Ire at Thomas Tuchel’s selection shows ignorance of reality

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Thomas Tuchel has shown from the first moment he was appointed that he’s the right man to take Chelsea forward. He did this by taking simple, yet important, steps toward managing his squad. There were many public opinions about his team when he took over and some players were already abandoned by the previous regime. Tuchel made each and every player feel as if they were important — even if they weren’t starting regularly — as he wanted to provide a clean slate to liven the mood and provide competition in the dressing room.

In the days leading up to Chelsea’s final Premier League match of the 2021/22 season, a large section of the fanbase had already started making snide remarks about Tuchel’s intention towards the youth by stating he must name some academy players and / or debutantes to the bench at least, if not start them. Their premise was that it was a meaningless game in which results would not affect the Blues’ place in the table. This is part of a larger issue within the supporter base that displays the ignorance of some to reality.

Chelsea fans’ ire at Thomas Tuchel’s selection shows their ignorance of reality

In the mind of these fans, a refusal to name some fresh faces to the line-up shows Tuchel’s real intention towards the youth. The problem with these demands and these thoughts — other than being completely dishonest — is they did not take into account how football works at this level.

Many have whined about the number of Chelsea academy players and graduates that were sold last summer. Many heaped all the blame for these outgoings on Tuchel and the Blues. Many insisted that the club and head coach were not doing enough to show these players that they could be important pieces in the first team puzzle one day if they wanted to be. Many refused to acknowledge the fact that players have their own agents and they can make decisions for themselves based on where they think their interests are being served.

These supporters claimed players could not be blamed because Chelsea offered them no hope of a future by ignoring them. This is far from the truth. The Blues have featured academy players and graduates that have reserved a place in the senior team for the past four years. Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have all been featured in the senior team at some point in their careers, some are still important pieces at the club.

Last season, Chelsea decided to sell Abraham and Tomori, along with some fresh graduates like Lewis Bate, Marc Guehi and Valentino Livramento. Tomori had been sidelined for months by the time he was finally sold, as Abraham had also been. The Blues tried to sign Livramento to a new contract before sending him out on a loan, but he refused to re-sign. Chelsea got an offer of £ 20 million for a player without Premier League experience and a player that he knew would not get much playing time at home. Thus, the club rightly took the offer.

Of course, the reality of football begins to take hold and you realize that clubs cannot keep every player. This leads us to the final match against an already relegated Watford, where fans said this would be Tuchel’s chance to show that he was serious about youth integration. Tuchel has never been one to be bullied by loudmouths in the fanbase. He showed that he has a clear vision for Chelsea’s squad once again by choosing to use the match to do important things. Rather than use it to hand out meaningless minutes to sub-par youth players, further reducing Chelsea’s chances of winning the game, he rewarded reserve players for their contributions throughout the season.

Some fans might be shocked to hear this, but the spots that would go to academy graduates in mid-table clubs go to established players in top teams. West Ham United has a good squad, but when you scroll through the Irons’ starting XI, you’ll be hard-pressed to find six more players with the experience and expertise as the starters. This means when a manager wants to rest senior players at clubs like West Ham, he almost always calls on academy players before too long.

Let’s bring that back to the Blues. At Chelsea, even after the starting line-up is selected, managers often still have on the bench:

  • a four-time Champions League winner in Mateo Kovacic
  • a three-time Eredivisie Player of the Year and Champions League winner in Hakim Ziyech
  • an Italian Champion and 250-goal striker in Romelu Lukaku
  • a £ 58-million investment in Christian Pulisic
  • a Denmark international and established senior player in Andreas Christensen
  • other long-time first team professional players in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner and Ruben Loftus-Cheek — to name just a few

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This means that fringe minutes that should go to inexperienced academy players would then go to senior players. An easy example is this: say a team has a main striker for the league, a second striker for the cups and a third striker as back-u in case someone gets injured. Then say the main striker is a big-money investment, the second striker is cheaper — but serviceable — and the third striker is a player from the academy. The No. 1 on the depth chart would naturally start the league games, the back-up would start leagues games when the No. 1 was rested, as well as in the cups and then the academy player would start in very easy League Cup games per se.

At a club like Chelsea, that third spot still goes to a big-money signing or someone a former No. 1. This is why, had Armando Broja stayed in west London, he wouldn’t have gotten many minutes. This is because his minutes would have gone to someone like Werner, or even Havertz or Pulisic. At Europe’s biggest clubs, teams do not give back-up / fringe minutes to academy graduates because there are senior players who have not been playing. Therefore, it’s only fair and logical to give the minutes to them instead.

This, as simple as it is, is extremely difficult for many fans to understand. That is why they do not see why Tuchel cannot just ignore Ross Barkley and Kenedy and give the minutes to Lewis Hall and Jude Soonsup-Bell. That’s why they claimed that these academy players need to be handed a bench spot in a final league game, otherwise they’ll be out the door. No academy player this season has shown the readiness to step up — not one.

One of the arguments is that “no one cares about Kenedy and Barkley” and that they should just be ignored for academy debutantes in a league game. That, again, is not how anything works at the top level. Just because a fan does not care about how a player feels or what is done to him, that does not mean the manager does not or should not.

Supporters are there to enjoy watching their teams play, managers are there to manage teams. That sometimes means making compromises and managing expectations. If fans would just sit for three seconds and think about why Tuchel might be doing some of the things he does, they’d find a lot of his decisions extremely easy to understand. To further the silliness of these irritations, Kenedy created Chelsea’s lead and Barkley scored the winner. The players many said should not have started won the game for the Blues.

The final point by many of these irate fans make is that this shows that Tuchel never really cared about the youth. This is the most intentionally dishonest points any human can make. Trevoh Chalobah not only made his Chelsea debut this season under Tuchel, but he became an established player, as well. Chalobah made 20 league appearances and 31 appearances in all competitions. Tuchel has also explicitly stated that he wants to assess the loan returnees in the offseason and decide who will feature in the team next season.

However, a refusal to name average academy players to the bench in a league game is an indicator of what Tuchel thinks about youth? Miss me with that nonsense narrative.

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