Well, it happened. After just over a month of pressure, beginning with that 1-0 loss to Everton and culminating with a 2-0 loss to Leicester, it is done. The Frank Lampard era at Chelsea is over, before it even really got going—it’s now Thomas Tuchel time. Make no mistake about it, it is a sad week for the club. A sad time for fans who desperately wanted Lampard to succeed, an upsetting time for a board who thought they did too and above all else, a sad day for the man himself. It seemed too good to be true right from the off, and it turned out it was. Let’s first dive into the transition of power before understanding why the new manager is the wrong choice.
The 3-1 victory over Luton Town may seem a strange final entry in the Lampard diaries, yet perhaps it serves as a decent summation of the legend’s tenure: a win with wonderful moments upended by individual errors and a vague dissatisfaction despite the result. At times, the results were wonderful—throughout Lampard’s reign—but too often they were inconsistent, too often they looked lost moments after appearing imperious and too often they were found wanting, then promptly found out. In reality, it was not this result that sealed Lampard’s fate, nor was it the demeaning 3-1 loss to Manchester City that opened the year. It was that Boxing Day loss to Mikel Arteta’s dazed and confused Arsenal side that really twisted the knife. That was the nadir, a month of festive misery capped off with a catastrophic display against a confounding side of misfits. Beaten by two left backs, that’s the Lampard way—or so the doubters will say.
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In truth, it’s hard to judge the man. An impressive, youth-fueled debut season garnered enough favor to warrant a cash-fueled summer, which warranted wins that never really came. It’s hard to say just how badly the current global climate has hindered his regime, except to say that it has, but not as badly as others. It’s equally hard to say how much he’s to blame for the stuttering starts of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, except to say that he never seemed to properly understand either of their games. When it’s all said and done, when club politics and precedence are put to the background and some hindsight is had, it is his handling of those two Germans that will define his downfall. They didn’t help him, but he never helped them, and his inability to nail down either of their positions is a telling fact in his ultimately futile attempts to coalesce this fresh-faced team into a cohesive unit.
This brings us to the man of the hour, Tuchel. It’s almost impossible to see past the fate and fortunes of Havertz and Werner when considering the choice of Tuchel as Lampard’s successor. On the one hand, it makes sense that one of Germany’s finest should be charged with getting a tune out of two of the country’s finest prodigies. Add to that his experience of manifesting method in the midst of a maddeningly attack-heavy Paris Saint-Germain side, and it’s clear what the Blues board wants out of its next boss.
It is tired of Lampard’s tactical clumsiness, tired of his nascent naivety and think Tuchel’s the best remedy. The hierarchy wants an attacking identity, not an empty attack, but is he the best man for that job? His use of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s pace at Borussia Dortmund, with Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele alongside, might suggest so. Should he replicate the Gabon striker’s record of 56 goals in 63 league appearances under his tutelage with a certain Werner, then he most certainly will have fulfilled the mandate. He’s equally famous for his overtly combustible relationships with staff, bosses and players alike though. Tuchel pulls no punches, and at a club known for always throwing the first punch, that seems a recipe made for inevitable disaster. Of course, at Chelsea, that’s practically a given at this point.
No Blues boss has lasted for longer than two years since you know who back in 2007. The lasting wounds from this famed short-term-ism have been evidenced all throughout this decade, despite the relative success. The mishandling—and in some cases miscasting—of Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and now Lampard will only serve to dissuade future coaches from daring to dream of success at Stamford Bridge.
Yes, Lampard was out of his depth at this level, but he matched that with a profound—and untarnished—relationship with supporters. Tuchel, like Sarri before him, seems destined to strike a far more dissonant chord where that is concerned, almost regardless of general success. Which makes his appointment an altogether strange, if not surprising, occurrence. As previously argued, his successor at PSG, Mauricio Pochettino, seems far a better fit in such testing times, as might Julian Nagelsmann. At differing ends of the spectrum, both feel like higher upside options than the ex-Dortmund man. Of course, it was too late for Poch and maybe too early for Nagelsmann, but that doesn’t make the timing of Tuchel’s appointment right either. It’s somewhere in the middle, a fence-sitting compromise, that leaves few happy on either side.
What do you make of Tuchel’s appointment? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!