Thomas Tuchel was sacked at Paris Saint-Germain for failing to fulfil the club’s ambitions despite reaching the Champions League final last season. Apparently, the club’s hierarchy was convinced he couldn’t do better. Chelsea moved quickest to snap up the German tactician once he was made available and he seems to be on a mission to prove a point in England.
It’s no secret that Manchester City have become the best team in England over the last several years. This is due not only to the team’s knack for winning trophies but the style of football as well. From the defence, midfield down to the front line, the team is solid. When talking clean sheets, ball possession or busting the net to win games, no other team does it better at the moment.
Take a look at most goals scored in the Premier League this term, most clean sheets, most wins, it’s clear who’s the boss. The numbers don’t lie. That is the reason lifting the trophy has become a matter of when not if. In fact, the Blues can now afford to lose back-to-back home league games and have no reason to fear.
But while the defeats to Leeds and Chelsea may have no significant bearing on the title win, the recent loss to Chelsea has other ramifications. The London side denied City the much-talked-about quadruple with a surprise 1-0 defeat in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Beating City again at the Etihad Stadium should set the alarm bells ringing.
Apart from bragging rights, history plays a significant role in football. Sometimes, consistently losing to a team can create a habit. Man is a creature of habit after all. It’s psychological.
Hardly does any manager get Pep Guardiola’s number to floor his team every time they meet. The Catalan boss is too intelligent for that. He has earned the reputation of being one of the best managers in the game (if not the best) for that reason. But Tuchel and Chelsea have turned Guardiola and City over in back-to-back meetings within a few weeks.
The Premier League’s latest Tuchel vs Guardiola rivalry stands at 2-0.
That may bring joy to the blue side of London but certainly not that of Manchester. It’s a development that needs to be stopped and very fast. There’s no better time to do that than at Istanbul in three weeks’ time.
It does appear Tuchel has been helped by Guardiola’s distractions from the Champions League. In both games, the 50-year-old has not fielded his best legs, at least on current form. He made eight changes to his regular starting XI in the FA Cup semi-final game with an eye on the return leg against Borussia Dortmund.
It was even worse in the latest league defeat against the London side. Only Ederson and Ruben Dias survived from the team that faced PSG. Such wholesale changes will affect any team. At some point in the game, all of Sergio Aguero, Ferran Torres and Benjamin Mendy went missing and had to be taken off.
Tuchel took full advantage of the opportunities provided by these games to secure two crucial wins.
Arguably, when both sides field their best players, City will have the upper hand. But the confidence gained from beating City, again and again, can also work in Chelsea’s favour. As it stands, Chelsea are becoming a thorn in City’s side. Guardiola must take this as a warning sign and take the necessary steps to ensure both the Champions League and next season’s Premier League crowns are not lost to the London side.