The revolving door at Chelsea Football Club has spun once more, and there’s a new man at the helm of the London-based Premier League team. Club legend Frank Lampard is gone, and German former Paris Saint Germain manager Thomas Tuchel has been brought in to try to revive Chelsea’s season. Was this a good move or a bad move? Was Chelsea in dire straits before Lampard was fired? Let’s see if we can make any sense of the Stamford Bridge managerial merry-go-round’s latest turn.
We’ll start with a brief word about Lampard, who most supporters feel has been treated harshly. The legendary midfielder over-achieved when he qualified for the Champions League last season. The club is still in the Champions League this term, and although they’re sitting mid-table in the Premier League, the table sometimes lies. Three wins would be enough to push Chelsea back into the race for the top four if a few other results went their way. We’ve already seen Manchester United and Manchester City recover from bad starts this season to reach first and second in the table, and Arsenal are surging up the table after a disastrous start, too. Lampard could still have achieved a respectable finish this season. Title-winning Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp feels that Lampard was treated unfairly, as does his former England teammate Wayne Rooney. They probably aren’t wrong.
None of that matters anymore. Lampard is out, and Tuchel is in. There are two key factors that explain why he’s the man that Roman Abramovich decided upon for the role. The first is that Tuchel has won the French league twice at Paris Saint Germain, along with several French cup competitions and a second-place finish in last season’s Champions League. He knows what success at the highest level looks like, and he can bring that experience with him to London. The second is his nationality. It was rumored that Chelsea wanted a German coach, and that’s precisely what happened. The club spent over £120m bringing in young German forwards Timo Werner and Kai Havertz over the summer, and thus far, they haven’t seen much of a return on that expenditure. The Chelsea board hopes that Tuchel will be able to get the best out of his countrymen and encourage them to show the kind of form that attracted Chelsea’s scouts to them in the first place.
Bringing in a German coach to get the best out of German players might turn out to be a masterstroke. On the other hand, basing a professional assessment of Tuchel’s qualities as a coach on his record at Paris Saint Germain might lead to improper conclusions being drawn. Winning the French league title as PSG manager ought to be marked with an asterisk on a coach’s resume. Winning the title at PSG is expected. Any coach who didn’t achieve it would immediately be fired. Like winning the Italian title with Juventus or winning the Scottish title with Celtic, it’s the bare minimum requirement for any coach because it’s so easy to do. The teams around them don’t have the same resources or the same qualities. Any coach should be able to do what Tuchel did at PSG. If they’re not capable of doing so, football management might not be the best career choice for them.
A clearer picture of Tuchel’s acumen as a coach might be drawn from his time in his native Germany, where he managed Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund, arriving immediately after the departure of Jurgen Klopp in both cases. His record isn’t impressive at either club. Tuchel’s final win-loss ratio at Mainz was below forty percent when he departed, which made him a surprising choice for the Dortmund role. At Dortmund, his win-loss ratio was barely above sixty percent. The only trophy he won there was a single DFB-Pokal cup in 2017. You could even argue that it was during his two-year tenure that Dortmund began to slip so drastically far behind Bayern Munich. Tuchel didn’t arrive in PSG because he’d achieved all he could in Germany and decided to move on. He was available when PSG was hiring because Dortmund fired him. That may not bode well for his prospects of longevity at Chelsea. It might even explain why the club has appointed him on an initial eighteen-month contract as opposed to the two or three years that appear to be the industry standard.
It’s unlikely that assessments of Tuchel’s performance will be weighed too heavily on the remainder of this season. A title challenge isn’t on the cards, and success in Europe isn’t expected of them. The fact that this is likely to be a ‘nothing’ season for the club might be what gave Abramovich the freedom to roll the dice, but this is less of a roll of a dice and more of a spin of an online slots reel. There are only six possible outcomes when you roll a dice. There are thousands when you’re playing online slots, and most of them are unforeseeable. Underperformance this season would leave Chelsea outside the European qualification positions, with all of the financial implication terms that would bring. Overachieving would leave Tuchel at the risk of facing the same fate as Lampard next time around. Online slots players at least know what the jackpot looks like. It’s much harder to see the long-term goal for Chelsea from where they are now. This metaphor is an oversimplification, of course – both of football management and of gambling games, as this online slots blog makes clear – but it holds true. You take a risk when you roll the dice or spin the reels, and you don’t always like what comes as a result of doing so.
The English Premier League is the most competitive division that Tuchel has ever coached a team in. There’s only ever realistically going to be one winner in France. The winners come from a pool of two in Germany. In England, he finds himself in charge of a team that wants to get back to the top of the table but finds Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and perhaps even Arsenal and Everton in their way. He’s never been challenged like this before, and he’s failed lesser challenges in the past. In the context of his future career as a top-level coach, this is a make-or-break moment. Let’s see what he’s made of.