Chelsea have four-day Erik Ten Hag deadline for new manager decision after Jose Mourinho example
Chelsea’s reason for appointing Frank Lampard was to avoid making the same mistake twice. In September, already under the pressure that comes with sacking a hugely popular, Champions League-winning coach, Todd Boehly and his new ownership partners made the decision to part company with Thomas Tuchel and little has gone well since.
The immediate backlash was inevitable but that has only worsened as the season goes on. Graham Potter, the clear favourite for the job at the time, was appointed within 48 hours of Tuchel’s dismissal. He was one of just two men interviewed for the rolewith Mauricio Pochettino reportedly catching the drift during his hiring process that the call to go with Potter had near enough already been made.
Less than eight months later and Boehly-Clearlake are hiring again. There’s no shortage of options and takers, even for the proclaimed toughest job in football. But making the right call here is perhaps more important than ever.
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Getting the right man in the door won’t turn things round automatically for Chelsea but coaches can be transformative. Tuchel is a case in point for that. His impact was as immediate and impressive as any in the 19-year tenure under Roman Abramovich’s watchful gaze.
The risk here is that should Chelsea not get this choice right they are at serious risk of falling even further behind. There is so much unknown and uncertain at Stamford Bridge that another two-manager season could be the end of challenging for European places for a long time.
As far as shortcuts to success go, there is one that could help the club out here and it’s a process that has already been started. Instead of appointing a new coach right away, rushing from Potter to Bruno Saltor to manager X (or even Frank Lampard to manager X before the term ends) Chelsea have at least saved the new boss the humility of losing faith before he’s really started.
With the season coming to a close in just over six weeks time, there is no major rush to have someone appointed and announced, but soon after that, the real pressure begins to mount. Chelsea fans have suspected as far back as the World Cup that Potter wouldn’t be in charge come the opening day of the 2023/24 campaign.
The blunder to allow Tuchel pre-season and the start of this term but yet so little of the games is a mess that cannot be repeated. Given that Chelsea will have around three months between sacking Potter and their current first game of pre-season, there is no excuse not to be ready for it with a new name in charge long before the tour starts.
There is a precedent for hitting a sweet spot here. Chelsea sacked Potter with enough time to start and finish the exhaustive and thorough process of looking at prospective candidates. They have already made the decision to change, eliminating a potential end of season showdown and wait.
They also know that with little left to play for there is no harm in announcing an appointment ahead of this season’s climax with a view to overlooking the squad before the real fun begins. Erik ten Hag, for example, was announced as Manchester United’s new head coach for this season on April 21, 2022.
That is just four days away from being one year ago (at the time of writing.) Ten Hag was then given ample time to prepare for taking over, his squad had the knowledge of who their next leader on the sidelines would be and it gave him a full pre-season to get things going.
As United sit third in the league, it’s a choice and a method that has paid off. Chelsea themselves have seen the benefits of such an early appointment. In 2013, Jose Mourinho returned for his second stint in west London on June 3. That came 76 days before the first game of the new season.
The same countback for Chelsea this year would give a deadline for a new manager until May 30 to be announced. That’s not an unrealistic timeline either given the end of the season dates. Mourinho helped Chelsea to a third-placed finish that season before going on to win the league in his second full campaign back.
In 2016, Chelsea struck a deal to appoint Antonio Conte as the new head coach as early as April 4. That came before Conte would manage Italy at Euro 2016 but once more allowed the ball to start rolling ahead of the work in pre-season. Then there’s the antithesis to all of this.
In 2018, the summer Conte left, Chelsea didn’t appoint Maurizio Sarri until July 14, despite the signs of Conte’s second season despair being clear nearly 12 months earlier. Chelsea did manage to finish third that season but Sarri’s football and transition with the squad wasn’t as all-encompassing as had been desired.
Ultimately there’s no exact correlation between an announcement time and the success but given the scale of change needed, Chelsea would be wise to not let this decision hang in the ether for too long.
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