Thomas Tuchel leads Chelsea to first Champions League title
One hundred and twenty four days. In one hundred and twenty-four days, Thomas Tuchel went from unemployed to winner of the Champions League.
The German was without a club at the end of the year. He had just been sacked by Paris Saint-Germain after leading the team to back-to-back Ligue 1 titles and wins in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue in 2020. He also led them to the final of the Champions League. He was shown the door anyway.
Then Chelsea came to call. Roman Abramovich had fired club legend Frank Lampard and rushed to offer Tuchel an 18-month contract with an option to extend. Tuchel seized the opportunity to become the first German to lead the English club.
The 47-year-old inherited a dynamic team from Lampard that languished in ninth place in the Premier League. After having cut his teeth with the Stuttgart youth teams and then worked with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel was able to bring together a young group of stars.
He had one job to do: at least get Chelsea into the top four. Everything else would be a bonus. And that’s how he unassumingly began his journey with the Blues and the results were encouraging from the start. Chelsea’s defensive structure has improved remarkably and the team have enjoyed a superb 14-game unbeaten streak. It was no small feat – the club kept 12 clean sheets and only conceded two goals in this run. The campaign was back on track and Chelsea were well positioned to place in the top four.
Chelsea’s Kai Havertz, 21, who was signed for a record Â£ 72million, defeats Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson to score the lone goal in the 2020-21 Champions League final. -Getty Images
Chelsea’s Champions League season was also going wonderfully, with the team storming future La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid and Portugal. from Porto. In the other half of the draw was Premier League champions Manchester City, who shone through the round of 16. A delicious competition was brewing between Tuchel and his idol of a time, Pep Guardiola.
Tuchel had never beaten Guardiola until he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but he beat the famous Spaniard twice in preparation for the Champions League final. The first was a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final victory and the second was a 2-1 win in stoppage time in the Premier League.
Despite the losses, City clinched the League Cup as well as the Premier League title, and Guardiola had only Tuchel between him and a third title of the season and his third Champions League trophy.
Guardiola, leading City to their first Champions League final, shot himself in the foot with his team selection in the final. He chose to start with Raheem Sterling, who last started a Champions League game in February and hasn’t scored in the competition for more than seven months. Guardiola also oddly chose to leave out Fernandinho and Rodri. It was only the second time this season that the Spaniard has started a game without either of the two. This forced Ilkay Gundogan, who has topped the club’s scoring charts with 17 goals this season, to take on a much more moderate deep defensive midfielder role, depriving him of any room for creativity.
The training’s tampering in the club’s first European Grand Final saw Guardiola pay the price. With the exception of the first 15 minutes, City struggled to dominate. Chelsea’s defense strengthened after a shaky first quarter and then took control. Reece James and Ben Chilwell have come together to neutralize any threat posed by the City duo of Sterling and Riyad Mahrez. Sterling was frustrated as he continued to meet James everywhere he went; it was almost as if James was drawn to Sterling by a magnet – there was just no escaping him.
One of Tuchel’s key tasks at Chelsea was to get the best out of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, the club’s two recent Bundesliga signing. Werner had a few decent chances but his finish was horrible, while Havertz seized the opportunity. The 21-year-old German, who was signed for a record Â£ 72million, converted Mason Mount’s defensive ball to break the net. It was a combination of two of Chelsea’s best youngsters and Havertz scored the first goal of his Champions League career.
” I do not know what to say. I really don’t know what to say. I waited a long time. I’ve waited 15 years for this moment and now he’s here, âhe said after the full-time whistle, shaking his head in disbelief.
City were stranded in the second half when Kevin de Bruyne had to be pulled out after suffering facial fractures. Gabriel Jesus replaced him and Fernadinho came on soon after, but City failed to create clear chances. The only opportunity came in the 69th minute when Mahrez punched a low cross to Gundogan at the far post, but Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta delivered a heroic slide tackle to eliminate the danger.
Christian Pulisic, who had previously worked with Tuchel in Dortmund, had a chance to put the tie to bed in the 73rd minute, but his dink of a one-on-one opportunity drifted widely. But that didn’t matter as Chelsea defended tooth and nail to ensure the title went to Stamford Bridge.
Pep Guardiola, leading Manchester City to their first Champions League final, shot himself in the foot with his team selection in the final. -Getty Images
There was no treble for City, no fairytale farewell for Sergio Aguero and no third Champions League title for Guardiola, but it was the dawn of a new era for Chelsea at London.
Tuchel had led Chelsea to their second Champions League title and their first less than a year after losing last season’s final with PSG. As the Chelsea camp began to celebrate, Tuchel met his employer, Abromovich, for the first time since signing for the club. âI spoke to Roman earlier and it was the best time for the first meeting, or maybe the worst time. Maybe it can only get worse now! Tuchel joked.
Nineteen wins, six draws, five losses and the Champions League title: read Tuchel’s statistics for the season. You could say he has outperformed at Chelsea. He led the club to the height of glory, which the most decorated Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelloti could not manage. Considering the exciting young squad he brags about with Mount, Reece, Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic and the eternal N’Golo Kante, trophies should be the name of the game at Chelsea.
Tuchel, obviously, is hungry for more: âNobody wants to rest, I want the next one, the next title. I want to be part of it and I demand to be part of it.
From having to cut his playing career short due to a knee injury to working as a waiter in a bar to going through youth coaching teams in Bundesliga clubs, Tuchel, whose contract has been extended for two years, was ultimately awarded prize. His legacy at Chelsea has only just begun and we are here for it.