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Roman Abramovich Has Reminded Rivals Who Chelsea Are With Brutal Thomas Tuchel Decision

The 25th January 2021 will always feel like a seminal day in Chelsea’s history.

For some, that day will be looked back on with sadness, others relief – but it began a process of Chelsea quickly rediscovering who they were and what the club’s ownership actually wanted from the current head coach.

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Sacking Frank Lampard in pure isolation might have felt justified or unjustified depending on where you sat back in late January, however casting a wider view, it was probably the clearest decision the club had made in some time. It always feels a little naïve to fully sell the idea of stability at Stamford Bridge given Chelsea’s famed ability to fall into chaos within mere weeks.

But since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel in January there is a clearer idea of what the club wants to be, which certainly was not the case in the years preceding with Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard.

It was only 12 months ago Chelsea were coming off the back of a massive summer expenditure under the leadership of Lampard and supporters were enthused.

The major deals for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell had all given a sense that after several years of transfer disappointment, the club were finally backing a manager. There were press briefings of a ‘three-year plan’ in which the club would aim to use a youthful squad to take Blues close to the Premier League title within a couple of years.

Even with some early season stumbles, Lampard had taken Chelsea to the summit of the Premier League by the first week of December after a morale-boosting win over Leeds United.

Everything seemed positive on the west London front, and the club looked stronger than it had domestically in several years following a 17-game unbeaten run. Within six weeks, Lampard’s job was under pressure, Chelsea had plummeted to eighth after a run of disappointing defeats to Everton, Wolves and Arsenal.

The insipid performance at the King Power Stadium in a 2-0 defeat to Leicester was the final straw and Lampard was gone within days.

Tuchel arrived and it was the beginning of a new direction with a fresh voice. For some this was inspiring, others dispiriting given the connection to a club icon. Though even with the brutality of Lampard’s dismissal, a summer exodus of promising young talent and some other grumbles, it is undeniable the German’s arrival has transformed the club completely.

A Champions League triumph in Porto is the ultimate demonstration of the dramatic turn-around within four months under Tuchel, but the layers under that climatic triumph are as telling in the direction Chelsea is headed.

Under Sarri and Lampard, Roman Abramovich made two appointments that were the complete opposite profile of head coach he had regularly gone with. Sarri was a coach defined by his unique style of play in Naples, without a glittering CV adorned with the game’s biggest trophies. Lampard was a club legend – yes. But a rookie coach whose whole regime was defined by the shattering of the glass ceiling for the club’s next generation.

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Both the end goals behind Sarri and Lampard’s tenures were admirable and gained support from sections of supporters for their methods. Though inevitably, they both fell short of their end goals because the core culture at Chelsea ran in opposition to them.

Patience is in short commodity in SW6 and expectations are ridiculously high following the incredible haul of silverware since 2003. For both to succeed, the club either needed to communicate the desired change in expectation or put in a clearer structure behind those left-field appointments to cultivate an environment best suited to them.

In both cases, this simply did not happen. Reports following Lampard’s dismissal made it pretty clear not only that the Legend fell short of the required standards, but even his work to retain Champions League football with a transfer ban was the bare minimum.

Tuchel has sounded, acted and performed like a coach more suited to the high-pressure environment that is Chelsea. An early comment from an interview with BT Sport endeared him to supporters when he joked in response to his 18-month contract back in February.

“If I’m good, if they like what I’m doing they will make me stay. If I don’t have results, if they don’t like me they will sack me anyway. I can have a five years contract, they will sack me. So why worry about it?”

That sense of honesty and humility was well received by Chelsea fans, and Tuchel has not put a foot wrong since when speaking about the club. I doubt Chelsea’s PR department could have wished for a better spokesperson, rarely falling into traps set in press conferences other have before him, and openly speaking about the game in such an intelligent way that enlightens fans to his thought process.

It also majorly helps Tuchel is one of the best tactical minds currently working in the game, and the way he took Chelsea to the Champions League triumph in four months proved that. Rivals may look at the Tuchel example as something worth replicating at their clubs, but Tuchel is the key ingredient here – not just change. The numbers prove Tuchel is doing things several coaches at Chelsea over the past seven years have failed to do.

Now the aim for Tuchel is to win the Premier League – the £98m signing of Romelu Lukaku at the age of 28 indicates a signing made for now and not the future. Tuchel understands the pressure and is probably fully aware his heroics in Porto creates a rod for his own back down the line, given it fully justified to the swift sacking of Lampard before him.

Though Chelsea feels like a clearer club now in what they want – meaning supporters do not need to waste time theorising about projects that don’t exist and instead just focus on the present, because things can change very quickly at Stamford Bridge.

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