Thomas Tuchel is my favourite Chelsea manager of all time — more than Mourinho, more than Conte, more than Ancelotti, more than anyone else. I’ll always hold him close to my heart for his tactics, for his personality, for his conduct and for a long list of other things. But I love Chelsea more than any manager.
It is important to remain rational and not emotional. This sacking hurts everyone equally. We all wanted him to build a long-term plan with us but it did not happen.
I do not aim 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’ve ever had. It pains me to write this because I wanted him to be our Sir Alex. But he has not worked out and now it is time to analyze why this is the right time to part ways.
The biggest headline-grabber is our form in 2022. While there are mitigating factors, our league form since January has been poor. The transfer ban, injuries and all the other chaos around the club do not explain Chelsea possessing the underlying statistics of a mid-table team for 9 straight months. We should have been better. However, this is actually not the biggest reason behind Tuchel’s downfall.
More than our form, Tuchel’s downfall was primarily caused by the direction he was wanting 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 is only immediate results. Tuchel’s words and actions kept referring to this too — 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 things aren’t working?
Rebuilding teams don't sign peak-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 don't hire win-now managers either.— 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 curve. There is the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Losing with a bunch of 30-year-olds is not fun. There is nothing to look forward to. It just means things are not right — either tactically or with regards to personnel.
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 had been gradually getting older throughout 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 order to have experienced players. He asked for a super experienced team so that he could win this very moment. He asked us to judge him based on this. And that’s all we are doing — judging him according to the conditions he created. There was no long-term progress and there were no short-term results. That’s 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’s one of the world’s best teenagers and the manager won’t give him a minute even when everyone else is out?
Signing elite youngsters like we have been recently — and will continue doing so most likely — and giving them to Tuchel would’ve been a repeat of 2013 and the José Mourinho situation. Young players can fulfill their potential only if the manager is prepared to give them a chance. Our owners were wise enough to recognize this well in advance. Tuchel wasn’t producing results, he wasn’t developing players either. So what was the point?
In terms of underlying numbers, we have been worse than the Lampard era for quite some time now, especially on offensive. Tuchel is an elite, elite, elite tactician — but he hasn’t shown that consistently in a long time. We can speak all we want about his Dortmund team but he couldn’t coach an attack here. Chelsea have 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 got sacked for a similar footballing reason — they couldn’t balance defence and offence. Lampard overemphasized offence and got sacked when that stopped firing. Tuchel did that with defence.
Player development has been another major concern since 2021. How many players can we confidently say are better now than in 2021? Now compare that to the time and the money spent. Is it rational?
If one player is bad, you blame the player. But if the whole team is bad, you blame the system — tactics and utilization, i.e. the coach.
Tuchel’s ability to identify and fix issues in the squad had become a problem. He didn’t know what he required and that is a major red-flag for the long term. The entire striker saga summed it up. He spent months leaving Tammy Abraham out because of “tactical fit” only to sign Romelu Lukaku and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an older player who does exactly what Tammy does but probably worse.
Frankly, Tuchel’s talent identification and squad-building skills are probably why he got into this bad situation in the first place. He did get his way — because of his results — but in the end, his bad decisions caught up to him and he could no longer justify them. Some examples:
- The Saúl – Tchouaméni decision
- The Lukaku saga
- Sending away several talented academy grads to pursue inferior and more expensive players
- Constant mis-profiling of players, making them do things they are not good at
Our pursuit of a midfielder this summer spoke volumes as well. Tuchel went on for months about not needing anyone and then made a sudden U-turn at the end of the window. As a sporting director, how do you handle that? More importantly, as a coach, how do you not recognize midfield as a major weakness until that late?
By the end of August, we had a manager who is not good at building a squad, one who hasn’t done a great job of developing players here and does not possess robust talent ID. His main selling point was his short-term results and those results dried up, with no prospects of coming back up. What option did we have?
We’ve been on a 2015-16-esque trajectory for a while but this time, we’ve avoided our biggest mistake back then: hanging on to our manager for too long based on past glories. Sacking Tuchel now ensures that he leaves not humiliated and with his head still high. It wouldn’t have gotten better from here — stats, performance of new signings, player development, general morale all pointed in that direction — and he leaves with his reputation and dignity intact.
A new manager isn’t going to make us Manchester City overnight but he gives us a better chance of catching them in the long-term. If it doesn’t work out, we have re-evaluate what went wrong and avoid making those mistakes in 12 months’ time. We don’t have a short-term project. We have a long-term one — one that will involve plenty of losses, growing pains and step-by-step development. Sadly, Tuchel showed through his actions that he did not want to be a part of that process.
Our first aim 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 top-4. Statistically, in terms of underlying numbers, it is still our best season since 2014-15. Follow that template 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 instant results. It’s always toxic and always ends up badly. Tuchel got himself sacked because he chased instant results and gave up squad development. But going forward, such decisions should be allowed. No more of the “win today, worry tomorrow” mentality. We need to 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 is easy to think we’ll catch City with just one more big-money signing. It is the same trap that leads to people losing their money in gambling — just one more try and they will make money! The City winning machine is too far ahead. It will take a process, a long drawn-out process, with plenty of defeats and pains along the way. City themselves went through that as well.
All that said, I will really, really miss Tuchel. I’ll miss his masterclasses in big games, his personality in press conferences and I doubt any manager will carry himself with the same conduct as he did in difficult times. The sacking still has not fully sunk in yet and I still wish he were part of our journey. But his actions showed that this is the right moment to part ways, for everyone’s best interest.
We can all be incredibly grateful for everything he has done for us — and that would need an article three times as long, at minimum — and also recognize that the time had come for both of us to go our own ways.
In his first press conference, Tuchel said that “we set the bar very high — also for myself, what I demand of myself — to bring this team up to the top. Will I make it? I don’t know.”
Well, he indeed made it. We made it. He brought us to the top, and that was just the start. Viel Glück, Thomas, we will all miss you.