“After the final whistle, Tuchel smiled and the sadness of last season’s defeat against Bayern Munich was laid to rest once and for all.  In Porto, Tuchel stood among the litter of blue and silver glitter as a winner, the mastermind of a triumph that writes his name in Chelsea history”

 

When the UEFA Champions League of the new season started almost a year ago, Chelsea were not even considered as one of the top sides in Europe let alone the title contenders. The situation under Frank Lampard was getting worse and the Blues sacked one of their legends – it was a familiar scenario at Stamford Bridge and while changes were taking place in London, back in Paris, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) sacked Thomas Tuchel and a few days later, the German took the charge of a wrecked ship known as Chelsea and ended up creating history.

In January, after being appointed as the coach, Tuchel wanted to return them to next season’s Champions League via a top-four Premier League finish. The notion that he might actually win the title was ludicrous – well, it was, because, for a club, that lacking self-belief, the mentality of a champion and ideal combination; can never stand a chance against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Liverpool – to win any of the showpiece events, first of all, the mental aspect of the game is much needed – a team needs to think about winning every time and that is where Tuchel started to push harder.

Tuchel is someone who is extremely attentive to the details.

“We were in a training camp in Austria and had a match against Olympiakos. Thomas was looking closely at the lawn. He was measuring the height, sniffing the grass. He was so thrilled about this pitch that he wanted me to transfer the groundsman to Mainz. The next day the groundsman called me and said: ‘I heard that we’re going to have some talks about a contract.’ The deal didn’t happen but it shows what a perfectionist he is,” said Christain Heidel, the sporting director of Mainz, to the Guardian in an interview.

“He thinks about football 24-7,” Heidel said.

“Every training has to be perfect. He plays the game in his head beforehand. He needs everything to go according to plan, especially tactical discipline – where the players are standing, where they have to go. This makes it very hard to play against teams coached by Thomas.”

“It’s important for Thomas to be part of all the decisions,” Heidel says. “He’s not the type of coach where you can give him 10 to 12 players and say: ‘Roll with that.’ Everybody is lucky that he usually wins more games than he loses. If there is a loss, it’s almost like physical pain. He’s very emotional. He can blow up at players because he’s so eager to win. But he’s also someone who will hug them afterwards.”

Hans Komm, who taught PE at the German’s Simpert-Kraemer high school, “You could see it when he swapped the players on his team around during a volleyball lesson in order to win,” Komm says. “He showed great discipline when there was an important goal to achieve. I never saw him drink alcohol. He was very friendly. But he sometimes talked to his friends in the last row or had to be told off when he juggled the volleyball with his foot.”

The mentor of Tuchel Hermann Badstuber said, “He built a very tight relationship with the players. It felt like not just a player-coach relationship. We were like brothers. Other players felt it – Mario Gómez, Sami Khedira, Adam Szalai.”

“He appreciates people who are willing to suffer. Then he feeds you with information and energy. You don’t get sweets from him just because you are nice. You have to do something for compliments. He once said: ‘The moment I don’t criticize you, you know something is wrong.’

Tuchel was taught by Erich Rutemoller, the former head of training for aspiring coaches at the German Football Association. “He understood the science of training, sports medicine, physiology and psychology,” Rutemoller says. “He was already a very good student. He was pretty quiet. He was watching and listening. And he was smart. He knew what to do and how to get along with different participants. But he was not the big guy in the lectures.”

“For years I used it in my course as an example of tactical thinking,” Rutemöller says. “It was a kind of 4-3-1-2 and it was very interesting. He had a plan in offence and defence.”

“He was clever enough to say: ‘I will do this for poor money, but you have to support me in my education as a coach,’ according to Rettig.

“He did not have the full Uefa licence. We made an agreement. It was six and a half months in Cologne. It was very demanding on him, but he wanted to invest in his education.”

“It was not a question of money for him. It was a question of ambition. He wanted to win. He did not think about saving a few Euros by being calmer.”

Indeed, his passion, thinking and winning mentality were transmitted in the brain-and-heart of the players of Chelsea who could realize what Tuchel wanted from the players – build the habit of winning and that would open the path towards glory.

After less than five months or so, each and everyone can claim that Tuchel is the main architect behind this Blue revolution.

He faced Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone, Jose Mourinho and Zinedine Zidane this season, and he did not lose against any of these top coaches, rather conceded just two goals.

Since arriving at Stamford Bridge, he seemed to have the edge over Pep and studied him better than anyone in Europe.

It was surprising to witness the starting XI of City who excluded Fernandinho – the stabilizing factor in the midfield, who shields the high backline and the inclusion of Raheem Sterling toned down the rhythm totally. Kevin de Bruyne’s role as a deep-striker was understandable, but the sluggishness of Sterling made them suffer.

Rodri and Fernandinho have figured in 60 out of 61 games for City this season, either individually or as a pair – why change the strategy?

The starting XI of City simply helped Tuchel to squeeze them throughout the match.

Tuchel was needed to exploit the spaces and also, pressurize their attackers by closing the gaps.

Putting the combative, edgy Antonio Rudiger back into the heart of defence and playing N’Golo Kante in the midfield position where he operates to such a world-class game-changing effect, was the first thing Tuchel did since arriving at Chelsea.

N’Golo Kante was the Man of the Match for sure – he was the master in recovering the possession, dictated the game from the midfield, shielded the backline and when needed, moved forward to play the role of a goal scorer – what a player.

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell overran City down the left and, to the naked eye, it appeared that even seasoned, experienced operators such as Kevin de Bruyne – whose final was cut short by a very heavy illegal hit from Rudiger that left him with a swollen eye – Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, seemed uncertain of what their actual roles were.

Reece James snuffed out the threat of a struggling Raheem Sterling to such an extent that it was no surprise when Manchester City’s forward was substituted.

And in match-winner Kai Havertz, Chelsea have an elegant, dangerous weapon who is now flourishing after a slow start to his Stamford Bridge career.

Mason Mount produced yet another mature master class that illustrated why he is a certain midfield starter for England in the forthcoming Euros.

That pass from Mount to Havretz was so silky and sharp that it had Socrates written all over it – one of the moments for the history books and the moment to bag the glory.

The match after the break required more from Pep because his overthinking cost him badly in the first half, but Tuchel had gained the momentum with him and the backing of the fans who were responding each to Tuchel’s animations each time they went silent.

After the final whistle, Tuchel smiled and the sadness of last season’s defeat against Bayern Munich was laid to rest once and for all.

In Porto, Tuchel stood among the litter of blue and silver glitter as a winner, the mastermind of a triumph that writes his name in Chelsea history.

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