Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s influence on Chelsea’s current strategy cannot be underestimated.
When time was called on Frank Lampard’s short-lived reign at Stamford Bridge, the decision was absolutely to go German.
Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsmann were the other names on Roman Abramovich’s three wanted list, with Thomas Tuchel’s positioning up for debate.
The Chelsea owner had seen how Klopp broke Pep Guardiola’s grip on the Premier League and wanted a piece of that action.
Weeks before Lampard was sacked last January, rumors were already circulating that a ‘German speaker’ was wanted.
This was widely interpreted as a desire to find a manager who could make the most of expensive signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner – but it was more about the language of German football and the coaching revolution in that part of the world. .
The Blues have gotten their man and their reward, in the form of last season’s Champions League triumph, but as Tuchel and Klopp prepare to face off in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, their respective roles seem very different.
Liverpool are the epitome of their manager. For all the success of their much-heralded transfer committee, he is the club’s overall identity much like a Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger of yore, Guardiola at Manchester City now.
He earned that status by restoring them to one of the world’s elite clubs and shaking them from a 30-year slumber that seemed terminal.
Liverpool have been rewarded for their faith in a project that took four years to bring home their first trophy.
Tuchel could deliver his fourth in the space of 13 months with victory on Sunday, but what hope does he have of one day enjoying the level of control and security his compatriot has?
Perhaps the real question is can Chelsea hope to win a Premier League title in the era of Guardiola and Klopp without the long-term planning of City and Liverpool?
Since they were last champions, under Antonio Conte in 2017, Chelsea have finished a combined 108 points behind the title winners and no higher than third.
The club has its own mode of operation, we are told several times, and the reigning European and world champions continue to accumulate trophies. But is that enough to ensure Premier League supremacy in its current form?
The counter-argument is that for all of Klopp’s control at Anfield, he has presided over just one domestic title with one of the best teams ever assembled in English football. At the end of this season, it could be one of his seven years in charge.
Chelsea’s record is the same over this period, while Jose Mourinho’s side were crowned champions in the 2014-15 campaign.
There is also the inherent danger of following the manager’s path as a messiah, as Manchester United and Arsenal respectively experienced after Ferguson and Wenger.
It remains to be seen how City and Liverpool deal with the possible departures of Guardiola and Klopp. It could be traumatic. The constant change at Chelsea has insulated them from these issues, but it could also hold them back.
If Conte had stayed beyond 2018 and received the players he wanted on the transfer market – namely Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku – would City have been allowed to dominate as they have over the past few years? last five years? Guardiola and Klopp are the overwhelming arguments for long-term planning around one manager.
Chelsea are the strongest argument against, but they are set to surpass their longest streak without the title since Abramovich took possession in June 2003.
In this sense, the hiring and firing policy does not work. Going from Conte to Maurizio Sarri to Lampard to Tuchel hardly brings them closer to a return to the top of English football.
The gap with City is currently 13 points.
When assessing Chelsea’s shortcomings, the manager is the least of them. It’s about asking how he could be better served by his club, rather than the other way around.
It’s also hard to think of a manager – Guardiola and Klopp aside – better placed to end Chelsea’s title wait.
In Tuchel, they have a manager around whom to build a future.
That’s acknowledged by Abramovich, who is set to back him heavily in the market this summer, although it’s not a start for the Russian, who has maintained a steady influx of superstar players at Stamford Bridge.
More meaningful support comes in the form of the time it takes to create something in one’s image without worrying that the plug will be unplugged at any moment.
That’s the luxury his counterpart at Wembley on Sunday was afforded and, win or lose, Liverpool’s faith in Klopp will not be shaken.
For Tuchel, meanwhile, he feels like he has to keep ticking off trophies just to get the chance of another shot at the big one.