LONDON – Chelsea on Wednesday sacked manager Thomas Tuchel just seven games into the new season, hours after they suffered a chastening 1-0 Champions League defeat by Dinamo Zagreb.
The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss leaves Stamford Bridge after a tumultuous period at the club, which included a Champions League triumph at the end of Roman Abramovich’s reign.
Chelsea said they would move “swiftly” to appoint a replacement, with former Tottenham Hotspur and PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino and Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter among the early favourites.
“On behalf of everyone at Chelsea FC, the club would like to place on record its gratitude to Thomas and his staff for all their efforts during their time with the club,” the Premier League club said in a statement.
“Thomas will rightly have a place in Chelsea’s history after winning the Champions League, the Super Cup and Club World Cup in his time here.”
The Stamford Bridge club, bought by Todd Boehly’s consortium in late May, defended the timing of the decision, which is understood to have been made before the loss in Croatia.
“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,” the statement said.
Chelsea are sixth in the English Premier League table after three wins, one draw and two defeats in their opening six matches – already five points behind leaders Arsenal.
Tuchel, who was in charge for less than 20 months at Chelsea, admitted “everything is missing” after their shock 1-0 defeat on Tuesday.
“Too much to analyse,” he said.
“I’m a part of it. We are clearly not there, where we need to be and where we can be. So it’s on me, it’s on us, we need to find solutions.”
Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as Chelsea boss in January 2021, immediately adding steel and focus to the Blues, whose expensively assembled squad were badly under-performing.
The German, 49, steered Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph just four months later, with a stunning 1-0 win over Manchester City in Porto. His contract was extended by two years just days later.
But Chelsea hit stormy waters on and off the pitch last season.
Abramovich announced he was selling the club shortly before he was hit with UK sanctions after the government described him as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Despite the off-field distractions, Tuchel guided Chelsea to the League Cup and FA Cup finals, losing both on penalties to Liverpool, won the Club World Cup and finished third in the Premier League.
Boehly’s consortium paid a world-record fee of £4.25 billion (S$6.9 billion) for a sports franchise to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
The club were transformed from also-rans into serial winners during Abramovich’s 19-year reign, picking up five Premier League titles and winning two Champions League trophies.
The new owners backed Tuchel in the recent transfer window, with more than £275 million spent on players including Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
But so far the heavy spending has not paid dividends, with damaging defeats against Leeds United and Southampton hurting their Premier League campaign.
Boehly has followed Abramovich’s playbook in acting quickly to fire managers after a string of disappointing results – Tuchel is the second Premier League manager to be fired this season after Bournemouth sacked Scott Parker on Aug 30. AFP