The end of Roman Abramovich’s ownership was supposed to be a good thing for the longevity of the Chelsea managers. No English team has won more than the 21 trophies collected in Russia’s 19 years in charge, but the 13 different coaches – two of whom are back for a second term – have rarely enjoyed any lasting comfort in the hot seat of Stamford Bridge.
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Thomas Tuchel knew what he allowed himself to do when he succeeded Frank Lampard in January 2021. Or at least, he thought he did. Many of his predecessors (including Lampard) spoke of building a dynasty, but Tuchel embraced the fickle nature of the job he held. He was grateful for the elite infrastructure that had been built to win, and he would make the most of it.
Some were wary of the vacuum created by Abramovich’s distance as owner, yet Tuchel was free to work and coach the team as he saw fit, without outside interference and internal politics. The 47-year-old’s previous work came at Paris Saint-Germain, where he left several coaches reflecting that the same cannot be said of Ligue 1 club. At Chelsea, Tuchel was a “head coach”, not a “manager”, and although From the subtle and clear distinction that the different title suggests, it worked just fine for him.
Thus, in the final reckoning, it was the change that occurred to Tuchel at Chelsea – a change that began with the club being placed in unprecedented circumstances as UK government sanctions related to Abramovich’s alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed a restriction on the club. Today’s activities.
Tuchel took on the role of semi-ambassador as the club’s public face during a tense period when Chelsea’s existence felt threatened. When the consortium led by Todd Boehle and Clearlake Capital led by the Los Angeles Dodgers completed their £2.5 billion takeover in May, the job changed hands again. Tuchel was asked to take more responsibility for the transfer strategy, engage in regular dialogue with the new owners, consider outside inputs and change his ideas.
The shift led to tension that eventually led to the German’s sacking this week. It also explains why Boehly and Clearlake settled on Graham Potter to replace him.
With additional reporting by Julian Lorenz
The changing role leads to an untenable relationship
Tuchel is not a complete victim. Chelsea’s overall performance has fallen in the 100 games they’ve played, and the swoon may be better than their clean sheet record. Tuchel’s past success – his apotheosis in winning the Champions League came just four months after taking charge – was largely based on an impressive defensive record, and a surprising and dramatic improvement over what came before.
During his first 50 matches, Chelsea conceded 24 goals, scoring 24 clean games. No team in Europe’s top five leagues has done better. In his 50 appearances, the Blues conceded 53 goals. Scoring became an issue as well, dropping from 2.53 goals per game to 1.74 goals per game.
Chelsea Potter hired from Brighton to replace Tuchel
Sources: Chelsea wants a sporting director before the World Cup
Whenever he tasked Tuchel with forming his own team, Chelsea began to struggle. The broader conditions were undeniable, and by the time the new owners were in place, Tuchel was not immune to scrutiny despite his victories in the Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup.
Sources told ESPN that upon completion of the acquisition at the end of May, Bohli and co-owner Bahhad Eghbali set the task of conducting a 100-day review of all aspects of Chelsea’s operations, including the first team and coaching staff. So instead of the lull that followed the uncertainty over Abramovich’s departure, Tuchel’s role quickly began to change, in part out of necessity.
The departure of director and chief transfer negotiator Marina Granovskaya and artistic director and performer Petr Cech left a lack of football experience. With that said, Boehly sought to hand Tuchel more responsibility in the club’s transfer strategy. Boehly took this as an acknowledgment of Tuchel’s standing as an elite coach, however Tuchel himself believed that additional meetings and constant interaction were affecting his work with the team.
This repulsion led to friction. Catching up in the summer transfer window as a result of the UK government’s sanctions related to Abramovich, Chelsea failed to meet some transfer targets due to their naivety. For example, the failure to know the intentions of the players before bidding for them: Leeds United striker Rafinha always wanted to join Barcelona, but the Blues pursued him anyway.
Overall, sources say Boelly and Ighbali wanted to sign players from a long-term perspective – Aston Villa’s Karne Chukwuemeka and Chicago Fire FC’s Gabriel Slonina are acquired teenagers for the future – while Tuchel saw more pressing problems with the team, which led to the arrival of Pierre Emerick. Aubameyang in the one-day deadline from Barcelona. High-ranking sources at Chelsea refute this, arguing that the data informed their decision-making more than the previously hired club. Analytics staff have been more influential in transfer policy even in the case of Aubameyang, with whom Tuchel established a close working relationship at Borussia Dortmund several years ago.
But there were also problems elsewhere. Tuchel is in the midst of a divorce and sources say the players have felt he has become distant in recent months. Buhli has been a regular presence in the dressing room after matches, and sources suggest he’s taken on some alienating players over time, especially this season.
Several attacking players became frustrated with Tuchel’s tactical approach, especially focusing on working without the ball rather than what they did in possession. One source also noted that after the pitch was blamed for the 4-2 defeat to Arsenal in April, staff and players were baffled by his interpretation.
The feud between Tuchel and the owners further widened when he chose to play with Hakim Ziyech at Southampton on August 31. Almost out of nowhere, the Dutchman made his first start to the season despite the club in talks either on loan or transferring him permanently to Ajax. . Sources say Tuchel wanted to keep Ziyech at the expense of Christian Pulisic, whose departure Bohli prevented. Pulisic was introduced as a substitute in the defeat against Southampton in an unfamiliar right-back position.
The overall performance in the Champions League in Dinamo Zagreb a week later, in the 1-0 loss was worse, but nevertheless, the end came as a surprise to Tuchel.
A risk taker and an innovator who can over-perform
He told Tuchel in a face-to-face meeting at the club’s training base in Cobham on Wednesday morning that he was no longer wanted.
Sources say Tuchel demanded time to try to improve the situation, but Buhli and Ighbali completed the 100-day review, and the decision was made. The duo then gave a 15-minute speech to the players before turning their attention to the identity of Tuchel’s successor.
Sources said Buhli and Ighbali initially started to consider other coaches shortly after taking charge of the club in June, without actively considering at that point that they would make a change. Potter’s name was one of the first to be mentioned: his work at Brighton caught the attention of other potential suitors, including the FA as a potential successor to Gareth Southgate with the England national team.
When the process began this week, Buhli and Ighbali held what senior sources describe as multiple in-person meetings with different candidates. Chelsea approached Brighton to speak to Potter, indicating they would be willing to pay his release clause, which sources say was around £16m.
There have also been unsolicited calls from managers not on their shortlist who have expressed interest in being considered.
Sources told ESPN that Potter was viewed internally as a risk taker, having made the decision to leave England for Sweden and manage Östersunds, moving a small, fourth-tier club to Europe during his seven years in charge. Senior sources at Chelsea have also described Potter to ESPN as an innovator who can improve the players around him, and they recognize his ability to over-perform with limited resources.
Comparisons have been drawn internally with Andrew Friedman, who helped the Tampa Bay Rays compete with much larger teams in Major League Baseball’s Eastern Conference — reaching the World Championship for the first time in franchise history in 2008 — before later giving him a chance. To transform the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team partly owned by Boehly. It is also understood that as they acclimatized to top-level football, the club’s senior figures have expressed surprise at the same few coaches who have been given frequent opportunities at the highest level. For example, Jose Mourinho has managed Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in England with varying degrees of success.
High-level sources at the club say they wanted to give a chance to a man they see as a captain who performs at a high level at Brighton, but with the potential to grow further. Potter may be seen as a more flexible trainer for this reason.
Tuchel’s proven pedigree may have made him less receptive to new ideas, or contributed to his unwillingness to engage in fields far from training. There is certainly a sense that Potter is seen as a more collaborative coach for a system focused on long-term aspirations, stability, and growth.
One obvious difference here is the upcoming appointment of a sports director. Tuchel had scored last week only last month as he expressed his relief at not being involved in Chelsea’s search for the right candidates. “I had a feeling for a day and a half: I’m back at 100% as a coach, which I enjoy a lot and where my full energy will start from now on,” he said after Chelsea’s win over Brighton last weekend. . “We need that energy in the team.”
It is clear that Bohli and Ighbali differed in opinion. Sources told ESPN that Potter will be involved in the hiring process for a new sporting director, with a date expected before the World Cup kicks off in November.
Meanwhile, Tuchel is left to lick his wounds, but he will surely continue his managerial career at the highest level. A skilled tactician, friendly with the media and still under 50, Tuchel would come out in a more suitable place – ironically the new Chelsea owners seemingly loathed.
Potter formally agreed to succeed Tuchel on Thursday morning and traveled to London to finalize and sign his contract, although the club chose not to hold a unveiling press conference out of respect for the news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away that afternoon.
The subsequent postponement of all football matches in England this weekend led to a national pause for thought. It also gives Chelsea a moment to establish themselves as a new chapter begins.