It’s no secret that top managers in today’s game are hard to come by—the best even more rare. Individuals like Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane all come to mind, but only the latter has a lot of success in European competitions lately. There’s a reason why Manchester City brought in Guardiola, why Conte’s job is in jeopardy and why Paris Saint-Germain fired now-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel; teams want the UCL trophy and nothing less.
There are no guarantees in Europe’s premier competition, which is why managers like Hansi Flick and Jurgen Klopp can out-coach the heavyweights on their way to titles. However, having an experienced manager in the Champions League always helps. Chelsea has lacked that European familiarity in recent years. This inexperience may be a key reason why the Blues have struggled to go deep into the competition since winning it in 2012. Luckily, that trait is no longer something Chelsea has to worry about. The Blues now have a manager in Tuchel who has crucial experience in the world’s biggest club competition.
Tuchel has managed four different Champions League campaigns with two different clubs: Dortmund and PSG. During his debut season in the competition, 2016/17, Tuchel’s Dortmund advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by that famous Monaco side that contained the likes of Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and Kylian Mbappe, amongst others. During that season, Dortmund topped its group—which included Real Madrid, who later went on to win the competition—with 14 points across six games. Tuchel’s sophomore showing in the UCL saw his Parisian squad controversially knocked out in the Round of 16 as VAR assisted, you guessed it, Manchester United. This is Tuchel’s worst season in the competition to date.
The next year, Tuchel orchestrated a truly historic UCL run with PSG. His side came as close as physically possible to European glory when PSG finished as the runner-up to Bayern Munich. The Parisians played Bayern tough in a game that ended 1-0. It was truly a tactical masterclass from Tuchel as his French side came closer to beating the Germans—who went on to win six trophies in a single campaign—than any other club in Europe. Lastly, Tuchel managed PSG into the Round of 16 this season before being sacked in late December.
It’s easy to see that Tuchel has a fantastic track record in Europe and the Blues certainly need an individual with that experience. Chelsea hasn’t had a manager of that pedigree since Mourinho’s second stint in charge. Conte’s got a history of falling flat in the UCL, Maurizio Sarri hadn’t won any trophies before coming to west London and Frank Lampard was just in his second and third seasons of management. Tuchel’s CV is undoubtedly one trait that made the Blues’ board fall in love with him just a month ago.
Chelsea has struggled heavily in the Champions League since winning the competition back in 2012. The Blues have won two Europa League titles in that span—in 2013 and 2019—but failed to reach the quarterfinals since the 2013/14 season. The club needs a proven and experienced leader and tactician to lead it forward. If there is a season in which the Blues have as good an opportunity as any to go deep into the UCL, it’s this year. Tuchel’s presence will hopefully be felt from the moment the Blues take the pitch on Tuesday against Atletico Madrid. Aside from Mateo Kovacic and Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea largely lacks individuals with much experience in the Champions League. This makes the roles of those individuals that much more important.
Experience isn’t everything, but some knowledge and familiarity with situations certainly go a long way in easing the mind of the competition’s youngsters. Chelsea will have a powerful individual in its corner for this year’s tournament, and that’s not something many clubs can claim.