In the early weeks of Thomas Tuchel’s reign as Chelsea’s head coach, it did not take long for pieces to emerge proclaiming how transformed the club was by the German’s presence. How refreshed the players felt by his methods, how involved previously discarded talent were, and the feeling of unity and excitement led to better performances on the pitch.
There was no denying these things actually happened. One of Tuchel’s shrewdest first acts was to reintegrate senior players who had allegedly felt marginalised under Frank Lampard. Chelsea had a new energy, and they looked galvanised and robust. The opening five months led up to the Champions League triumph, which included the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho, all of whom were not certs in the lineup before Tuchel’s appointment.
Tuchel’s squad management appeared near flawless, consistently able to rotate smartly not only for the team’s benefit but in order to share minutes around. A Champions League win of that nature does not come about by mere fortune. The players clearly were taken by Tuchel’s methods and were willing to follow his tactics to the letter.
But as his time progressed, new signings came in, and different problems emerged, leading to that buy-in dwindling. Chelsea did not look as consistently unified as they once had. By the time he was dismissed on Wednesday, it had again been reported how players felt marginalised and forgotten if they were not regular starters under Tuchel. Does that sound familiar?
Even in the early days of the Graham Potter era, we again are hearing about a refreshing dynamic, an open line of communication between the coach and players. I am sure if results pick up again, we will hear about how players feel refreshed by a different voice. Football is cyclical. It is hard sometimes to take these briefings overly seriously if you step outside of The Matrix and have a memory beyond the past six weeks.
Potter seems like an emotional intelligent character, one whose whole career up until this point has showcased a coach who is able to engage with his players personally . This is not a dig at the 47-year-old or the positive methods he could bring to Chelsea. It just feels like a consistent circle of similar trends, specifically in the Chelsea dressing room, that have dragged a number of coaches down.
Why doesn’t this stuff happen at Liverpool or Manchester City? Well, they are winning, of course. But even if you are winning, that does not eradicate frustration from those not playing. It seems more important at those clubs that the head coach is empowered. Their influence has become as important as those on the pitch.
They are the constant, the ones who have so carefully shaped the vision and direction coming up to a decade. Emma Hayes is probably as good of an example as any to Todd Boehly should he see Potter as a long-term appointment.
Hayes’ squad has been one defined by its constant evolution, never halting to keep players who either did not meet the high standards set or wait to upgrade in key areas whilst rivals strengthened. Mikel Arteta probably is a more realistic reference point, given he still is a young coach with questions to answer, but one who has clearly been empowered in his ability to root out and replace players who were not fully committed to his approach.
Not all of those calls were universally popular at the time, but look at the unity now, and the command Arteta has over his squad. Boehly and the new hierarchy need to continue the good work they already have done in letting go of the past or players who do not suit the current vision.
That is probably one of the only ways to get out of the consistent cycle of players being quickly inspired before dipping again.