Frank Lampard sacked: what went wrong at Chelsea? video
ChelseaThe tactical modernist is very different from his predecessor at Stamford Bridge but could be just what Chelsea need now
According to the Thomas Tuchel playbook, managing a football team is something you need to learn and understand, not a thing you do because theres nothing else left or because it seems like the logical next step after 400 professional matches. Tuchel wasnt talking about Frank Lampard when he said these words.
Although it would surely make his likely arrival at Stamford Bridge a little spicier if he could rehash this statement for his opening remarks at the unveiling-station ideally while wagging his finger and brandishing his economics diploma, his youth coaching medals, and all the other evidence of a coaching hinterland, a life spent outside the inner circle, that separates him from his immediate predecessor.
Abramovich era leaves Lampard with no time to pull out of nosedive | David Hytner
What does seem certain is that should Chelsea end up recruiting Tuchel they will, by accident or design, have landed on a kind of anti-Lampard. Exit one underqualified celebrity appointment. Enter the gangling Bavarian uber-nerd, tactical modernist and obsessively-minded details coach, a man whose stated hobbies include nights in drinking orange spritzer and an interest in furniture design.
All managerial hires tend to oscillate between extremes to some degree. Lampard is a superstar. Tuchel was no kind of player at all. Lampard was already being touted around as a manager by his uncle before hed even taken his first steps. Tuchel believes in coaching and management as a kind of vocation, something to learn and understand, an intellectual discipline as much as a function of status and personality.
And yes, it is already possible to hear the knives being sharpened, Lampards friends in the media taking pre-umbrage at the presence of this outsider, who has already upset a few people along the way and seems certain to have his early collisions and wrong turns.
Thomas Tuchel communicates with Kylian MbappÃ© at PSG, where he seemed a weird appointment. Photograph: Soccrates Images/Getty Images
But there is plenty of good sense too in this pivot towards a Tuchel-type figure. Where Lampard was a tactical blank, a manager still working out how he wants his teams to look, Tuchel is very clearly associated with a way of playing, with direct links to the current hot headliners of the German school of gegenpressing, rapid transition and all the rest. Another point of contrast: Tuchel is demonstrably qualified to do the job. In fact he is an upgrade on pretty much every professional level, with the exception of one key quality: he isnt Frank. And this kind of thing really does matter at Chelsea.
Lampards sacking may have arrived with startling speed, the executioners block wheeled into place with that familiar brutal efficiency, but it was, in the end, a victory for the circle of life.
Chelsea to appoint Thomas Tuchel as manager after Frank Lampard is sacked
Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge with an idea of reasserting the basic Chelsea identity, the Chelsea of his own playing days. In which case job done. The end may have arrived with a merciless swish of the blade, but this was in itself a reassertion of the deep Chelsea culture of the Abramovich years. This is the model. And in a commendably ruthless fashion the model has now done away with one of its own favourite sons. And so we go on. The circle of life demands fresh meat for the shredder.
Tuchel looks, in outline, the best Chelsea hire since Antonio Conte, and before that Carlo Ancelotti, 11 years and seven empty chairs down the line, albeit one who arrives with a degree of uncertainty over his own trajectory.
At this point it is worth recalling how Tuchel first announced himself. Rewind 21 years and Tuchel was playing under Ralf Rangnick at Ulm, a club in the process of a transformative rush up through the divisions. A cartilage injury forced Tuchel into retirement aged 24, and a spell in the wilderness. He worked as a barman in Stuttgart. He raged at his bad luck. He settled into a youth level coaching role under Rangnick, groomed as an awkward, clever, challenging coach in the making.
Tuchel got his break at Mainz in 2009, following on from JÃ¼rgen Klopp. He trimmed his squad, refocused the players, and did well enough to create a kind of wonderkid buzz around himself, a persona that propelled him on to Dortmund in succession to Klopp once again. Tuchel was a success at Dortmund: he brought Christian Pulisic through, he experimented with positions and roles, and he ended up being sacked three days after winning the clubs first trophy in five years following disagreements with assorted levels of the club hierarchy.
Paris Saint-Germain followed, a weird appointment in itself: PSG is a star project, Tuchel is a systems manager who demands the players act as a collective. But he won a lot of games, won the trophies he was supposed to win and took that team to the Champions League final. At the end of which nobody really knows what Tuchels ceiling might be. Hes done quite well, without ever looking the ideal fit in his environment.
There are some obvious advantages at Chelsea. Through Rangnick an early mentor of both Timo Werner, the player, and Tuchel the manager he has a direct line in to how to get the best out Chelseas Â£50m striker. No excuses here: Tuchel looks like the ideal choice for a player who needs to be used in a specific way to replicate his Bundesliga form. Rangnick is also a huge fan of Kai Havertz, who he once described as Cruyff-like in his all-round game. Should Tuchel get the job it is to be hoped the odd long chat with his old boss is in line.
Otherwise Tuchel will make Chelseas players fit his pattern, with obsessive drills, and a very clear idea of where he wants them to be on the pitch. The Tuchel style is based on running, hard pressing, and speed of thought and deed. In Germany this playing style was considered at one point to be classically English.
TimelineFrank Lampard: key dates as Chelsea manager
- 4 July 2019Lampard leaves Rams to make return
After Chelsea agree to pay Derby Â£4m in compensation, Lampard returns to manage the club he scored a record 211 goals for, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2012. “Everyone knows my love for this club and the history we have shared, however my sole focus is on the job in hand, he says. “I am here to work hard, bring further success to the club and I cannot wait to get started.”
- 11 August 2019A rocky start at Old Trafford
In his first Premier League game in charge, Chelsea lose 4-0 at Manchester United. After the heaviest defeat by United since 1965 he vigorouslyÂ defends his players. “There were lots of elements about today that I liked,” he says. “We were intense in our pressure. We won the ball back high in lots of areas. We dominated the midfield. For big spells in the first half they couldn’t get out.
- 1 August 2020 Top-four finish and Cup final defeat
Having qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth, Chelsea fall short in the FA Cup final, losing 2-1 to Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring twice while Matteo Kovacic is sent off. Chelsea fail to recover from injuries to captain CÃ©sar Azpilicueta and goalscorer Christian Pulisic. “It all came together for us today: two hamstrings, a dislocated shoulder, says Lampard. “It’s the end of a long, long season and it was the tipping point for us.
- 4 September 2020 Big money, bigger expectations
Kai Havertz is signed from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of Â£89m, the most expensive signing of a Â£222m summer spree. Lampards successes the previous season had been achieved despite a transfer embargo, but Havertz and Â£47.5m forward Timo Werner struggle to adapt. “It’s not an easy transition to this league, says Lampard in January. “I think people that question them should give them time.
- 19 January 2021 Foxes failure marks beginning of the end
A comprehensive 2-0 defeat at Leicester is Chelseas fifth in eight Premier League matches as they tumble out of the title race. Lampard, as has been his recent practice, suggests his players carry significant blame. There are players who are not playing as well as they should be, he says. They are the only ones who can deal with that. How you handle setbacks is what defines you. Victory over Luton in the FA Cup is not enough to save Lampard, who is sacked on 25 January.
Timeline by John Brewin
So much for the good news. There is also plenty that will be picked away at and used to beat him with. Tuchel does not suffer fools, speaks brusquely at times, and has some quirks: no use of surnames, and an insistence players look into each others eyes while saying good morning; an obsession with good manners and punctuality. There is plenty to work on here if, or indeed when, things start to go bad.
For now, should he get the job, he has a blank slate: a hugely powerful squad, a natural tactical fit with some key players, and even the added benefit of an empty stadium into which to ease his awkward frame. Over to you, the anti-Frank.