It’s a wise thing to never become too attached to managers as a football fan. They are the ones with the biggest likelihood of losing their jobs. As has happened with Thomas Tuchel. I am sad to see him go. He had done so much for the club from the moment he took over. In just 19 months in charge, he took Chelsea to six major finals and won three trophies including the Club World Cup for the first time in the club’s history. It meant Chelsea completed the set as far as trophies were concerned. They have won every major trophy available to them at least once. And Thomas Tuchel was the man who did that. There are many managers who have contributed to Chelsea’s rise to the top echelons of the game, but I am struggling to remember a manager who was so universally loved by the fans. Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte left under dark clouds and then committed the cardinal sin of managing Tottenham. But Tuchel was still almost universally backed by the fans. However, it seems that the new owners, while apparently keen to work with Tuchel at first, decided over the course of the summer and the first few games of the season that a change in the dugout was needed.
If the relationship between Tuchel and the new board was as damaged as has been reported then it was never really going to get better. Tuchel had been making noises all summer that his increased remit was really not to his personal liking. He repeatedly stressed the point that he much preferred simply being a coach rather than being involved in as many areas of the club as he seemed to be over the summer. He was also very vocal about his disappointment that Marina Granovskaia and particularly Petr Cech had left their roles over the summer, emphasising the point that he had very much enjoyed working within the previous recruitment setup. That no doubt would have annoyed the new owners. Especially when they, by all accounts, want to shake the club up from top to bottom and do a nut and bolt rebuild how the club operates, in every area. From the commercial and business operations to how the club recruits players and staff. And according to reports, the owners wanted Tuchel to very much be a part of that. They wanted him to act as part of the pitch to prospective players; they reportedly felt that Tuchel could have done much more to help convince Jules Kounde and Raphinha to sign; instead, both players chose to move to Barcelona. There were other issues as well that kept coming up and by the time the season had started, things were already coming to a head. After Chelsea’s 3-0 loss to Leeds United earlier this season, the board and Tuchel simply stopped communicating. That is simply not healthy and it is unsustainable.
So, the board decided to act. Fans are understandably upset. I am too. It doesn’t feel good to see Thomas Tuchel dismissed. However, I am interested to see what happens with Graham Potter in charge. Potter is a coach that has been developing his style for ma y years in unfancied locations before being given his chance in England, first at Swansea City and then at Brighton and Hove Albion. Over his three years at Brighton, he turned a team that was regularly in a fight to stay in the division, playing very safe, conservative, almost traditional English football, into a team that was far more modern in approach, happy to have the ball on the ground, happy to build play up from the back and happy to aggressively press the opposition from the front. That new approach and clever recruitment culminated last year in the highest league finish in Brighton’s history. Stylistically, Tuchel and Potter are actually rather similar. They share many traits. But Potter will hopefully be able to bring the squad together and keep them together. His university degree in Emotional Intelligence should very much help in that regard.
Graham Potter was going to be offered an opportunity at a bigger club sooner rather than later. He had already been considered for the vacant Spurs job last summer, but reportedly turned it down. Now, he has taken the next step in a career that has been unorthodox, but has led him to the biggest stage of his career so far. It may take a while for him to get his ideas across to the squad and he will need to win over a fanbase that is still angry at the departure of his predecessor. But he clearly has the backing for the board. Potter has signed a five-year contract at Chelsea and that is the longest contract I can remember ever being given to a new manager. The norm has usually been three years. But the length of contract is indicative of the board’s willingness to allow Potter to grow into the job and put everything in place for the club far more sustainably successful. Chelsea’s success before was full of peaks and troughs Whereas, a team like Manchester City has been developed over a number of years to consistently challenge for trophies every season. So, fans need to get behind the team and behind Graham Potter. This is truly the beginning of something new for Chelsea Football Club and it could be the start of something very, very exciting.