In his book, Zeit Der Strategen, Tobias Escher gives a very interesting description of Thomas Tuchel’s career and his football vision.
A DIFFERENT PROFIL
First player, Thomas Tuchel, born August 29, 1973 (44) in Krumbach, reconverted coach in the early 2000s after a serious knee injury. A dream of becoming a soccer player who ends too early for the German, who had set strict rules on his diet and lifestyle in general. Working even as a bartender for a while when waiting for a job. The doors of soccer world open again for Tuchel, thanks to Ralf Rangnick. Rangnick discovers him by offering him an internship in Stuttgart and Tuchel find himself a talent for the appreciation of the level of the players. That’s when the German is taken under Hermann Badstuber’s wing, father of the current Stuttgart defender, Holger Badstuber.
He introduces him to the job of coach and show him the difficulty of this position while transmitting his great knowledge. Tuchel has learned so much in a few years through different positions within the hierarchy, working as a coach, analyst or scout. He also wins the U19 Championship with Mainz, which allows him to make a name for himself amongst the German coaches and earns the highest coaching diploma as a major in his class.
FIRST START AS A COACH
Christian Heidl, manager of Mainz, promotes Tuchel as coach of the A team. A rather surprising decision since he does not know the man. He will spend 5 years in Mainz with the 5th highest total points in the Bundesliga, while Mainz is far from having the best team on paper. He adopted the style of the mirror organization, which aimed to counter attack the opposing team, for exemple, when a team plays in 4-3-3, Mainz plays in 4-3-2-1.
This tactic of “counter attack” allows to multiply the number of duels and thus to mitigate the individual weaknesses of the team by increasing the rate of error of the opponent. It is also one of the facets of Tuchel, who is a hard worker who breathes soccer. Every weekend, his team could change its organization, thanks to advanced tactical sessions.
Technically limited with Mainz, the arrival of the word “Matchplan” in Germany allows Tuchel to make himself known. Pushing tactical sessions to a sort of “perfection”, Tuchel is inspired by his peers (Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp) to refine his tactics and find new game plans. He is also inspired by other sports as well as science to develop his IQ football and sports in general to best convey the theory to his team that must apply it. He plans the training himself and supervises it. In every detail, everything must be perfect.
He practices “differential learning”, which means that during a game, there is an infinite number of situations and it is useless to always repeat the same. He confronts his players with new situations every day by creating a new challenge every time. He shows great ingenuity in this area and pushes the training on a field not mowed, games with 2 mandatory touches, an unusual delimitation of the ground to force players to play on certain areas.
One of the best practices is when players have to hold a tennis ball in each hand to stop pulling the opposing player’s jersey. Unusual, a word that also describes Thomas Tuchel. But this different view of things allows his team to be as well prepared as possible.
However, the workouts are physically and mentally tiring for the players who have to surpass themselves and do better each time facing a new situation. The team should not think, they must trust their coach blindly and therefore react as quickly as possible when a situation arises. It takes players ready to give everything and able to follow.
A STRICT PERFECTIONNIST
Tuchel has introduced many rules to his teams, such as a mandatory meal after each training and the obligation to stay at least 30 minutes, of course, without cell phones.
With his tactics, Mainz was metamorphosed and after 5 years, he needed a change. Tuchel decided to take a sabbatical year. He took advantage of the latter to learn and read, enormously, meeting Guardiola several times to discuss tactics and match plans. All these discussions inspired him and when he signs for Dortmund in 2015, he applies a 4-3-3 that will not move.
The previous season with Klopp, Dortmund could not do it and did not know anymore how to keep the ball, which has been transformed with the arrival of Tuchel totaling the highest number of points for a second place in the Bundesliga at his first season. The following season was more complicated with the departure of its 3 pillars, Hummels, Gundogan and Mkhitaryan. Tuchel decides to play flexibility again as in Mainz. Every week a new 11 until the discovery of asymmetric 3-2-4-1. He admitted that this system was completely random and that he noticed that his team was playing like that and it was working. He will then be fired by his leaders, not for his tactical skills but because of deep disagreement with them about the Champions League game played against AS Monaco in the wake of the attack suffered by the team on his bus.
THE END OF THE ADVENTURE WITH BVB AND HIS OBSESSIVE SIDE
The end of his adventure with Dortmund was also due to the fact that the leaders bought players without consulting him. Subsequently, Tuchel decided to remove Mislintat, chief recruiter, from the team’s training, which did not please the leaders. His reputation was strengthened after Dortmund: a theoretician, an intellectual of football but also sciences, however not the simplest in terms of relationships.
Unlike Klopp for example, Tuchel is unable to stay in front of the media for topics other than football. But for this sport, he can spend hours talking about it. Tuchel also meditates twice a day and watches over everything he eats, a rigor he has from his past as a footballer. That’s why he expects so much from his players because he would have done everything to get there, and he does not understand those who do not give themselves thoroughly for what they like. This is the only “negative” side that could be found in Tuchel personality, his lack of understanding of players who have other hobbies than football and who do not think about it 24 hours a day.
But Tuchel’s strength is to know how to put his knowledge into practice, with the example of Mkhitaryan, he is the only one has been able to exploit his potential. Indeed, the blockage in the Armenian player was psychological and Tuchel offering him a book of psychology dating back to the 70s was able to free him. He also asked him to do meditation exercises to control his emotions and be as efficient as possible. It is therefore this obsessive and manic side that makes Tuchel so strong in his role, otherwise he would not be an exceptional coach and despite his arguments with the leaders of the BVB, they never questioned his skills.
By Stefanelle, translated from @rulebavaria (Elias) from Tobias Escher’s book: Zeit Der Strategen