Two months ago today, the face of Chelsea was transformed.
The inevitability of Frank Lampard’s sacking had been confirmed, and while Chelsea fans were mourning, the board was already executing their hastily yet expertly compiled replacement plan.
Just 30 hours after one manager had been forced through the door, another one was already coming through.
Thomas Tuchel, the serial-winning, decorated German manager was the man chosen to guide Chelsea back to where they belonged. Sitting ninth in the Premier League with five defeats in their last eight, the former Paris Saint-Germain man had a big job on his hands – yet an opportunity he simply could not turn down.
It was hard for Chelsea fans to know what to expect, relying on previous interviews and anecdotes to get a glimpse into their new manager. Tuchel’s first press conference at Cobham certainly set the standards high, his winning mentality and clear vision shining through almost instantly.
Just 24 hours after his arrival, Tuchel was thrown into the deep end, with his first game as manager against Wolves.
Fourteen matches later, Chelsea are yet to be defeated under Tuchel.
The unbeaten run is a magnificent feat for the 47-year-old, who already holds the record for the longest unbeaten start for a new manager in the club’s history. It is no surprise either that he has back-to-back nominations for Premier League Manager of the Month, despite only being in England for two full months.
But, to understand how he did it, you have to understand the man himself.
There are two Tuchels: the leader and the orator. The leader is who we see on the touchlines, barking orders in three different languages and always demanding more from his players. The orator is who we see in the media, always graceful and intriguing to listen to in press conferences and interviews.
Seeing Tuchel up close in the dugout has been a privilege, not only due to the current nature of games being played behind closed doors, but because there is so much to analyse. He arrived at Chelsea as a closed book, but the more we have seen of him, the more pages we are able to read about this German genius.
Tuchel will often start the game off quietly, observing the match and getting a feel for it. You can almost hear his brain whirring, thinking of the next tactical move or what he must adapt in order to win, scattered in with the occasional word to assistant Zsolt Löw.
But it does not take long to burst into life.
He feels every pass, move and shot, so animated on the touchline that you could be mistaken for seeing him as the 12th man. In many ways, he is, playing the role of the absent 40,000-strong Stamford Bridge faithful. He is responsible for motivating his players, keeping them focused on the task on hand.
Tuchel oozes passion, always full of energy throughout the 90 minutes. Whether he is telling Callum Hudson-Odoi to tuck in out wide, shouting at Timo Werner in German or talking to N’Golo Kanté in French, he has that understanding with his players, even without the universal language of football.
He is enthusiastic, charismatic and passionate on the touchline, often unable to sit still like an impatient toddler. Tuchel is his own character, but he is like the perfect fusion of Chelsea managers gone.
The passion of Antonio Conte, the pragmatism of José Mourinho, the tactical knowledge of Maurizio Sarri. It is as if someone has taken the best traits of Blues predecessors, blended them together and created an Übermensch Friedrich Nietzsche would be proud of.
If he is a fascinating man on the pitch, he is even more captivating off it.
Attending Tuchel’s press conferences is not like an interview, but a conversation with a football genius. He can make the most mundane topic a headline grabber, whether it be explaining his attacking philosophy or self-evaluating his flexible tactics. Having been to a series of his press conferences, you cannot help but be enchanted and engrossed.
Tuchel is a joy to listen to and conversate with, and that is thanks to his transparency. He speaks openly and honestly, with such genuineness and humility that you realise you are speaking not to the manager of Chelsea Football Club, but to Thomas.
Interviews can often be tedious as a result of the rigorous media training involved in the game, but that is not the case for Tuchel. He is charming in conversation, but professional in demeanour, a real breath of fresh air in the English game.
When comprehending Tuchel the leader and Tuchel the orator, it is clear to see the impact he has had on Chelsea.
The Blues are a transformed team, finally playing for the badge again and driven for success. They are fast approaching the heights of their 17-game unbeaten run under Lampard, just two games away from equalling it when including the 3-1 win against Luton Town.
However, this time it is even more commendable.
Going unbeaten for so long is always an achievement, but when you look at Chelsea’s opponents over that period, one can only congratulate them.
Atlético Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur. All have tried, and failed, to defeat Tuchel’s Chelsea, with none of them even mustering a goal.
To be two months into his tenure and yet to lose a single game is astounding, not to mention conceding just twice – one of them a freak own goal from Antonio Rüdiger.
Tuchel could not have endured a better start to life at Chelsea, guiding them back into the top four, reaching their first Champions League quarter-final since 2014 and qualifying for yet another FA Cup semi-final. The German faced the biggest challenge of his career so far, and he is currently passing all tests with flying colours.
The first two months have been perfect, but what about the next two?
Chelsea know that the season is far from over, and as they continue the fight across three competitions going into Spring, this final strait will be as crucial as ever.
With nine games to go, the Blues are sitting two points clear in the top four, just six points off second. Four of their next five opponents are teams in the bottom half of the table, before a tough quartet of fixtures to conclude the Premier League season.
Tuchel will be looking to become the eighth Chelsea manager to reach the FA Cup Final in his debut season, though it will be tough against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the semi-final. An intriguing managerial battle under the Wembley arch, it is set to be a mouth-watering tie on 17th April.
Perhaps most important of all, could Chelsea go all the way in the Champions League?
The Blues know all about winning Europe’s premier club competition as the underdogs, and with the quarter-final against FC Porto coming up next month, Chelsea are within touching distance of the final four. To be in this situation just goes to show what a job Tuchel has done, still on course for silverware this season.
Tuchel’s maiden two months have been a real success, on and off the pitch. From remaining unbeaten to enchanting the Chelsea fanbase, the German has grabbed the Blues by the scruff of their neck and moulded them into a force to reckon with.
For Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea, the best is yet to come.
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