'It feels amazing': Tuchel takes Chelsea manager's job on 18-month contract

Jacob Steinberg
·4-min read

Thomas Tuchel will sit in the dugout rather than watch from the stands when he takes charge of his first Chelsea game on Wednesday, signalling the German’s desire to make an immediate impact after his appointment as manager.

Tuchel got straight to work after signing an 18-month deal with an option for another year, holding his first training session on Tuesday night after replacing Frank Lampard. The former Paris Saint-Germain manager wants to be on the bench when Chelsea, who lie ninth in the Premier League, host Wolves. He told allies he wants to take responsibility for his new side’s performance.

Related: In Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea are pivoting to a kind of anti-Lampard

It has been a whirlwind start to the week for Chelsea, who fired Lampard less than 24 hours after beating Luton in the FA Cup on Sunday. Tuchel, who was sacked by PSG last month, was soon installed as the 11th permanent manager of the Roman Abramovich era. Negotiations with Marina Granovskaia, the influential director, were said to be tough, but Tuchel is excited by the challenge after arriving in London on Tuesday.

“I would like to thank Chelsea FC for their confidence in me and my staff,” Tuchel said. “We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard’s work and the legacy he created at Chelsea. At the same time, I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football. I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family – it feels amazing.”

Many sources expected Lampard to be sacked after last week’s defeat at Leicester. It is believed Covid-19 protocols delayed Tuchel’s arrival, which led to Lampard remaining in charge. However Tuchel can enter Chelsea’s secure bubble, in accordance with Covid rules, after testing negative.

Tuchel, who is expected to install Arno Michels as his assistant, inherits a struggling side. Chelsea’s slump under Lampard has left them at risk of missing out on Champions League qualification after spending £220m last summer.

The board began succession planning earlier this month. RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann was out of reach until the summer and Chelsea also considered Ralf Rangnick, another German, on an interim basis. The Ukraine manager and former Chelsea striker, Andriy Shevchenko, was another option but was seen as too inexperienced.

Tuchel, who led PSG to the Champions League final last season and won two league titles with the club, emerged as the preferred candidate. Chelsea looked at the former Borussia Dortmund manager in 2018, only to hire Maurizio Sarri. The hierarchy were aware of his interest in the job by the time Lampard’s side lost 3-1 to Manchester City at the start of January.

Timo Werner reacts after missing a penalty against Luton. Will Thomas Tuchel get more out of his fellow German?
Timo Werner reacts after missing a penalty against Luton. Will Thomas Tuchel get more out of his fellow German? Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Tuchel, who is regarded as a fine tactician and began his managerial career at Mainz in 2009, spoke to Chelsea’s struggling German attackers, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, before training. He sees vast potential in attack – he managed Christian Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund and is a fan of Callum Hudson-Odoi – and believes he can work with Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté in central midfield. He has a close relationship with Thiago Silva after managing the centre-back at PSG.

Chelsea insiders insist the change is not because of Havertz and Werner. They point to the entire team’s loss of confidence. Some senior players had awkward relationships with Lampard. Jorginho and Antonio Rüdiger could earn fresh starts given that Tuchel wanted them at PSG.

Yet Tuchel does not come without risks. He clashed with other figures at Dortmund after replacing Jürgen Klopp in 2015 and experienced similar problems after joining PSG in 2018.

The first German to manage Chelsea will need to keep his new bosses happy. Although Tuchel’s first task will be lifting the side back into the top-four race, he must challenge for the title in the long run.

“It is never easy to change head coach in the middle of the season but we are very happy to secure one of Europe’s best coaches in Thomas Tuchel,” Granovskaia said. “There is still much to play for and much to achieve, this season and beyond.”