Football is Cruel!
For Christmas, Thomas Tuchel received a big fat sack letter from his employer Qatar Sports Investment. It had been coming though, it was no news that Tuchel and Sporting Director Leonardo Araujo no longer saw eye to eye. There had been rumors of a rift between the powers at the Parisian club but there was no decisive decision.
After a 4-0 win over Strasbourg and sitting 1 point off 1st placed Lille, the German manager was axed from his job. No excuse from journalists so far makes any sense. The usually reliable Romain Molina claims Tuchel ‘lost the group’ after the game against Istanbul Basaksehir by asking his players to stay on the field and play after the accusation of racism against the 4th official.
Reports from Onze Mondal counter these claims, they state that Neymar Jr was caught off-guard by the news of Tuchel’s dismissal. Neymar and Tuchel enjoyed a very understanding relationship despite one or two issues. The emotional Kylian Mbappe post on Instagram shows a boy who respects his coach despite public spats over early substitutions, both against Montpellier. ‘It is sadly the law of football. Nobody will forget your time here. You wrote a wonderful part of the club’s history and I say to you: thank you, coach.’ A warm photo of the coach and the French youngster sharing a hug was there for affirmation. So why was Tuchel fired? This guy was the most loved manager in Paris since Carlo Ancelotti so why? A few years ago, Nasser Al-Khelaifi was praising Tuchel as the best coach in the world, so what changed?
An Underappreciated Tactician
His record speaks for itself. Thomas Tuchel left Mainz 05 with a better point per game record (1.41) than Jurgen Klopp (1.13). He also left Borussia Dortmund with a better point per game record than his compatriot (2.09 to 1.58). The German tactician leaves PSG with the best win rate of any manager in Ligue 1 history with 75.6% and ties Unai Emery for points per game with 2.37 but he gets the sack. He has also taken PSG farther in the Champions League than any coach.
A History of Turbulence
Tuchel left Mainz after financial disagreements. He wanted to expand the quality of the team and the leaders of the club were trying to stay in the Bundesliga. At Dortmund, he clashed with CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke over several issues. There was the bomb issue in which Tuchel was angry at having to play a day after bomb blasts rocked the Dortmund team bus. Tuchel claims he was never consulted to decide whether the quarter-finals should have been played the next day and the Dortmund chief disagreed. Sporting Director Michael Zorc was another opponent. It became public knowledge that Tuchel was not aware of transfers as shown in the case of Alexander Isak. Tuchel was also angry at the transfer dealings as Dortmund sold Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan, Adrian Ramos, Neven Subotic, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He was trying to win the league and they sold his best players, to rivals even.
Tuchel was also not on talking terms with Chief Scout Sven Mislintat as the Dortmund chiefs aligned with his ideas and not Tuchel’s. They disagreed over transfers involving Oliver Torres and Mario Gotze. Tuchel reportedly lost the dressing room after his treatment of Nuri Sahin with captain Marcel Schmelzer criticizing his absence from the team in public. This was the same season he had problems with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, dropping him for ‘poor body language’.
Even the club historian had something to say about Tuchel. Jan-Henrick Gruszecki a lifelong supporter of Borussia Dortmund and now historian claims Tuchel hated Dortmund and in turn, Dortmund hated him. Gruszecki claims that he was to tell Tuchel the story of the club by giving him a book that he wrote on the history of the stadium and a film about the beginnings of the club. Tuchel reportedly responded to this request with, “no, I’m not interested in these kinds of things, these emotions. I’m just responsible for what’s going on in the field. The Yellow Wall, all that, doesn’t interest me. I’m a football coach.”
Therein Lies The Problem
In a way, that statement symbolizes the problem with Tuchel. He is never willing to play politics, he only wants to coach. But unfortunately, at the top clubs, there is a lot of politicking to do. On the eve of his dismissal, Tuchel claimed that in his first 6 months in Paris, he felt more like a sports minister or sports politician and not a coach. You begin to see a man set in his ways and quite unwilling to adapt. This is shocking considering that tactical adaptability on the pitch is his mantra. ‘30% of coaching is tactics, 70% social competence’ Tuchel’s prodigy Julian Nagelsmann told Süddeutsche Zeitung in August 2020. It seems that Nagelsmann did not learn that from his master who refuses to play ball with his superiors, running into problems with them all the time.
Tuchel will not be short of options because he is a top coach and trainer even if other aspects of his management are lacking. Arsenal will be looking to see if he can help relieve them from this mess they are into while his old club Borussia Dortmund lacks a permanent first-team head coach. Tuchel’s clashes with upper powers may not be ideal but only a few can outmaneuver him tactically. His anger at Leonardo is somewhat justified. He did not support him well with transfers and the Brazilian neglected a lot of Tuchel’s demands. He let Thiago Silva go and no replacement came in. Tuchel had been crying for a defensive midfielder and got Danilo Pereira.
“Tuchel always wanted to keep Thiago. Leonardo was the one who didn’t want him,” said Silva’s agent Paulo Tonietto. In an interview with France Football, Silva referred to Leonardo’s handling of both his and Cavani’s exits as “clumsy”. Away from Tuchel and you can see the issues with the club. RMC believe Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants Mauricio Pochettino while Leonardo wants Massimiliano Allegri. This shows the scattered approach that was irritating Tuchel. For now, the German can stay put and figure out how to exist cordially with his next bosses.