Tuchel: Why have Chelsea decided to hire the former PSG boss?
Chelsea shocked the world of European football on Tuesday when they announced that Thomas Tuchel would be replacing Frank Lampard as the club’s first team manager.
Lampard had only been in the job for 18 months and many assumed his long and celebrated history with the club may have spared him the same fate as many of predecessors.
However, as we’ve seen countless times, Roman Abramovich and Chelsea’s hierarchy rarely shy away from making tough decisions and in a bid to save the club’s standing in the Premier League Tuchel has been hired.
But what should we make of the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain head coach? Is Tuchel the man the man to match the lofty expectations that will undoubtedly now be placed upon his shoulders?
Let’s take a look through Tuchel’s time at the German and French clubs and see what aspects of his management may have enticed Chelsea to hire him.
Replacing Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund
(insight from German football writer Stefan Bienkowski)
Despite taking over for the managerial goliath that was Jurgen Klopp, Tuchel did a reasonable job of matching Klopp’s success at Dortmund, despite facing a number of the same issues that led to the now Liverpool manager throwing in the towel.
After taking over a side that had finished seventh and was devoid of any of the gegenpressing magic that had taken them to the Champions League final, Tuchel got to work building a new team from scratch. He replaced the ageing midfield duo of Sebastian Kehl and Nuri Sahin with 19-year-old Julian Weigl and Gonzalo Castro, while senior goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was dropped for the incoming Roman Burki.
The turnaround was almost immediate. Dortmund lost just one of their opening 12 Bundesliga games and ultimately finished the season in second place, with an extra 32 league points. Tuchel also took the club to the German Cup final, where they lost to Bayern.
In Europe, Tuchel also brought a bit of pride back to Dortmund’s standings. In his first season the German coach took the side to the Europa League quarter-finals. However, in the following season, he did even better when Dortmund overcame Porto and Tottenham Hotspur to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. A feat no Dortmund manager has managed since.
In that time Tuchel also worked wonders with a number of young players, with the promotion of Christian Pulisic from the club’s youth academy as well as a number of purchased talents like Weigl and Ousmane Dembele. He also got the very best out of key, attacking players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the latter scoring a remarkable 39 goals in 49 games in Tuchel’s first season.
Ultimately, Tuchel lasted just two seasons at Dortmund before his persistent clashes with the club hierarchy’s tendency to sell their best players came to a head. Few coaches could would have put up with, let alone finish third in the league, reached a Champions League quarter-final and won a German Cup, after losing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels in a single transfer window, yet Tuchel did exactly that and was then unceremoniously sacked at the end of the 2016/17 campaign.
In addressing the decision to sack Tuchel, Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said he and sporting director Michael Zorc had become “worn out” by dealing with the manager and his coaching staff, but in hindsight it seems far more likely that the club struggled to match the ambitions of a coach tasked with replacing Klopp.
Wrestling PSG’s superstars into line
(insight from French football writer Robin Bairner)
Tuchel arrived at PSG and was faced with the daunting task of carrying the Parisian club to the Champions League title. Two years later, he had come within 90 minutes, with his side defeated 1-0 by Bayern Munich in the 2020 final.
On the way, he won four of six possible major domestic trophies, including a clean sweep in the aborted 2019/20 campaign.
His achievements at Parc des Princes have been played down by some critics, but while he had the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to play with, he did not have the lavish sums of money to spend that other coaches in PSG’s recent past have enjoyed. Furthermore, he had little say in how it was spent, and his fractious relationship with sporting director Leonardo was arguably the primary reason for his sacking.
He employed an up-tempo game as much as was possible with PSG. While the likes of Neymar and Mbappe make more of a defensive effort than they are often credited with, their efforts are still insufficient to play in the manner that Tuchel would have liked, and to some extent he was hamstrung by this throughout his time in the French capital.
His relationship with both men was at times complicated as he sought to impose his will on the team while at the same time retaining an understanding of how utterly central the two superstars are to PSG’s efforts.
Tuchel’s experience of having worked with such capricious players and such demanding management, though, should put him in good stead for Chelsea, where he will enjoy more tactical flexibility and a squad that is better able to interpret his understanding of the game.