Chelsea is one of the only clubs in the world who could make the new Tactics and Transfer’s bi-weekly schedule seem like some sort of ridiculously slow mistake. Two weeks ago in this very column, I suggested that it would be a mistake to fire Frank Lampard. I still believe that it was a mistake for the club to do so. The fact the Blues have hired Thomas Tuchel—who is an excellent tactician and manager in the mould of modern, young, cerebral managers that Roman Abramovich has gravitated since he first hired Mourinho Mach I—has very little to do with it.
Should Chelsea have fired Frank? No, but is Tuchel the right choice right now post-firing to move forward? Yes. Tuchel is a good manager who is detail oriented and most of all, pragmatic. For all the lies that Chelsea managers, fans and players tell themselves about anything else mattering at Stamford Bridge, they’re lying and they know it.
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Chelsea Football Club is all about winning. It’s not about losing in style, it’s not about good ideas gone wrong or cute sweetie-pie sentiment. Chelsea Football Club has one rule and that rule is simple, much like the Raiders under their famous owner Al Davis: “Just win baby.”
In a way, I understand it and it has benefitted Chelsea a great deal to have a man as ruthless as Roman Abramovich at the helm. He has changed the club to its core and I can testify to that, having been around to see a short cycle of the before and after effects of him. I’ve always said that my personal goal for the Blues is that they win every single game. I loathe losing and the point of sports is to win not to exercise while running in patterns with other men in similar clothing.
The point is to win everything all the time. Not some games, not most of them—every game. When the team has finished a season with a title and 114 points, the Champions League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, so you will have needed to do it a minimum of two years in a row, only then is that enough winning. When other teams have disbanded and said “let’s play basketball”, then that will be enough winning. I would have gone about it differently, but I don’t own the club and Roman certainly does set an impressive standard.
That said, my heart is bleeding for Lampard and what could have been, had he been allowed to learn and build a side in his image like Sir Alex did with his rough first three years at Manchester United before his side really took shape. That though is not Chelsea under Abramovich—and it never will be. Huge sides with sky-high expectations in literally every single match have been known to fire their managers.
Real Madrid has a history of being trigger happy, it fired Vincent Del Bosque on the back of winning a Champions League because he didn’t win it by enough. Yes, World Cup winning Vincente Del Bosque. Both the Milan sides are known for it, as well. Stability at manager isn’t exactly always the norm at clubs that win the most. Arsenal kept Arsene Wenger, one of the greatest coaches in history, and didn’t do anything useful for a decade.
The truth is, I wonder if there’s a chance this firing does have a good impact on the youth players who were coming up under Lampard. This should show them exactly what the standard is. It’s adorable that we can say they’ve been around since Under-8s and all, but if someone thought there was going to be any doubt what choice would be made between sentiment and victory, this will have cleared that up very quickly. It doesn’t matter how important you are to the history of the club, what your name means or how much the supporters love you. At Chelsea Football Club, your job is to win. Win every single game in every single competition, every single year. Eight bad games could lose you your job and you could be Jose Mourinho, Frank Lampard or Carlo Ancelotti. You could be the greatest manager in the history of the Champions League or you could be simply a World Cup winner—your history carries literally no weight at Chelsea.
The Blues have spent roughly £112.5 million firing managers. They could have bought Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale for that much money, but they have spent it simply on people they don’t think are good enough. This will show the players exactly what is expected of them. It makes me sad that Frank is gone, but that’s really the only positive way to spin it. He was my idol for a huge portion of my childhood and I do think that it would have worked out had he stayed, but that’s football. More importantly, that’s Chelsea.
It’s not enough to be decent or even good, at Stamford Bridge, you need to be obviously excellent. To everyone throughout the entire structure of the club, in every way, and certainly the man who sits at the top of it. Otherwise, you’re gone. That rule extends to everyone, even the one, the only and the mighty Frank Lampard. If that doesn’t show the youth players exactly the standard that is to be expected of them then nothing will, and they won’t stay at Chelsea long either. It’s that simple.
There is but one rule and one rule only at Stamford Bridge: “Just Win, Baby.”