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MICAH RICHARDS: I was so wrong about Thomas Tuchel... what he's done at Chelsea is remarkable

Published on: 07 May 2021

Stay strong when you’re wrong: it’s a saying I’ve heard recently, based around sticking to your guns if you are losing an argument.

I’ve never understood it, to be honest. Why aren’t people prepared to acknowledge that they have made the incorrect call? I don’t see why some are so determined to stick with their original view in the hope it will eventually come true.

No — I’m a firm believer in holding your hands up. You can’t be taken seriously in this profession if you persist with a flawed opinion and that is why today I must address my column from January 30 about Thomas Tuchel.

‘Chelsea have appointed Tuchel because they want to win the Premier League and the Champions League again,’ I wrote. ‘What have Chelsea seen in Tuchel that convinces them he will outwit Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp? I struggle to see it happening.’

I stressed that I wasn’t writing him off but ‘something about his appointment didn’t feel right’. I wasn’t impressed by how he failed to pick Mason Mount and Reece James for his first game — a 0-0 draw with Wolves — and I wasn’t sure about what he’d achieved with Paris Saint-Germain.

Part of my argument was fuelled by disappointment for Frank Lampard, who I felt had deserved more time. Chelsea have an excellent squad and I thought, with some patience, the situation would change for Frank.

But here we are, almost four months on, and they have a chance to win the Champions League and the FA Cup. Tuchel has victories over Guardiola (FA Cup semi-final) and Klopp (crucial Premier League game) in the bank, too. The transformation he’s overseen has been remarkable.

Look at Chelsea’s defensive record since he came in. There have been 19 clean sheets from 25 matches in all competitions, a record that is just staggering when you think that before the FA Cup semi-final against City, he said he only works ‘10 per cent on defending’.

Those numbers would make you think Chelsea are a defensive side. You see it happen when a manager takes charge of a team near the relegation zone. They make alterations to the system and get more men back so they stop conceding so many chances. But the tweaks Tuchel has made have turned Chelsea into the best counter-attacking side in Europe.

I was excited by Timo Werner’s signing last summer and have kept faith in him. He might not have scored the number of goals many expected (though his header against Real Madrid on Wednesday was worth his transfer alone) but the runs he makes for his team are ridiculous.

Werner has been important in this transformation. So have Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz, the other big-money signings. You cannot forget, also, the resurgence of N’Golo Kante, who looks like he is playing two positions at once — as he did when helping Leicester become champions in 2016.

Then there is Mount, whose goal confirmed Chelsea’s place in Istanbul at the end of the month.

He used to get damned with faint praise when people said he ‘worked hard’. I always felt Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and James Maddison were ahead of him, but this kid is the full package.

Ashley Cole once told me: ‘Meeks, watch him properly — he’s the real deal.’ Ash was right.

Mount has become a player on whom Tuchel relies, in the same way Gareth Southgate looks to him for England. He’s the best Chelsea academy graduate since John Terry and looks destined to have a brilliant career.

Tuchel uses a system that has enabled the team to flourish, but another thing that I like is how quickly he dealt with an issue on Easter Sunday that could easily have festered and led to the campaign fizzling out.

When Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga clashed during a training-ground game, Tuchel sent Rudiger in. The incident happened the day after their freak 5-2 defeat by West Brom and was before the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Porto.

Whatever Tuchel did, the issue was nipped in the bud and there has been no looking back. He laid down the law and let people know he was firmly in charge.

I’m told he demands his squad set the best standards they can every day and time-keeping is as important as what they do on the pitch. He is a man in control of the situation and he could already be viewed as a Chelsea legend in a month’s time if he brings home both trophies.

For obvious reasons, I hope he falls short in Istanbul, but that will not stop me acknowledging what a fantastic job he has done.

Next season will be different for Tuchel, because there will be expectation on his shoulders and that brings new pressure.

It’s one thing reviving a big club and getting them moving forward again; it’s another — particularly at Chelsea — staying at the top of the tree.

What I recognise, however, is that my initial stance on Tuchel has proven to be wrong. Chelsea appointed him to win the Champions League. He might just deliver them the biggest prize of all.

MAN OF THE WEEK

It takes someone special to be man of the match in three consecutive Champions League games, but N’Golo Kante (right) achieved that feat on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.

What a force of nature.

He’s aggressive, he passes well, he can dribble, he tackles, he anticipates danger and he reads the game. The only thing Kante struggles with is shooting from outside the box, but that is a minor complaint.

He was a joy to watch against Real Madrid and long may it continue.

WOLVES MISS TALISMAN RAUL

We have reached a point where the season is fizzling out for some teams and that is certainly true of Wolves.

They have been very good since winning promotion three years ago but this campaign is ending with them fighting to secure a top-half finish. For a team who have previously been in the mix to qualify for Europe, their performance will have come as a surprise.

The reality, however, is something much more straightforward.

We have spoken a lot about the impact Virgil van Dijk’s injury has had on Liverpool but we cannot underestimate how much Wolves have suffered without striker Raul Jimenez.

He was their talisman, he could carry the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Kids such as Pedro Neto and Fabio Silva, along with Willian Jose, just haven’t been able to provide the same focal point.

When you add in the fact that they sold Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty at the beginning of the campaign — coupled with them trying a new system that has changed the balance — it was always going to be an uphill battle.

I would expect Wolves to come back much stronger next season.

Source: m.allfootballapp.com

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