Thomas Tuchel looked baffled as he faced up to this embarrassing defeat in Zagreb — and this morning he paid the ultimate price.
A Champions League opener against the weakest team in Group E provided Chelsea with a chance to change the narrative after their poor start to the season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was handed his Chelsea debut wearing a protective face mask and the scene was set for him to be the superhero to spark their season into life.
But the striker looked rusty and Tuchel was left admitting he felt like he was watching the “wrong movie” as Chelsea endured a horror show in Croatia.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said Tuchel — and he would not have seen what was about to unfold, either.
Last night might have come as a surprise to Tuchel, but a worrying pattern had been emerging and there were signs his aura was beginning to wear off.
Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea
Chelsea had won three games this season but two of those have come against struggling Everton and Leicester, while they were fortunate to beat West Ham last weekend.
They suffered two dismal defeats, against Leeds and Southampton, and their only positive display was when facing Tottenham at home, although they conceded an injury-time equaliser to draw 2-2.
That bad run extended into last season and now stands at just five wins in 14 games in all competitions. Last night’s result was clearly the last straw for new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake, who have decided the German is not the man to take the club forward.
It felt as if the squad already knew the formula that won them the Champions League in 2021 was no longer working. Yet, Tuchel was apparently unable to see it and had blamed referees, VAR and opposing managers for their poor start.
Only last night, after being beaten by a team whose yearly budget is less than the £62million fee paid to sign Marc Cucurella from Brighton, did Tuchel begin to see his part in it — but it was all too late for him.
This is a Dinamo side who have never paid more than £5m for a player and who have won just five of their 22 home games in the Champions League. Tuchel could not even answer when questioned by Chelsea’s in-house media on what he would do with the players after this, leaving an awkward 10-second pause before they changed the subject.
“I take the responsibility,” he said. “This is not what we want. This is not who we are, this is not good enough.”
Tuchel let rip at his players at half-time and it was alarming that he changed formation three times during the game but Chelsea still failed to muster a response.
Indeed, the manager and his assistant Zsolt Low ended up getting booked after losing their discipline on the touchline.
It would all be understandable if Tuchel had been knocked off course after a poor pre-season, in which he acted as a sporting director and coach, and had to deal with a far-from-ideal tour of the United States.
In truth, though, some managers would relish being the most powerful Chelsea coach since Jose Mourinho. Boehly and Clearlake want a return on their investment following their £4.25billion takeover, with Tuchel tasked with earning a top-four finish.
Tuchel guided Chelsea to the Champions League but last night’s admission that “everything is missing” showed how far they have fallen since then.