Inside Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League triumph at Chelsea

September 22, 2021

Tuchel was at the Mainz helm for five years, taking the relative minnows to as high as fifth in 2010-11. Despite the lack of budget, their lowest finish was 13th in the 18-team Bundesliga on two occasions, never really threatened for the drop, that was phenomenal.

There’s something different about Tuchel’s training method, the intensity is next to none but there’s also a fair level of flexibility which brings to cognizance each player’s peculiarities, there are methods for every player, this is special.

“For me, it’s been good. It’s taken me back a little to the Germany days (when he was on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach between 2015-17), which I enjoyed a lot. – Kirchoff continued.

“In what way? Obviously the language and the way he shouts on the pitch. You guys (media) can see he is very passionate on the sidelines. Also, just the things we are trying to do are more ‘German’. It’s hard to explain but it’s the feeling you get, and it is good for me personally.”

Another practice Tuchel is still using that Kirchhoff experienced is training with smaller footballs. The Chelsea players were first pictured working with them ahead of Burnley’s visit in January.

“Probably one of the strangest things he’s done, that none of us are used to, is playing with the small footballs,” James reveals. “That kind of confused us at first but we have done it quite a bit (since then).

“They were already out on the pitch before training started. There was a whole bag of them. The point of the exercise didn’t get explained, we just got told to play a game of football, but now it was with a small ball. We looked at each other for a few seconds and then just got on with it.

“Do things like this keep us on our toes? Yes, of course. Sometimes when you have the same routine and just keep doing the same things, it can be a bit boring. A change every so often does you good and keeps you thinking.”

“It’s all to do with the idea of implied learning,” Kirchhoff explains. “We didn’t learn by being told what to do but by doing it: by playing in very small spaces, for example. You got better at finding space and close control without realizing it at first. Thomas always pushed things a bit further.”

Over the run-in, the modus operandi has been not to dwell on a game if it’s gone wrong and not be distracted by the prospect of a Champions League final either.

“To be honest, (until the week beforehand) it was like we hadn’t reached the Champions League final yet,“ Christensen adds. “For him, it was very important to get top four in the Premier League and qualify for next season’s competition.