Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel extension gives new hope for an empire

PORTO, PORTUGAL - MAY 29: Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel lifts the Champions League trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)
PORTO, PORTUGAL - MAY 29: Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel lifts the Champions League trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

When Thomas Tuchel signed for Chelsea, he was given just 18 months on his contract. Given the Blues supposedly reached out to Julian Nagelsmann and Ralf Rangnick (as an interim) first, a mere 18 months for Tuchel made him, in effect, a super interim manager. If things went horribly wrong, or even if old issues that saw Tuchel depart Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain arose once again, the Blues had an easy out. If things went well, an extension would be a simple matter.

Things went well. Very well in fact. While top four wasn’t as out of the question as many want it to be made in hindsight, Tuchel’s Blues still put in a Herculean effort to arrive in top four. But the true labor came in the Champions League where the Blues soundly won the competition for the second time. Now, Tuchel has gone from super interim to potential “the one” to build an empire at Chelsea.

Of course, that feeling isn’t a new one. Long ago when some of us were more innocent, Antonio Conte looked like “the one”. The plan for his empire was carefully laid out in not one, not two, but three parts. But that quickly fell apart, as it often does at Chelsea, in about one winter month. Fast forward to present day and Tuchel seems like the new man to build something at Chelsea. He will be fighting against history (and, potentially his own tendencies/and the board based on his last two clubs), but the feeling now is a hopeful one. And the plan is largely the same as well.

The first step is half done already with Tuchel’s extension. The other half of step one is the one Chelsea tends to mess up the most after success. The Blues have to back Tuchel in the market. That means if he wants a player, get that player. Not a bargain bin or county fair version of that player. And don’t make luxury signings that the manager didn’t ask for at the expense of players they did ask for. That was an issue just one year ago and perhaps things would have been different for Frank Lampard had he been listened to more closely. That, however, is the past and now the board can’t make the same mistake with Tuchel that they made with every manager bar one (fill in the blank yourself) since the last Champions League win.

Step two is also half done. Rewind back to 2017 and the loan army and academy pipeline was near nonexistent. Antonio Conte did better with it than given credit for, but in light of Frank Lampard, the standards have changed. Tuchel can be excused given he joined midseason with the task of turning fortunes around, but next season the pipeline has to be present once again. Not necessarily to Lampard’s levels, but not closed off either.

In this, Tuchel does seem to be on the right track. Rumors of Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher being given a preseason look are promising. Tuchel’s historically had a good record with youth too. Look no further than Christian Pulisic for evidence of that. Where Tuchel can’t get his signings next season, he should be looking at who Chelsea already has to fill the gaps (temporarily or otherwise).

The last part is somewhat tricky. Years ago, the comparison was made to be more like Sir Alex Ferguson, not like Arsene Wenger. Adapt to the squad and changes in tactics over time instead of being slogged down by “the right way to play” nonsense. Have a philosophy that doesn’t bend, but find better ways to make the execution of that philosophy work.

Tuchel hasn’t had much need of that so far at Chelsea. The most radical he’s been is going to a 3-5-2 from his 3-4-3 or into a 4-2-4 late to try to get a winner. At Paris Saint-Germain (and a lesser extent in Germany), Tuchel nearly constantly tinkered with his formations and ideas to get the best out of the players.

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That’s something that needs to continue. The game changes more rapidly now than it did when Ferguson or Wenger were in their primes. 3-4-3 worked wonders this season but, should it stall next season, Tuchel can’t be afraid to go another way. In fact, the modern game demands that sort of adaptation. Anything less and you’re Jose Mourinho at Roma after failed stints at Tottenham and Manchester United.

There is one final part to the third step. One that Chelsea has gotten better about since the last Champions League win, but one that they still aren’t perfect with. Patience when things aren’t so swell.

Neither Manchester City nor Liverpool became what they are now without patience. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have both had bad spells in charge of their clubs that, if at Chelsea, likely would have seen them sacked. Chelsea has a very bad habit of taking a bad month and using that as evidence for an entire tenure of management. It happened to Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, and Frank Lampard. The margins in the Premier League are slim and not all bad months are created equal, but one bad month should not be held higher than the entire rest of the tenure.

Many of the foundations for an empire are already laid for Tuchel. The ones that aren’t won’t take much work at all. More than anything, the club simply needs to be pointing in the same direction as Tuchel and be willing to go through the storm to get to a better place on the other side.

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Other managers haven’t been able to do so for whatever reason. Chelsea shouldn’t make the mistake with Tuchel.