameyang, 33-year-old Azpilicueta, 31-year-old Koulibaly and 31-year-old Jorginho. The squad gradually aged during Tuchel’s tenure.
Tuchel was given the opportunity to retain and introduce younger players – either from the market or from the academy – but opted against it in favor of having experienced players. He asked for a super experienced team so he could win this moment. He asked us to judge him by that. And that’s what we do – judge him according to the conditions he created. There was no long-term progress and there were no short-term results. That is the sad truth.
Our new owners want to go in a direction of sustainable growth and young players – hence the investment in elite youngsters. Tuchel doesn’t want that. What message does it send to Carney Chukwuemeka that he is one of the best teenagers in the world and the manager will not give him a single minute even when everyone else is out?
Signing elite youngsters as we have been recently – and will most likely continue to do so – and handing them to Tuchel would be a repeat of 2013 and the José Mourinho situation. Young players can only fulfill their potential if the manager is prepared to give them a chance. Our owners were smart enough to recognize this well in advance. Tuchel didn’t produce results, he didn’t develop players either. So what was the point?
In terms of underlying numbers, we’ve been worse than the Lampard era for quite some time now, especially on offense. Tuchel is an elite, elite, elite tactician – but he hasn’t shown it consistently for a long time. We can talk all we want about his Dortmund team, but he couldn’t coach an attack here. Chelsea created around 1.4 non-penalty xG under Tuchel in the league, compared to around 1.6 under Lampard, an inferior coach with an inferior team. Other advanced offensive metrics followed the same pattern.
Ironically, despite the gulf in quality and experience, Lampard and Tuchel were sacked for a similar footballing reason – they couldn’t balance defense and offence. Lampard overemphasized offense and was sacked when that stopped shooting. Tuchel did that with defense.
Player development is another major concern starting in 2021. How many players can we confidently say are better now than in 2021? Now compare that to the time and money spent. Is it reasonable?
If one player is bad, you blame the player. But if the whole team is bad, you blame the system – tactics and utilization, so the coach.
Tuchel’s ability to identify and fix problems in the squad has become a problem. He didn’t know what he was asking for and that’s a major red flag for the long term. The whole striker saga summed it up. He spent months ditching Tammy Abraham for “tactical fit” only to sign Romelu Lukaku and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an older player who does exactly what Tammy does but arguably worse.
Honestly, Tuchel’s talent identification and squad building is probably why he got into this bad situation in the first place. He did succeed – because of his results – but eventually his bad decisions caught up with him and he could no longer justify them. Some examples:
- The Saúl – Tchouaméni decision
- The Lukaku saga
- Dismissing several talented academy graduates to pursue inferior and more expensive players
- Constant mis-profiling of players, making them do things they are not good at
Our search for a midfielder this summer also spoke volumes. Tuchel went on for months about not needing anyone and then did a sudden U-turn at the end of the window. As an athletic director, how do you deal with that? More importantly, as a coach, how come you don’t recognize midfield as a major weakness until so late?
By the end of August, we had a manager who can’t build a squad, one who hasn’t done a great job of developing players here and doesn’t have a strong talent ID. His main selling point was his short-term results and those results dried up, with no prospects of going back up. What option did we have?
We were on a 2015-16-esque trajectory for a while but this time, we avoided our biggest mistake back then: hanging on to our manager for too long based on past glories. Firing Tuchel now ensures that he leaves not humiliated and with his head still held high. It wouldn’t get any better from here – stats, performance of new signings, player development, general morale all headed in that direction – and he leaves with his reputation and dignity intact.
A new manager won’t make us Manchester City during the night but he gives us a better chance of catching them in the long run. If it doesn’t work, let’s reassess what went wrong and avoid making those mistakes in 12 months. We don’t have a short-term project. We have a long haul — one that will involve many losses, growing pains and step-by-step development. Unfortunately, Tuchel has shown by his actions that he does not want to be part of that process.
Our first goal must be to take bad results on the chin and make the team younger and more attacking. 2019-20 is the template. It showed that we can make the squad younger, more offensive and still get to 4th. Statistically, according to the numbers below, it is still our best season since 2014-15. Follow that pattern but with an even better tactical mind at the helm: that should be our long-term goal.
Another goal, for both fans and the club, should be to avoid chasing immediate results. It is always poisonous and always ends badly. Tuchel was sacked because he chased immediate results and abandoned squad development. But going forward, such decisions should be allowed. No more of the “win today, worry tomorrow” mentality. We must lay the groundwork today to ensure we win tomorrow – and beyond. If we focus on player development now, we will naturally become a much better team in the future.
It’s easy to think we’ll capture City with just one more cash signing. It’s the same trap that leads people to lose their money in gambling – just one more try and they’ll win money! City’s winning machine is too far ahead. It will take a process, a long long process, with many defeats and pains along the way. City itself went through that too.
All that said, I will really, really miss Tuchel. I will miss his masterclasses in big games, his personality in press conferences and I doubt any manager will carry himself with the same demeanor as he did in difficult times. The layoff still hasn’t fully sunk in and I still wish he was a part of our journey. But his actions showed that this is the right moment to break up, for everyone’s best interest.
We can all be incredibly grateful for everything he’s done for us — and that would take an article three times as long, at least — and also recognize that the time has come for both of us to go our separate ways.
In his first press conference, Tuchel said that “we are setting the bar very high – also for myself, what I demand from myself – to bring this team to the top. Will I do it? I don’t know.”
Well, he did do it. We did it. He brought us to the top, and that was just the beginning. Viel Glück, Thomas, you will all be missed.