When Thomas Tuchel was jetted in from Paris to replace Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge hotseat, there’s no doubt that the German manager had his sceptics. Most pundits and punters questioned whether he was really the man who could get Chelsea out of their rut, and many assumed he would be a short-term option with not much availability elsewhere in the middle of the season.
To be fair, that was reflected in the Chelsea hierarchy awarding Tuchel, who was brutally sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve, with just an 18-month contract. Not exactly a show of confidence in their new gaffer. But who can blame them? There’s been a revolving door of managers in the Roman Abramovich era and hundreds of millions have been spent upon their dismissals.
However, unless something goes horribly wrong between now and the end of the season, Tuchel has arguably already done enough to prove his worth to the Chelsea chiefs, who need to start thinking about Tuchel’s future at the club this summer as his contract enters its final 12 months.
With just one defeat in 12 league games since taking over in January, the former Borussia Dortmund boss has made Chelsea much more favourable in the English Premier League winner odds, and even though the Blues are still lurking just outside the top four, you’d have to fancy their chances of securing a Champions League spot over the course of their remaining seven games.
Of course, getting Chelsea to the semi-final of the Champions League is also a top achievement. The west London side were expected to exit the European competition to Atlético Madrid in the last 16. However, Diego Simeone’s side weren’t even given a glimmer of progression by a dogged, well-drilled Chelsea side, who won 3-0 on aggregate.
When drawn against Porto in the quarter-finals, the west Londoners would have been confident of making the semi-finals, and whilst it wasn’t the best 180 minutes of football, especially compared to the rip-roaring clashes between PSG and Bayern Munich, Chelsea were able to grind out the result across the two legs, and fans of the club will be having serious flashbacks from 2012, when they won their maiden Champions League title.
Tuchel was left licking his wounds last August when PSG lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon. Former Parisian Kingsley Coman scored the only goal of the match to deny the Ligue 1 side from lifting the trophy that they have craved since the big money investments were injected at the Parc des Princes.
Ultimately, Tuchel paid the price as he was sacked less than six months later. That defeat clearly took its toll on his side and he was unable to fix their morale. Luckily for the German, failure to win the Champions League this year is unlikely to end in the same dire circumstances. In fact, a trophyless season in general still wouldn’t spell the end of his time at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel was brought in to steady the ship and get Chelsea’s season back on track, and he has done just that. The 1-0 defeat to Porto in the second leg of the quarter-finals was just their second defeat in the 18 matches since he took over, and the side have reached the semi-final stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2014. It’s hard to imagine we’d be saying the same thing had Lampard still been in charge.
Whilst the 18-month contract was a precautionary measure, one to make sure that Tuchel was well equipped for the challenges of the Premier League and so on, he has certainly proved his worth to the Chelsea chiefs.
Unless he wins a trophy this season, he might not be rewarded with a new contract straight away this summer, as the hierarchy might hold off to see how he fares when tasked with a full season in charge. However, should Chelsea get off to a good start next campaign, he will reap the rewards.