Thomas Tuchel has admitted that, before replacing Frank Lampard as head coach, he asked Chelsea’s board if they were sure about sacking the club’s record goal-scorer due to his legendary status at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard – who won 11 major trophies as a player at Chelsea – was sacked in January after 18 months in charge and succeeded by Tuchel, who had recently left Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite his side’s patchy form in the weeks leading up to his departure, Lampard had led Chelsea to the Champions League knockout stages on two occasions, as well as a top-four Premier League finish and an FA Cup final during his time in charge.
In an exclusive interview ahead of Chelsea’s trip to rivals Arsenal on Sunday – live on Sky Sports – Tuchel admits Lampard’s achievements as both a player and manager led even him to question whether sacking the former Derby boss was the right decision.
Tuchel revealed: “I actually said to the board, ‘are you sure of doing this? Because they will not like you. Maybe he deserves more time.’ Because when I think of Chelsea I think about Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba.
“I think about him in the very first moment because he embodies everything that Chelsea is: hard work, aggressive player, big leader but at the same time a normal guy on the pitch and such a team player. A true, true legend.
“But I clearly understood the choice was more or less made and it was take it or leave it. Then I hoped for a fair chance with the players because when you step in, there is not everybody happy from 20, 22 players.
“You cannot expect everybody to be happy with the manager gone, especially because he had a good [Champions League] group stage, good results, good performances and sometimes he was also simply unlucky, with what the data showed to us.
“But I said very early, ‘listen guys, I did not push him out. I am just here now to continue in my way and let’s try to be open and give us a chance together.’
“I’m in a top club with fantastic support, super organised and strong group on the field. It’s a pleasure to work every day and it’s like this since day one.”
In hindsight, Tuchel may not have questioned the Chelsea board’s decision, as the German went on to guide his new team to Champions League glory just four months after taking charge.
That memorable victory over Manchester City in the final in Porto – along with Chelsea’s decision to re-sign Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee this month – means the Blues are now one of the favourites to win this season’s Premier League.
Tuchel accepts that events of the past few months have raised expectations but is refusing to set any specific targets for silverware in his first full campaign in west London.
“We raised the bar,” he said. “It creates expectations, it creates demands, but I hope we don’t get affected by it too much from outside.
“I know what I demand from myself, which is always the highest level. I know what the team can produce – they are really ambitious, really competitive.
“I think we need to be honest, to accept that we were fourth last season, so we have to close the gap to Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. You will find nobody who says, ‘nothing else but the title is a success’, because you have to put it into perspective.
“So to say now, ‘what is the big success in May?’ This is simply not possible and if we try, it will be a pure distraction. But we demand the very best still and we want to play hungry, with the same ambition – nothing has changed.
“After a big success, you have to start from scratch. This is what top-level sports is all about and this is what we love it for.”
Romelu Lukaku has a serene-like quality as he sits down for an exclusive chat with Sky Sports. He looks healthy, calm and composed as he gives Geoff Shreeves an in-depth insight into his history at Chelsea, why Italy was the right move and how now is the right time to play for his boyhood club…
It’s not a secret that Lukaku was a childhood fan of Chelsea, looking up to iconic players such as Didier Drogba, who he maintains contact with to this day.
“We spoke a few days ago and we spoke about that time [when Lukaku was previously at Chelsea] and about the progress that I’ve made and what I have to keep improving – keeping the same hunger all the time,” Lukaku revealed.
“The thing about Didier is that he’s a very detailed individual. Thierry Henry is also very detailed and it’s the details that make the difference. We talk about individual exercises that I like, what’s the goal of each exercise and we talk about those things, but also about trying to win because that’s the thing that matters.
“He’s a winner in every sense of the word and that’s the thing I want to achieve for this football club.”
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