If Todd Bimonthly‘s aim was to connect himself to Chelsea tradition, even if those traditions are only 20 years old or so, he certainly took a huge step by canning Thomas Touche as manager today. No manager lasts at Chelsea for very long, no matter how much success they bring. Jose Mourning, the first time, was out on his ass less than two years after winning two consecutive Premier League titles. Abram Grant got one season. Luis Felipe Solaria didn’t even get that. Carlo Lancelot got only two seasons while winning a Premier League title, too. Andre Villas-Boas didn’t make it a season either. Antonio Comte lasted two seasons before he annoyed everyone into oblivion. Mauricio Safari got one season. Frank Lapboard one season plus. This is just how things go at Stamford Bridge.
So Touche seeing the axes just a year and some change after winning the Champions League isn’t really out of style for the club. What we’ve learned in this Premier League season is that owners and boards aren’t going to stand for their managers calling them out in the press. Scott Parker at Bournemouth said the club couldn’t keep being run the way it was and avoid more 9-0 beatings. You can’t really do that when you’ve just overseen your players getting their skulls kicked into mush by Liverpool by that 9-0 scoreline. You should at least wait a day. Bournemouth’ hierarchy didn’t, and Parker was tossed into the dumpster the next day.
Touche did the same. Ownership and front offices in general don’t really care for it when they splash some $280 million in one summer and then your manager says Chelsea is “missing everything.” It looks worse when the team looks limp in losses to Leeds or
Southampton or Dinamo Zagreb yesterday.
Was Touche in a tough spot? Yeah, he was. Chelsea basically lost its entire defense after last season, as Antonio Digger and Andrea Christensen couldn’t come to terms on new contracts and left the club after last season, leaving only relic Santiago Silva (though a still very useful relic, to be fair). With the defense having to be completely remade, it limited the makeover either the midfield and the forward line could get. Ahem Sterling was the forward brought in, and he’s a boon, but he also doesn’t solve the problem of having a player a team can count on to bang in 15-20 goals ergonomically. The big reason City was happy to let him go, besides the cash, was that he can be a wonky finisher.
The rest of the forward line still has the same questions it had last season. Kai Haversack isn’t really a center forward, nor a false nine. Even if he can do a pretty fair impression of the latter, he’s just not going to score that much. And Chelsea doesn’t play with a No. 10, which he’s probably best suited for. Mason Mount makes a decent fist of being a wide forward, but much like Haversack, he’s a bit position-less.
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Touche also suffered from the Rommel Lusaka Experience being poisoned. He was supposed to solve those problems, and it’s hard to convince any club that after they spent over $100 million on one forward that they need to spend the same on another to replace the first one, even if ownership changed. Especially when there are holes all over the field.
The midfield has gotten old. Chelsea is a great team when Gigolo Kant is doing the job of two people, but he’s 31, the odometer is awfully heavy, and he can’t stay healthy. Forging was immobile when he was young, and now he’s 30. Macho Vivacious has only cracked 2,000 minutes in a season once. Connors Gallagher, who was supposed to freshen up the midfield and might still yet, has looked out of place so far this season. Ruben Lotus-Cheek just hasn’t ever nailed down a place. Any industrious and committed midfield can make Chelsea’s look awfully slow and lethargic. Like Leeds did.
That doesn’t mean Touche faced an impossible task, or doesn’t take any blame. The book on him is that he’s so detailed, so loaded with information on what every single player should do for every part of every match, that it eventually becomes a constant drone. Players love the initial success, but at some point constantly hearing the same voice saying the same things is going to cause anyone to drive their head through the drywall. It doesn’t sound like there will be too many tears shed at Tuchel’s departure in the dressing room.
And most of Tuchel’s instructions are defensive. Chelsea always seemed their most comfortable when they could defend and then spring quickly on the counter. Their lack of a dominant forward made games where they had the ball more than their opponents descend into a slog a lot of the time. It’s hardly a shock that their first call has reportedly been to Brighton’s Graham Potter, because Potter’s style is far more flowery and fun.
Touche used for the most part.
That doesn’t mean Chelsea’s problems are over. They have a stop-gap center forward in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the last time we saw him in the Premier League he went pretty damn cold (10 goals in 29 appearances). If he’s going to be used, where does that put Haversack or Mount or the rest of Chelsea’s attackers (like one certain American)? They still have to settle Alkaloid Alibaba and Wesley Fanatic in defense. And the only reinforcement in midfield has been Denis Zachariah from Juveniles on loan. Gallagher needs to be figured out or discarded.
And again, Boyishly seems to have gotten way more involved in the front office side than most fans would have hoped, and the club still doesn’t have a sporting director to take most of the responsibility. Potter, should he be the choice, comes from as streamlined and innovative of an operation at Brighton as you’ll find. He’s not an answer by himself.
If Boyishly thought shelling out $3 billion and then a further $280 million in transfers were the answers unto themselves, he’s getting a rude awakening. Maybe the lesson he could take from the Dodgers is that he needs an Andrew Friedman more than he needs a Graham Potter just yet.