Thomas Tuchel is set for the sternest test of his Chelsea career to date when he takes a trip across London to take on rivals Tottenham, with the German lauding Jose Mourinho in advance as “one of the best managers in the world”.
Tuchel seems to have steadied the wayward ship at Stamford Bridge since he was appointed as Frank Lampard’s successor last week, taking four point from a possible six in his debut matches in charge against Wolves and Burnley but with the ex-PSG and Borussia Dortmund boss still finding his feet in his new role, he faces the first big test of Chelsea career when he takes his charges across London for what will likely be a heated clash with Mourinho’s Spurs.
Mourinho’s two spells at Stamford Bridge came adorned with the type of silverware craved by Roman Abramovich. The Portuguese delivered three league titles to West London during that time, cementing Chelsea’s status as London’s most dominant team of the past two decades – and one suspects that Tuchel’s tenure at the club will be largely defined by his ability to match Mourinho’s contributions to the club’s trophy cabinet.
Tuchel, though, is as different a character to Mourinho as one might be able to imagine. Mourinho’s career has seen him draw headlines unlike any other manager – a tactic, some say, designed at taking the focus off of his players and placing pressure on his own broad shoulders.
This isn’t a strategy used by Tuchel who, in his press conference in advance of Thursday’s game, was keen to avoid any build-up to the game from the prism of the two men who will patrol the sidelines.
“It’s Tottenham against Chelsea and not me against Jose,” Tuchel told the media in London early Wednesday. “I am very happy to compete with a strong team against his side. I’m very happy to arrive with a squad with our quality, with our mentality and with the atmosphere that we are in right now.”
Tuchel’s own voyage to management hadn’t even set sail by the time Jose Mourinho was bringing silverware to Chelsea. After a spell with FC Augsburg’s reserves, he took charge at Mainz in 2009 where his performances made some of Europe’s top clubs take note. Dortmund came calling, then so did Paris Saint-Germain.
Now rooted in West London, Tuchel is eager to emulate Mourinho’s success but says that their careers have taken such contrasting routes that there can be no direct comparison.
“Was he a role model?” Tuchel asked rhetorically. “Honestly when I started my career he was so far away, like the moon from the earth. He could not be a role model at all when I was happy at the academy. I was promoted to first league football and from there on I just enjoyed every day. I was focused every day.
“We don’t have to leave any doubts; he is one of the best managers in the world. Now he has created a squad in Tottenham that is, like always, very, very competitive, very, very strong.
“Like I said, very competitive and that would be the challenge. Is it a clash of cultures? I don’t know. I think that Jose is a winner and I want to implement the same in my teams.
“We are on the highest level to win games and we will try anything.“
A win for Tuchel and Chelsea could move them a step above Tottenham into sixth place in the Premier League and bring them closer to a dramatic mid-season overhaul after the team languished in mid-table just prior to Lampard’s sacking.
And if he adds another three points to Chelsea’s seasonal tally in a game with their fiercest rivals, Tuchel’s regime will be off to a near-perfect start.