According to the Thomas Tuchel playbook, managing a football team is “something you need to learn and understand, not a thing you do because there’s nothing else left or because it seems like the logical next step after 400 professional matches”. Tuchel wasn’t talking about Frank Lampard when he said these words.
Although it would surely make his likely arrival at Stamford Bridge a little spicier if he could rehash this statement for his opening remarks at the unveiling-station – ideally while wagging his finger and brandishing his economics diploma, his youth coaching medals, and all the other evidence of a coaching hinterland, a life spent outside the inner circle, that separates him from his immediate predecessor.
What does seem certain is that should Chelsea end up recruiting Tuchel they will, by accident or design, have landed on a kind of anti-Lampard. Exit one underqualified celebrity appointment. Enter the gangling Bavarian uber-nerd, tactical modernist and obsessively-minded details coach, a man whose stated hobbies include nights in drinking orange spritzer and “an interest in furniture design”.
All managerial hires tend to oscillate between extremes to some degree. Lampard is a superstar. Tuchel was no kind of player at all. Lampard was already being touted around as a manager by his uncle before he’d even taken his first steps. Tuchel believes in coaching and management as a kind of vocation, something to learn and understand, an intellectual discipline as much as a function of status and personality.
And yes, it is already possible to hear the knives being sharpened, Lampard’s friends in the media taking pre-umbrage at the presence of this outsider, who has already upset a few people along the way and seems certain to have his early collisions and wrong turns.
But there is plenty of good sense too in this pivot towards a Tuchel-type figure. Where Lampard was a tactical blank, a manager still working out how he wants his teams to look, Tuchel is very clearly associated with a way of playing, with direct links to the current hot headliners of the German school of gegenpressing, rapid transition and all the rest. Another point of contrast: Tuchel is demonstrably qualified to do the job. In fact he is an upgrade on pretty much every professional level, with the exception of one key quality: he isn’t Frank. And this kind of thing really does matter at Chelsea.
Lampard’s sacking may have arrived with startling speed, the executioner’s block wheeled into place with that familiar brutal efficiency, but it was, in the end, a victory for the circle of life. continue reading