Why Chelsea’s woes might not be solved by sacking Tuchel


Thomas Tuchel was supported in his role as head coach of Chelsea FC. New co-owner Todd Boehly considered signing Cristiano Ronaldo until Tuchel reportedly vetoed the deal over concerns whether the veteran would fit into his fluid attack. And then there was the arrival on deadline day of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a 33-year-old forward who is past his prime but with whom Tuchel shares a “close bond”.

That makes Wednesday’s dismissal of the German even more confusing.

Reservations about Tuchel as Chelsea boss began in the summer as Boehly and his business partners watched the aftermath of a 4-0 loss to Arsenal in Orlando last season Tom Roddy from The Times (UK). Tuchel appeared to tamper with his players, questioning their commitment and professionalism and was already showing signs that he wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about working with the club’s new owners. Having good relations with the late directors Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech, key figures in Roman Abramovich’s regime, Tuchel did not welcome the new era.

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Nevertheless, Boehly supported Tuchel. Despite appearing to have little knowledge of football, Boehly installed himself as interim sporting director in Granovskaia’s place, relying on Tuchel’s advice in the transfer market. What followed was a whistle stop tour of Europe, culminating in several failed pursuits but ultimately a hectic few weeks of deals pouring in.

Chelsea spent well over £260m including bonuses tied to some transfers.

The club was forced into large monetary transactions. Since Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen left the club after their contracts expired, the defense had to be helped. The signing of Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana made sense. But was Marc Cucurella really worth up to £63m when Ben Chilwell was already first-choice left-back and Marcos Alonso (who now plays at Barcelona) was a sensible reinforcement?

Elsewhere, there seemed to be a conflict in Chelsea’s transfer policy. The club spent significant sums on players for tomorrow, including Carney Chukwuemeka, Gabriel Slonina and Cesare Casadei. They also tried to negotiate moves for players who were more suitable three years ago, like Aubameyang and Ronaldo.

Boehly has taken risks before. Though he’s not a hands-on owner with Major League Baseball’s LA Dodgers, Los Angeles Times columnist Dylan Hernandez recalls that Boehly was “bold and open” about his ambitions for the franchise. The 2012 acquisition of the Guggenheim Group increased spending and franchise values ​​in baseball, and Hernandez likened the owners’ influence on the Dodgers to a memory of Real Madrid’s “Galacticos” years. The Dodgers won the World Series in 2019.

“He’s really good on the business side,” said Bill Shaikin, Hernandez’s Los Angeles Times colleague and Dodgers beat writer. Shaikin mentioned Boehly’s important work in greatly increasing the franchise’s media revenues and how the owners oversaw a long-overdue renovation of Dodger Stadium.

However, they are not the elements that directly affect post-season runs. Many of Boehly’s successes have taken place behind the scenes. “Most Dodgers fans have no idea who he is,” Shaikin added.

Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC / Chelsea FC / Getty

But now he has his own thing at Stamford Bridge. He has quickly become one of the most well-known managers in English football.

“You never know how people are going to react until they get that kind of power,” Hernandez said. “Maybe it was just an opportunity for that part of him to come out.”

The way Boehly has been quick to manage Chelsea’s transfer deals despite lacking football experience is worrying. This is a job for a seasoned director of football, not someone who had been involved in the sport for 23 days when he landed this role. And the way Boehly relied on Tuchel during the summer window, sacking him shortly thereafter, suggested there was no clear plan for the first three months at Chelsea.

Former Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter will replace Tuchel at Chelsea. The Englishman turned the Seagulls into one of the most versatile teams in European football. However, he is no doubt aware that without Brighton’s clear vision, shrewd division of labor and holistic approach – including often successful recruitment – ​​he would have had fewer opportunities to demonstrate his tactical acumen and leadership skills.

Potter is a coach who thrives at a club with a recognizable project. But at the moment it’s not clear if Chelsea are anything more than a vanity project for Boehly.


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