Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has been the season's big winner

Taking over a club midseason in the midst of a global pandemic would be an impossible task for most. But the German has managed to steer the club to a possible FA Cup-Champions League double.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has been the season's big winner

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel congratulates Billy Gilmour after beating Man City in the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/PA Wire.

IT'S fair to say that England's favourite German is probably Jurgen Kloop. Taking the mantle from Boris Becker, the toothy Liverpool manager has managed to gain a grudging admiration from opposing fans, even among some Man United supporters.

Will this rare distinguished 'Jerry-admiration', peculiar to English sports and going back to the days of Bert Trautmann in goals for Man City, be extended to Chelsea's current manager, Thomas Tuchel, should he find a way to steer Chelsea to an unexpected FA Cup and Champions League double?

Like many great managers, Tuchel is a frustrated player, his time on the field cut short by a knee injury at the age of 25, forcing the young Bavarian down the path of a coaching career.

After terms in charge at Augsburg and Mainz, Tuchel made his big break in the Bundesliga in 2015 taking over at Borussia Dortmund from the aforementioned Jurgen Klopp. It was here that he claimed his first cup success, leading Dortmund to the DFB-Pokal (the German FA Cup). Unfortunately, it also marked another part of Tuchel's character, his often fractious relationship with club owners saw him fired from Dortmund three days after winning the cup in 2017.

Borussia Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel at a press conference back in 2016. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Borussia Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel at a press conference back in 2016. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Even so, his qualities had been recognised and the cash-rich and success-hungry owners of Paris Saint-Germain quickly swooped in for his signature replacing Unai Emery who had departed for his own ill-fated run at Arsenal.

At PSG, Tuchel flourished. Free from the constraints of having no cash to buy players, he quickly added French wunderkind Kylian Mbappe from Monaco to the existing formidable front pairing of Neymar and Edinson Cavani to make up the most lethal strikeforce in European football.

With the French giants, Tuchel won two league titles, as well as the domestic quadruple in his second season. Yet even here, with all the oil riches at his disposal, Tuchel managed to once again fall out with the owners' hierarchy and their player preferences that didn't correspond with the German's choices.

So despite claiming a record number of victories for the French club his inability to claim the Champions League title was deemed enough for a parting of the waves between Tuchel and the French giants. However, most believe that the Qatari sheikhs just had enough of the argumentative German.

Surprise Chelsea move

The Chelsea move probably came as a bit of a surprise to many.

Frank Lampard's tenure at The Bridge, while not spectacular was competent and most thought his legendary status and the fact that his time in charge was hampered by a transfer ban followed by a pandemic would have provided him with the space to develop as a manager. But football management is cruel, twice as much at Stamford Bridge, and the club legend was shown the door.

Coming in midseason, few were expecting anything from Tuchel beyond a steady hand on the tiller until the end of the season. But he has proved extraordinarily effective securing a place in the FA Cup final tomorrow,  beating Man City on the way and most impressive of all a spot in the Champions League final against that same Man City side, who he has also just managed to beat in the league.

Even in the Premier League standings, Tuchel's arrival has seen a dramatic improvement in Chelsea's fortunes. If the league had started in January, when Tuchel took charge at The Bridge, they would be second in the league on 35 points, just seven behind Man City and five ahead of Man United. Significantly ahead of the mid-table position of the incumbent he took over from. Not a bad turnaround especially in the middle of a pandemic.

At the start of this season, a place in the FA Cup final was probably more than even the most optimistic Chelsea fan could have dreamt for. Having a chance now of adding the Champions League crown is in the realms of sheer fantasy. Proving that the young German manager has considerable man-management abilities to accompany his tactical nous.

Edinson Cavani of PSG celebrates scoring his sides third goal with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Edinson Cavani of PSG celebrates scoring his sides third goal with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

At PSG he showed that tactical endeavour brilliantly, Tuchel used an orthodox 4-3-3 formation to make the most of their attacking talents but would often change it up by unpredictably dropping Cavani and Neymar into the half-space or push them out wide, making it impossible to man-mark them all and often freeing Mbappe to bag the score in the centre.

This desire to move things about has been shown at Chelsea too, with him making 39 changes to the starting lineup in 10 Premier League between January and March.

So will he join the pantheon of loved Germans of the English sporting world? His record of falling out with club owners indicates that Tuchel may be a bit of a prickly character. But then again, in these times of failed ESLs and the club owners' popularity lying somewhere between the coronavirus and a punch in the face, there are worse credentials among fans than you like to piss off owners.

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