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Why Sack Thomas Tuchel Now?

The world woke up on Wednesday to the shocking news that Chelsea head coach, Thomas Tuchel and the London club had parted ways with the German tactician being sacked following his team’s dismal showing against Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League opener last night but until the real reason for his sacking is known – I don’t think it’s solely to do with that match in Zagreb last night – we can’t get a straight forward answer as to the reason why the German was dismissed.

Todd Boehly had enough time after his takeover of Chelsea was finalized in late May to fire the manager as he did with Marina Granovskaia, Bruce Buck, the former chairman of the Chelsea board, and Petr Cech but he didn’t let go of the manager then even though he had the chance to. Maybe he was afraid of fans’ backlash and he wouldn’t have wanted to start his reign at Chelsea on such a sour note

And so he left the manager in place and backed him heavily in the transfer market spending close to £300m on eight new players only for him to then sack the manager less than a month into the new season. I wonder what would be going through the minds of the likes of Raheem Sterling, Wesley Fofana, and, especially Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng all of whom came to Stamford Bridge to work with Thomas Tuchel. I’d have understand it better if Tuchel was sacked three months because I’d have put it the down to the new owner wanting to put their own people in charge.

If the board is happy enough to splash out the cash on as many as eight new players then I would expect them to also have the patience and time for those players, and those already at the club, to materialize into a solid team but I guess the board had a different plan all along. It was always going to take time for the new players to blend with the demands of the Premier League and the tactics of their new team but perhaps the board doesn’t think they have the luxury of time and so has decided to end their relationship with the German on the occasion of their 100th day in charge of Chelsea Football Club. Incidentally, Tuesday night’s Champions League match was also Thomas Tuchel’s 100th game in charge of the club (W60 D24 L16).

He won 60% of his matches while in charge at Chelsea which is why I believe there’s an underlying reason – that will come to the fore sooner or later – why he got the boot than just the results and the performances.

THOMAS TUCHEL’S STATS AT CHELSEA?

Taking up any managerial job mid-season is not always ideal for any manager – doubly so if you’re taking over a team like Chelsea – and it certainly wasn’t any different in the case of Thomas Tuchel who was drafted in to take over from the sacked Frank Lampard on the eve of Chelsea’s home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers in January. He had only one training session with his new team before putting out his first Chelsea team sheet: Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Callum Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Ben Chilwell; Hakim Ziyech, Olivier Giroud, Kai Havertz were the chosen 11 that Tuchel chose to do battle with Wolves.

The most high-profile omissions from his first team sheet were ever-present Mason Mount, Reece James, Ngolo Kante, and Tammy Abraham. Kante was injured and was out of the matchday squad and the duo of Abraham and Mount did come on for late cameos but James remained an unused substitute. And the most surprising of all was the deployment of CHO in a right-wing-back role.

Subsequently though, order was restored and all but Tammy Abraham – who was sold at the start of last season to AS Roma – became a cornerstone of the German’s reign at SW6.


Thomas Tuchel’s Premier League record

Credit: premierleague.com

The table above doesn’t tell all of the stories though. Tuchel won 35 of his 63 Premier League matches but that’s due to Chelsea being unlucky at times especially during winter last year when covid-19 rocked the team with as many as six players testing positive at a point which adversely affected the team’s results and performances making them drop a lot of points from winning positions. Chelsea dropped 20 points from winning positions last season – only Leicester City (21), Newcastle United (24), and Southampton (29) dropped more. The gap between Chelsea in third and champions Manchester City was 19 points by the end of the season so with a better management of their leads who knows what might have been.

One of the hallmarks of the early days of Tuchel’s Chelsea reign was the solidity he brought to the defense that was leaking goals under his predecessor. He changed to a 3-4-3 formation – a formation that’s not new to Blues faithful with Antonio Conte winning Chelsea’s last Premier League title in 2017 using the same formation – from Frank Lampard’s 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation. The change in formation helped pluck the Blues’ leaky defense providing the foundation for Chelsea’s UCL triumph and the successes recorded in the Premier League.

Such was the solidity in the Chelsea defense that Thomas Tuchel’s team conceded just 24 goals (0.48 goals conceded per match) across his first 50 matches in charge keeping 31 clean sheets in the process but that solidity seemed to wane during the second 50 of his 100-game haul.

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In that last 50 matches, Chelsea conceded 53 goals across all competitions at an alarming rate of more than one goal per match and that seems to be where the problem started for Tuchel coupled with his strikers’ inability to put their chances away at the other end of the pitch. Chelsea missed a combined 53 big chances last season with Kai Havertz the biggest culprit with 12. Chelsea created 72 big chances last season – the fourth most in the league behind Liverpool, City, and Spurs – but scored just 19 of those for a conversion rate of just 10.07%.

In comparison, both Liverpool and City scored 38 (22.42%) and 22 (14.3%) of their big chances respectively.

Ultimately, it’s the coach that takes the blame for the team’s failure but I personally think new owner Todd Boehly was too quick to wield the axe as there’s more than enough time for Tuchel and his coaches to turn the tide, especially with so many new players in the team. The new man in charge – muted by a lot of people to be Brighton and Hove Albion’s Graham Potter – will certainly have big shoes to fill as Thomas Tuchel performed impressively during his 17 months in charge of the Blues.

The German had a 60% win in all competitions. That percentage drops to 55.6% in the Premier League ranking him 4th on the list of Chelsea managers to have taken charge of at least 50 matches behind Antonio Conte (67%), Jose Mourinho (66%), and Carlo Ancelotti (63%).

In the Champions League that win percentage jumps to 66.7 % winning 12 of his 18 matches in the competition. It’s however in the FA Cup that the German has the best win percentage. Winning 8 out of 10 matches for an 80% win rate.

In just 17 months in charge, Thomas Tuchel led Chelsea to four finals (FA Cup x2, League Cup, and Champions League) winning only the Champions League final against City. He lost his first FA Cup final to Leicester City last summer before losing both domestic cup finals to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on penalties.

To put that in context, only Jose Mourinho managed the same feat – getting Chelsea to three League Cup finals (2005, 2007, 2015) and an FA Cup final (2007) winning all – but it took him two spells to achieve it making Tuchel’s achievement all the more impressive especially with Jose Mourinho considered Chelsea’s most successful manager by many.

He stood by us and with us during our most trying period when we were hit with financial sanctions and it’s only fair we reciprocate that gesture by giving him the time he deserves and earned to put his team in order but I guess that’s not the direction the new owners want to go. Personally, I would like to hear the reason why Todd Boehly has decided to part company with a manager he trusted enough to splash out the cash for less than a week after the transfer window slammed shut.

The ruthlessness displayed by Todd Boehly in sacking Tuchel has been likened, in some quarters, to the type displayed so many times by former owner Roman Abrahamovic but I don’t think the Russian billionaire would have taken the same course of action having just splashed out so much money on new players. The Russian sacked Jose Mourinho in September 2007 – the earliest he’s ever sacked a manager – but that was due to two key players going to him to report that Mourinho no longer had the handle on things. Roberto Di Mateo – the man who won Chelsea’s first Champions’ League title – was sacked in November 2012 after failing to lead Chelsea out of their Champions’ League group. Abrahamovic was ruthless no doubt but he always has a perfect reason to pull the plug. I’ve been thinking since the news broke yesterday about what Boehly's reason could possibly be but I’ve been unable to see why Tuchel has been sacked.

We finished last season in 3rd place in the league, got to the final of both domestic cup competitions, and was one goal away from the Champions’ League semi-final against eventual champions Real Madrid. So, it wasn’t a disaster of a season last time out.

Even Frank Lampard got until January after his spending spree in summer 2020. As the table below shows, Frank Lampard completed the first set of Chelsea’s Premier League fixtures before being axed with the club in 9th position

The table as at the time of Frank Lampard’s sacking

Credit: dailymail.com

The table as at the time of Thomas Tuchel’s sacking

Credit: Google search

WHO COULD REPLACE TUCHEL?

As expected, a lot of high profile names have been linked to the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. The likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane – both of whom are presently out of job – but the bookmakers’ favourite is Brighton and Hove Albion’s incumbent Graham Potter. As of this morning, a verbal agreement is reported to be in place between Potter and Chelsea owner Todd Boehly. The American is also understood to retain an interest in Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim but Graham Potter is likely to win the race.

Sacking an elite coach like Thomas Tuchel and replacing him with someone like Graham Potter is confusing to say the least. With the utmost respect to Graham Potter and all the good works he’s done at Brighton – I think he’s been immense for them, especially in the last two seasons – but he cannot be considered as an elite manager just yet and hiring him to replace Thomas Tuchel is like selling your Ferrari and buying a truck.

I am a Chelsea fan, first and foremost, and would support the team no matter what but the events leading up to the brutal sacking of Thomas Tuchel yesterday have been very confusing but I’m sure we’ll get closure on the subject in the days, weeks and months to come. Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!

© 2022 Ayodeji Akanni Itasanmi

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