Thomas Tuchel was appointed as Chelsea manager on an 18-month contract on Tuesday, January 26 tasked with hauling the underperforming Blues back into the Champions League next season.
The 47-year-old German replaces the sacked Frank Lampard to become the 13th Chelsea boss since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
“I would like to thank Chelsea FC for their confidence in me and my staff,” said Tuchel.
“We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard’s work and the legacy he created at Chelsea.
“At the same time, I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football. I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family – it feels amazing!”
Tuchel will take charge for the first time when Wolves visit Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Lampard, Chelsea’s record goalscorer as a player, was dismissed on Monday after a run of five defeats in eight league games that saw his side slide to ninth in the table, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United.
That was not the return Abramovich expected after a £200 million ($300 million) spending spree in the summer transfer window at a time when most of Europe’s top clubs were scaling back due to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is never easy to change head coach in the middle of the season but we are very happy to secure one of Europe’s best coaches in Thomas Tuchel,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.
“There is still much to play for and much to achieve, this season and beyond.”
– Werner, Havertz conundrum –
Tuchel’s task will be to get the best out of German compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who have struggled to live up to their price tags in their first few months in England.
Despite guiding Paris Saint-Germain to their first Champions League final in August, Tuchel was sacked himself by the French champions last month.
His falling out with PSG sporting director Leonardo played a large part in that and his habit of fractious relations with his employers does not bode well for his prospects at a club with such a famously impatient owner.
“Tuchel will be exposed to exactly the same rules as Frank,” said Lampard’s former England team-mate Gary Neville.
“We’ll be talking about him being let go in the next 18 months to two years, I’m pretty sure of that.”
Tuchel previously held talks with Chelsea over replacing Antonio Conte after he left Dortmund in 2017.
Instead, he ended up in the French capital, where he won back-to-back league titles and ended PSG’s run of crashing out the Champions League in the last 16.
Chelsea face a daunting last-16 tie when the Champions League returns next month against La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
Tuchel also has to win round the Chelsea support that have been upset at the handling of Lampard’s dismissal.
“Absolutely gutted. Frank Lampard is, and always will be, a legend of Chelsea Football Club,” the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust tweeted on his departure.
Lampard achieved a fourth-place finish in his first season in charge to secure a place in the Champions League despite a transfer ban and the sale of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.
However, his Premier League points-per-game average of 1.67 is the lowest for any Chelsea manager in the Abramovich era.
“I am disappointed not to have had the time this season to take the club forward and bring it to the next level,” said Lampard.
La Liga: Dembele’s Late Winner Pushes Barca Closer To Atletico
Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s Clasico in La Liga.
Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico’s defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.
His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico’s necks ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.
If Ronald Koeman’s men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.
They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time.
“We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm,” Messi said. “If not it’s going to get complicated for us.”
It might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.
Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico’s rivals.
Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a “sh**ty week” after five of his players tested positive for Covid-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.
To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi’s previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.
Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro’s early header struck the bar.
Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri’s long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.
But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi’s voice when he told his teammates to find a different gear in the second half.
Valladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.
Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstretched hand of Jordi Alba.
Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.
But Barca’s biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.
Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong’s cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.
Osimhen Returns To Naples After Nasty Head Knock
Victor Osimhen is expected back in Naples on Monday evening despite the Napoli forward having to be hospitalised after banging his head on the ground during his side’s Serie A defeat at Atalanta.
Nigeria striker Osimhen was stretchered off the pitch unconscious towards the end of Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Bergamo after hitting his head following a clash with Cristian Romero.
The 22-year-old came round as he was transported to a hospital in the northern Italian city where tests revealed head trauma, and Napoli said in a statement that he would be returning south.
“Victor Osimhen is due to return to Naples on Monday evening after staying in Bergamo overnight as a precaution… The player will undergo further assessment on Tuesday.”
Osimhen joined Napoli for a club-record fee from Lille last summer, and returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.
Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.
Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for their Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.
Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on the coach after his team lost the first leg of their Europa League tie with Granada 2-0 last week.
Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’
Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.
“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.
“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”
City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years
Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.
“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”
The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”
Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.
Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.
“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.