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Tinker, tailor, soldier ... conductor? Tuchel wants his Chelsea ‘orchestra’ to find a rhythm

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Teaching discipline and structure, encouraging creativity

Chelsea Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

One interesting benefit of Chelsea switching managers so frequently is that we get to see a wide range of styles and approaches at work.

Some are tinkerers. Claudio Ranieri and, to a lesser extent, Frank Lampard come to mind. Some are tailors. Antonio Conte called himself one as he tried to tailor the formation to the players. Others tailor things the other way: Maurizio Sarri had his way and his way only and picked players to best fit into that. And some emphasize discipline and leadership and brotherhood. These aren’t neat categories by any means, but I’m trying to make my metaphor and reference work.

We’ve had Special Ones, and Happy Ones, and Bitter Ones (unofficial title). Some talked about passion, some talked about work, some talked about feelings. And one guy kept going on about projects. Few lasted longer than a sneeze, but that’s just how things go around these parts (and even before Abramovich, really).

In any case, Thomas Tuchel’s in charge now, and ahead of his third game as head coach, he expounded on his approach a bit, essentially calling himself the conductor of the Chelsea orchestra.

“In the end it’s like an orchestra. We have to follow a certain rhythm. We have to follow a certain discipline, a speed, a style.”

One does always wonder if that person waving the baton around really does anything useful at all, but in a way, it does make for a good parallel to the job of a football manager. After all, once all the practicing is done, all you can do is stand off to the side and wave your arms around a lot.

As with musicians, Tuchel is allowing and even encouraging a bit of creativity, a bit of flair when it comes to certain aspects of the performance. The structure must of course remain what it was set out to be, but within that structure, there is room for experimentation.

“I believe in a disciplined structure. It gives us the chance to play faster because everybody knows where the other guy is. It gives us the chance to give every player a couple of possibilities to choose. When we lose the ball we can start effective counter-pressing.

“[But we also want] to give possibilities and it always stays the choice of the players, what decision they take. Maybe Mason Mount goes for a different solution than Hakim Ziyech on the same position, for sure he will than for Kai Havertz, but I absolutely want that they have all one, two, three, four options to take. There are players that will take the fifth one or sixth one that I don’t even think about.”

Chelsea Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Systems get found out, often quite quickly in a competitive league like the Premier League. We saw that with Antonio Conte’s tailored 3-4-3 and we saw that Maurizio Sarri’s off-the-rack Sarri-ball. Allowing for a bit of individual imagination could in theory delay, or even prevent that from happening. Of course, giving players carte blanche in attack isn’t always great either, but if we can find the right balance, we might be in for some sweet music.

“For that we need a good relationship between the players and me. The results will hopefully follow. In the Premier League you cannot control the result. But we can take care of our performance. There will arrive moments when I went into the dressing room after the match and it was a draw, even a defeat, and I was praising the performance.

“But I had to prove it. It is not enough if I say: ‘I was happy.’ We have to be clear what performance is. What do I need to do? What does the manager expect from me and why? What does the team expect from me as a player and how should we play together as a group? [...] There will arrive matches where we win and we will be absolutely unhappy and we will show the team why.

“If you ask me if I prefer tomorrow to win lucky or I lose undeserved, I go for a lucky win. Of course. With a win it’s easier to improve.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Guardian

Well, let’s turn it up to eleven.