Chelsea have sacked head coach Thomas Tuchel six matches into the Premier League season, with Brighton boss Graham Potter edging closer to replacing the German.
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly met Potter in central London on Wednesday afternoon for what were described as “positive talks” about the Brighton manager’s future role at Stamford Bridge and the club’s plans to develop the whole football operation.
Those discussions have continued early Thursday morning and both sides expect to reach an agreement within the next 24 hours.
Potter is currently back in Brighton but, along with his representatives, will be involved in further detailed negotiations – focussing on contractual and legal matters – throughout the day.
It is thought Chelsea have made it clear they are prepared to meet Brighton’s exit clause figure for Potter.
Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane, who are both out of work, were also on Chelsea’s radar.
Sky Sports News understands that Potter has been reassured that – were he to take the Chelsea job – he will be given time to try to bring the ethos and football structure that both he and the club want.
Having turned down the chance to talk to other top clubs in recent years, Potter believes that Chelsea offers him the best chance to further his own coaching career at a world-class club.
Boehly axed Tuchel in a face-to-face meeting at 9.30am on Wednesday morning – just three months after completing his takeover of the club.
Sky Sports News understands Chelsea have been considering this decision for some time and it is not a knee-jerk reaction to Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Dinamo Zagreb which co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali both attended.
Tuchel lost his job because of an increasingly difficult relationship with the owners, who were willing to try and make it work with the German but it proved to be not possible. Tuchel also had an increasingly difficult relationship with some players which is not unusual and happens at most clubs.
Boehly is still acting as sporting director having moved on director Marina Granovskaia, chairman Bruce Buck and technical and performance advisor Petr Cech this summer in a complete overhaul of the Roman Abramovich era. Chelsea invested a one-window Premier League record of £273m to revamp Tuchel’s squad this summer, bringing in Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The owners believe they had a very good window and a new manager will bring even more out of the players. They had concerns for some time and have been looking at other options. Now they want a long-term appointment to move Chelsea forward, who is closely aligned with their vision for the club.
Chelsea sit sixth in the Premier League with 10 points following wins over Everton, Leicester and West Ham, a 2-2 draw against Tottenham and defeats at Leeds and Southampton.
A club statement read: “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. 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.
“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.
“Chelsea’s coaching staff will take charge of the team for training and the preparation of our upcoming matches as the club moves swiftly to appoint a new head coach.”
Tuchel said he was angry at himself for a ‘huge underperformance’ during the Dinamo Zagreb defeat – his 100th and last game in charge – and suggested his side are currently lacking hunger and determination. In his first 50 matches, Chelsea kept 31 clean sheets, but his second 50 saw them keep just 18.
Inside Tuchel’s last day at Chelsea
Tuchel cleared his desk after the short meeting at 9.30am and stayed at the training ground with his departing coaching staff to say their goodbyes.
The German manager, who joined the club in January 2021, wants to take a break before returning to football.
Tuchel is still highly regarded by many people at Chelsea because of the trophies and the leadership he showed during extremely difficult circumstances. At Chelsea, the coronavirus pandemic and the end of the Roman Abramovich era were difficult scenarios – the latter resulting in club sanctions, employees not being paid and a fear of the club going out of business.
Tuchel also showed leadership during the takeover saga, while many key figures such as Bruce Buck, Marina Granovskaia, Petr Cech announced their departures.
Clubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona were interested in Tuchel last season but he was always loyal to Chelsea.
Although Chelsea ended up spending a record £278m this summer there were differences of opinion between the co-owners and Tuchel on some targets and strategy.
For example, the owners were open to the idea of signing Cristiano Ronaldo from United but he was not wanted by Tuchel.
Meanwhile, Chelsea co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali met Chelsea players and staff on Wednesday afternoon at Cobham.
They explained what had happened with Tuchel and their vision for the future of the club. Boehly and Eghbali were also at the game in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Carragher: It’s a huge shock | I’m not sure Potter fits
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher:
“It was a shock, because I thought the new regime at Chelsea would be different to Roman Abramovich and I said a few days ago if Abramovich was still in charge, you would fear for Thomas Tuchel because of what happened in the past with Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti – lots of great managers.
“But I did feel as if it might have been a different type of regime, so it’s a huge shock. It hasn’t been a great start, we get that, but Chelsea just felt like a team who needed the transfer window to end, get the squad that they wanted and then give a top-quality manager a chance, certainly, over the next few weeks or months to put some sort of team together.
“It’s a very ruthless club and I’m not sure [Graham Potter] is the right fit – maybe Chelsea are saying they want to do things differently in the future in terms of having a coach in charge rather than a manager or they do things behind the scenes differently. But if I was Graham Potter, I would find that very hard to believe that they’re going to do things differently. They’ve just got rid of a manager six games into the season.
“It’s a huge step up in his managerial career and Chelsea are still one of the top clubs. They are still world champions right now, but you fear for Graham Potter that he’ll be in the same boat as every other Chelsea manager has for the last 10 years – unless he gets results instantly they’ll be getting themselves another new manager in 12 months.”
Analysis: Zagreb loss typified issues
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
“It’s the same story, like always,” shrugged Thomas Tuchel. He had the look of a man out of ideas. Chelsea’s decision-makers evidently agreed.
Tuchel was speaking in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s embarrassing defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, a side with only two wins from their previous 33 Champions League games. More damaging than the result itself, though, was the manner in which it played out.
Tuchel had bemoaned Chelsea’s “soft” defending after the 2-1 loss to Southampton but there it was again in Croatia. “We told them to play tougher,” he said of his half-time team talk. The message didn’t land.
Such defensive underperformance was never likely to be tolerated for long. The club invested a combined £172m in Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucarella, after all.
But Chelsea’s shortcomings at the other end of the pitch were perhaps even more costly for Tuchel. Like his defence, his attack was reinforced at considerable expense in the summer. And yet Tuesday’s game showed the issues that have dogged them for so long, a lack of understanding and ruthlessness, had only become more pronounced.
At some point, it has to come back to the manager as well as the players. Tuchel did a lot right at Chelsea. Champions League glory in Porto guarantees his legacy will be a positive one. But there were problems he seemed unable to solve. New owner, but same ruthless Chelsea.
Analysis: Tuchel pays the price
Sky Sports Adam Smith:
The Blues splashed a record-breaking £278.4m in the summer transfer window on a host of new players – which heaped pressure on Tuchel from the get-go.
Additionally, question marks were raised over some of the fees paid on incomings, with Raheem Sterling arguably the only addition to have proven, sustained pedigree in the Premier League. Sterling cost less than prospects Wesley Fofana and Marc Cucurella.
A convincing performance against Tottenham last month warranted three points but triggered a flashpoint between Tuchel and Antonio Conte as the sides played out a heated 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, with the German later receiving a touchline ban for his antics.
A 3-0 defeat to Leeds followed as Jesse Marsch’s men outplayed their opponents, and there was another shock defeat at Southampton a week later.
The Blues ranked third across all key statistics in the Premier League last season but are currently averaging mid-table across those very same metrics this term – hardly bang for their transfer buck.
The result in Zagreb proved the final blow for Tuchel, with the team – and, most notably, new signings and substitutes – producing poor displays in a dire start on Europe’s grand stage.
Who next for Chelsea?
Here are the latest Sky Bet odds…
- Graham Potter (8/13)
- Mauricio Pochettino (9/4)
- Zinedine Zidane (9/2)
- Brendan Rodgers (18/1)
- Zinedine Zidane (8/1)
- Diego Simeone (25/1)
‘A day Brighton will have dreaded’
Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour:
“It is a day all of Brighton will have dreaded, of course, but it is no surprise to them given how Graham Potter’s stock has risen and how he has impressed with this Brighton team, not just constantly being consistent with the side and producing these results, but also the style of play, which Brighton have earned so many plaudits for.
“Paul Barber, the chief executive at Brighton, did speak recently about Potter’s contract. He was talking on TalkSPORT when he said the club protected themselves the best they could when Potter signed a new long-term contract back in 2019.
“Of course, that runs through until 2025, but crucially he also acknowledged just a few weeks ago that it is not impossible for Brighton to lose Potter within the context of this contract, without going into individual contract details. Perhaps that was a nod to a release clause that a club like Chelsea could easily meet.
“So, it’s an interesting development in terms of Chelsea showing that interest. Of course, this is a day Brighton would have dreaded but we have been here before with the Tottenham interest in Potter.
“However, if there is any sort of release clause that would leave the decision or any sort of decision that has to be made with Potter himself.”
How have Chelsea fared in the Premier League this season?
Chelsea’s upcoming fixtures
September 10: Fulham (A) – kick-off 12.30pm
September 14: Red Bull Salzburg (H) – kick-off 8pm
September 18: Liverpool (H) – kick-off 4.30pm
October 1: Crystal Palace (A) – kick-off 3pm
October 5: AC Milan (H) – kick-off 8pm