For the first time in the Todd Boehly era, Chelsea have sacked a manager – and it only took them seven games.
Thomas Tuchel was relieved of his duties after the Blues’ 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. Chelsea haven’t had the best of starts to the 2022/23 season, already losing three times in seven matches, with all three defeats coming on the road. The three defeats were all humiliating at different levels, too, with Chelsea outclassed by Leeds United, silenced by Southampton and nullified by Zagreb. However, Tuchel’s sacking still came as a shock.
The club had backed Tuchel heavily in the transfer market, appearing to sign his players and spending more money than any other club had in a single window — breaking the £50m mark on three different occasions including £75m on Wesley Fofana. For many, these signings were evidence that the club had put their trust in Tuchel to lead Chelsea long-term. This would have been in stark contrast to the Roman Abramovich regime where one sacrificed stability and longevity for success, which certainly worked in terms of delivering silverware.
That may still be the case. But, unfortunately for Tuchel, it won’t be him.
“As the new ownership group reaches 100 days since taking over the club, and as it continues its hard work to take the club forward, the new owners believe it is the right time to make this transition,” a statement on the Chelsea website read.
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Whoever replaces Tuchel, will be the club’s 14th different permanent appointment since 2000, including both of Jose Mourinho’s spells, and they will have big shoes to fill. Tuchel took charge of 100 games for Chelsea, winning 63 times (including three penalty-shootout victories), drawing 19 and losing 18 (including last season’s two defeats on penalties to Liverpool in the EFL Cup and FA Cup finals). During that run, Tuchel reached six cup finals and won the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup, completing the set for Chelsea in terms of major trophies.
For that, the German has earned a spot in the hearts of many Chelsea fans and will go down as one of the best managers in the club’s modern history, even with a reign of fewer than two years. But he will also go into the history books as another manager sacked by Chelsea due to off-field issues as much as problems on the pitch, something that became a regular occurrence during the Abramovich era.
Last 10 permanent Chelsea managers
|Manager||Games||Wins||Draws||Losses||Win %||Final result||League position at departure|
|Thomas Tuchel||100||63||19||18||63%||Dinamo Zagreb 0-1 Chelsea||6th|
|Frank Lampard||84||44||15||25||54%||Chelsea 3-1 Luton||9th|
|Maurizio Sarri||63||40||11||12||63%||Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal||3rd|
|Antonio Conte||106||70||15||21||66%||Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd||5th|
|Jose Mourinho||136||80||27||29||58%||Leicester 2-1 Chelsea||16th|
|Roberto Di Matteo||21||11||4||6||52%||Juventus 3-0 Chelsea||3rd|
|Andre Villas-Boas||40||20||10||10||50%||West Brom 1-0 Chelsea||5th|
|Carlo Ancelotti||109||68||17||24||62%||Everton 1-0 Chelsea||2nd|
|Luiz Felipe Scolari||36||20||10||6||55%||Chelsea 0-0 Hull||4th|
|Avram Grant||54||36||12||6||67%||Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea||2nd|
Across all 10 permanent managers since Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, only Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Di Matteo and Frank Lampard have really been sacked purely for poor performances on the pitch.
Ancelotti’s was perhaps the most ruthless of departures, sacked just one year after winning the double with Chelsea finishing second to Manchester United. Di Matteo was sacked in the same year he won Chelsea’s first Champions League title but the Blues were seriously struggling and became the first defending European champions to bow out at the group stages. Lampard, meanwhile, appeared to have hit his peak at Chelsea and had the Blues in free fall.
Maurizio Sarri then left of his own accord, joining Juventus after winning Chelsea the Europa League, while Avram Grant was never a long-term appointment.
For Chelsea fans, the other five sackings are part of a worrying trend.
Starting with the most recent, while Chelsea’s form this season hasn’t been good, there are already indications that Tuchel was partly sacked because he became the latest Blues manager to ‘lose the dressing room’. The German had reportedly frustrated a number of his attacking stars, both by playing them out of position or not playing them at all. Christian Pulisic’s father, in particular, had been vocal on Twitter in liking tweets criticising Tuchel and calling him a “destroyer of players and of team dynamics,” as well as others criticising those players starting ahead of the United States international.
One year after winning the league, Antonio Conte led Chelsea to a fifth-placed finish which may have been enough to seal his fate, but the Italian wasn’t shy of problems behind the scenes. The biggest bust-up was with Diego Costa, who was told he wasn’t part of the plans for the 2017/18 season via text just a few months after the Spaniard had been integral to the Premier League title win.
“Conte’s text? It was a moment of madness. It can happen, but I thought it was disrespectful,” Costa said shortly after the news broke.
“I always asked to speak face to face with the coach and the board. I never sent [them] text messages, so it shows what kind of person he is. If something makes me sad about this situation, it’s [the fans’] affection as they’d always supported me, even during the delicate moments.
“If I’d been in the team for three years, it was for them and the dressing room, which was very much united. It was a great experience.”
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Any Chelsea manager who has the club in 16th place deep into the season is certain to be sacked, but Jose Mourinho’s second departure in 2016 had long been coming due to issues off the pitch. The signs were there from the start of the 2015/16 season, just months after winning the league, when Mourinho clashed with physio Eva Carneiro after she had gone onto the pitch to treat an injured player – something the manager clearly didn’t want to happen. The results under Mourinho were terrible and there were no signs of it getting any better, but Chelsea were pretty clear that there were other factors in play.
“The new contract signifies that what happened today was not a premeditated decision,” then Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo told Chelsea TV in 2016.
“It was a decision taken to protect the interests of the club. While there is huge sentiment for the individual, who has done so much for the club, the fact remains Chelsea football club is in trouble. The results have not been good.
“There obviously seemed to be a palpable discord between manager and players and we feel it was time to act. The owner is forced to make what was a very tough decision for the good of the club. We are one point above relegation and that’s not good enough. Any fan can understand this club is in trouble and something needed to be done.”
Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea stint ended in a poor run, with just three wins in 10 games. But the Portuguese manager had also ostracised a number of the club’s senior players. Villas-Boas had the right idea, looking to make Chelsea’s squad younger, but he was trying to revolutionise the club far too quickly and pushed out established stars before finding the quality to truly replace them.
Former England team-mate to a lot of the Chelsea stars at the time, Gary Neville, later revealed several Blues players had tried to push Villas-Boas out.
“I go back to in Napoli eight or nine years ago, when Villas-Boas had picked a team in the afternoon of a Champions League game. And he left out Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and another big player at that time,” he recalled after Frank Lampard was sacked in 2021.
“And I remember Chelsea players at that time ringing up members of the media and trying to get him out. And Frank was part of that group.”
And finally, Andre Villas-Boas managed just a measly three wins in 10 and appeared to have Chelsea on their way out of the Champions League, until Di Matteo stepped in.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
Chelsea’s first attempt to bring in a new era after Mourinho was sacked in 2007 (as Grant was a stop-gap) saw them appoint Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, a man who had won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil. But it just didn’t work for Scolari in west London as he became the first real casualty of player power at Stamford Bridge. The main factor for the falling out came in early 2009 when Didier Drogba had just returned from injury, and Scolari tried to fit the Ivorian back into his team alongside Nicolas Anelka, who had been in fine form.
“I had Anelka playing up front. Nine. Top scorer in the league,” he told ESPN Brazil in 2017. “The players return, I make a meeting, and in the meeting I say: ‘Look, now that the players have all returned, Drogba is back after two months, we will try to work a situation involving the two attackers playing one by the side, one in the centre, changing positions’.
“Then Anelka, the league’s top scorer, said: ‘I do not play on the wing’. Well, that’s when I said: ‘You don’t play on the wing, one’s going to be on the left, it’s over, I’m not going to stay here arguing with you guys’.
“I left there and our team was third in the league, three or four points behind top. Qualified for the round-of-16 or quarter-finals of the Champions League. But there was this bad environment, that situation. I don’t know if I had continued, what would have happened. But it was interrupted. There, I got upset.
“They’ll say: ‘Oh, because you didn’t speak English perfectly’. Of course, I did not. I didn’t speak English perfectly. But I understood perfectly. We understood, with my English, and the English that was spoken there, we understood perfectly.”