Chelsea Football Club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has always liked a player who can improve the team. He has a great eye for talent and in the process of his reign at Chelsea, bought world-class talents like Juan Mata and Fernando Torres as well as young talents like Eden Hazard and Oscar.
After a disappointing start to the season, the Blues have gone from a (1) to a (1) in just six days, as manager Antonio Conte faces the sack after a string of poor results. The defeat to second-fiddle Burnley was particularly devastating, with the team conceding six times, including a first-half brace from Ashley Barnes. Conte’s tactics were heavily criticised, with the team more focused on possession than scoring goals, and were also found wanting in the physical side of the game: while former manager Jose Mourinho was seen to favour an “aggressive” style of play, Conte preferred to see his team play an short, controlled passing game.
PORTO, Portugal – Nothing underlines the unusual dynamic between Chelsea’s owner and manager better than the first on-field meeting between Roman Abramovich and Thomas Tuchel on Saturday after winning the Champions League. Almost an hour after the final whistle of the 1-0 victory over Manchester City, with only a few hundred fans still present in Porto’s Estadio do Dragao, Abramovic entered the field to join the festivities at the eleventh hour, posing almost awkwardly next to the trophy alongside captain Cesar Aspilicueta and others. – ESPN FC daily coverage on ESPN+ (US only) – European Soccer Pick ‘Em: Win $10,000. Tuchel spoke to his employer in what was the first face-to-face meeting since the 47-year-old replaced Frank Lampard in January, a meeting he described as the best time to… Or the worst, because it can only get worse from here! Winning club football’s biggest prize would have made the manager of many clubs immortal, but Chelsea have long been no exception. Club director Marina Granovska leads the Blues from day to day, but unlike some more aloof figures at rival clubs, Abramovich maintains an active interest and is the final decision-maker on key decisions. Tuchel is Abramovich’s thirteenth managerial change since he bought the club in 2003 – an astonishing figure that has been viewed with scepticism in English football for years and goes against the conventional wisdom that stability breeds lasting success. 2 Connected Still, Saturday’s trophy is the 17th major trophy in the Abramovich era. No English club has won more in the same period. This is their second Champions League title, and the parallels with their first title nine years earlier are striking. In both cases the coach was sacked mid-season; nine years ago Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas in March. Two months later he became European champion. City has long been considered one of the best teams of that era. Chelsea’s victory in Portugal was therefore a clear disappointment to prevailing opinion. And to be fair, in 2012 they weren’t objectively the best team in Europe either, but still found a way to win the trophy by beating Bayern on penalties in their own stadium. The only other Champions League final in their history, the loss to Manchester United in Moscow in 2008, took place in a different season, with a mid-term coach change. This is no coincidence. Maurizio Sarri’s departure was almost officially confirmed before the comfortable 4-1 win over Arsenal in the 2019 Europa League final, paving the way for Lampard’s appointment. They won the same game six years earlier, got rid of Di Matteo and temporarily managed Rafa Benitez’s team, before bringing Jose Mourinho back for a second term. Benitez was unpopular with Chelsea fans for his previous comments about the Blues when he was manager of Liverpool and was unlikely to stay, but the team beat Benfica in a last-minute victory that gave John Terry another reason to celebrate exuberantly. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel only met the club’s owner Roman Abramovich after winning the Champions League. Marc Atkins/Getty Images What doesn’t change in all this is the relentless and unyielding pursuit of perfection, which is ruthlessly ingrained in the culture Abramovich has created. Stamford Bridge is basically a sports version of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy show that strives to stay relevant with a different guest each week. Everyone brings their own personality to the table, some seem comfortable, others not, but the show stays in prime time. Chelsea have Tuchel in that position and what a show he put on this weekend. But there is a significant difference from many of his predecessors, especially those whose tenure with the team was short-lived, including the Champions League final. Di Matteo had just three years’ experience as manager of Milton Keynes Dons and West Bromwich Albion before succeeding Villas-Boas. Di Matteo, who was highly regarded in the past, has simply started to roll back many of the changes made by his predecessor and bring back established but aging players into the heart of the team. Similarly, when he replaced Mourinho, Avram Grant was a relative unknown working in Israel but had close ties to Abramovich. He pressed the reset button and allowed a team tired of Mourinho’s attitude to take the helm for the most part. – Ogden: Tuchel makes it easy on himself and beats an overthinking Guardiola – How social media reacted to Chelsea’s Champions League win Tuchel is different. He has a pedigree and has been modified rather than maintained. Although he took office amid an even tighter timetable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the German found a way to unify an expensive fighting force and make it greater than the sum of its parts. Tactical changes were crucial: A 3-4-2-1 was chosen that could withstand anything City threw at them, just like Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid before them. But beyond that, it was a matter of mindset. Tuchel did not fall into the trap of those before him who felt it necessary to talk about creating a legacy, longevity and why he would buck the trend and create a dynasty in West London. From day one, he internalized a culture of hiring and firing. He knows he’s on a ride and wants to enjoy it without wasting energy trying to stop it. The players get it: The here and now is all that matters. Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest developments and discuss key storylines. Broadcast on ESPN+ (US only). Frank Lampard was keen for his stay at the club to be as long as his 13 years as a player, cementing his status as a club legend. But despite his thorough knowledge of the club over the years, he couldn’t keep up with the pace of change and the level of expectation. Chelsea spent £220m in the summer and despite the teething problems, Lampard said he hoped to still be there if the club realised his potential. Five of the six players signed were in the starting line-up against City, and that is what Tuchel has achieved in five months. Lampard is still in the early stages of his coaching career, he will improve and find a more forgiving environment to hone his skills. He will also have an easier time influencing the players the club signs, more influence on the policies of the hierarchy. Tuchel, who was sacked from Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve, is familiar with this harsher climate. A contract extension is expected in the coming days, but he knows there is no guarantee he will go through with it: Di Matteo was sacked 186 days after winning the Champions League. But Tuchel knows his surroundings. Now that the level is set, the festivities are over and we’ve digested the experience, it’s time to move on and make use of it, to learn better, he said. It is absolutely necessary. We have young players and it is now a big challenge to stay hungry and take the next step. I can assure him [Abramovich] that I will remain hungry. That I want the next title. Perhaps the winner of the contest summed it up best. As the celebrations around him began moments after the final whistle marked Chelsea’s victory, Kai Havertz was asked in a television interview if it was the perfect end to a difficult season weighing in on a club record signing. Honestly, I don’t care, he replied. We just won the fucking Champions League. And that’s what Chelsea is essentially about: Winning is the only thing that matters.