Six days after drawing the curtain on a transfer window in which it spent more money than any Premier League club in history — lavishing more than $300 million on a swath of new players in just a couple of months — Chelsea has fired its coach, Thomas Tuchel, the man tasked with crafting a team from those disparate, costly parts.
The dismissal of Tuchel, 49, was confirmed in a curt statement released just a matter of hours after the club had lost the first match of its Champions League campaign, falling, 1-0, against the Croatian champion, Dinamo Zagreb, on Tuesday.
That defeat followed a stuttering start to the domestic season that had seen Chelsea’s expensively-assembled team beaten handsomely by Leeds United and Southampton, as well as being held to a draw by Tottenham Hotspur. The club is currently sixth in the Premier League table, five points adrift of first-place Arsenal.
Tuchel had only been in charge at Stamford Bridge for 18 months, appointed early in 2021 after the club’s former owner, Roman Abramovich, had lost patience with the previous incumbent, Frank Lampard.
Tuchel’s impact was immediate: five months later, a team that had been struggling to keep pace in the Premier League was crowned champion of Europe for the second time, overcoming Manchester City in the Champions League final in Porto, Portugal.
Tuchel had, though, been unable to build on that success. The club failed to mount a sustained title challenge last season, eventually finishing 19 points behind Manchester City, with the German manager unable to incorporate the club’s record signing, Romelu Lukaku, into his team. Lukaku, the Belgian striker brought back from Inter Milan to London for $111 million, scored only eight goals before being allowed to return to Italy on loan in July.
By that stage, Chelsea was under new ownership: Abramovich had been forced to sell the club after he and his businesses were sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A consortium led by Todd Boehly, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the private equity firm Clearlake eventually won the auction for the club.
Though Chelsea had been operating at an eye-watering loss under Abramovich, Boehly and Clearlake’s co-founder, Behdad Eghbali, have continued to pour money into the club. The transfer spree they financed this summer brought the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Stamford Bridge. Boehly himself took a central role in negotiations, with Tuchel consulted on the identity of the recruits.
As the summer progressed, however, Tuchel seemed less and less satisfied with his lot. He queried the “level of commitment, physically and mentally” of his players after a 4-0 preseason defeat to Arsenal in Orlando, Fla., a theme that continued into the campaign itself. His team, he said after losing to Southampton, was “not tough enough.”
In the aftermath of the defeat in Zagreb, meanwhile, his words almost drowned out by the noise of the home team’s delirious fans, he suggested that Chelsea was “clearly not where we need to be and where we can be,” before admitting that “everything was missing” from his side’s performance.
His new owners clearly agreed, drawing his tenure to a close barely before he had time to clear passport control on his way back to England.
Mauricio Pochettino, the former Tottenham and Paris St.-Germain coach, and Brighton’s well-regarded Graham Potter have been established as the early favorites to replace him.