Chelsea’s new manager Thomas Tuchel has paid a glowing tribute to his predecessor Frank Lampard and said he understands why the club’s fans will be hurting at the sacking of the club icon.
In a whirlwind week for the 47-year-old German, he replaced Lampard on Tuesday and took charge of his first Premier League game 24 hours later, a 0-0 home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Lampard’s sacking on Monday, 18 months after the club’s record scorer was appointed, came as a shock for fans even if they are well-used to managerial changes at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s clash with Burnley at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel was asked whether he thought there might be a supporter backlash against Lampard’s sacking.
“I hope not because that would be hard on the team. The fans are so close (to the pitch when they are in the stadium) and behind the team, it makes a big difference,” he said.
“I know it was a big disappointment for the fanbase that Frank was sacked and, as I said before, I have the biggest respect. I was a huge fan of Frank as a player.
“To see how he played, he was one of the key figures who demonstrated what the club was all about. I have the biggest respect for him and his legacy.”
Tuchel, who made his name as a coach with Mainz before moving to Borussia Dortmund and then Paris St Germain where he won two French titles, said he had received a personal message of support from 42-year-old Lampard.
“I can’t change the situation for him. The decision was made and I was handed the opportunity. It’s not my fault,” he said.
Tuchel said it was a “pretty easy” decision to accept Chelsea’s approach and acknowledged he will be judged on results.
“In the end, I am very realistic, I am in a club whose DNA is to win,” he said. “I am here to challenge for every trophy we play for. This year it is the Champions League and FA Cup – for the Premier League it is not realistic.”
Chelsea are eighth in the table on 30 points from 20 games, 11 adrift of leaders Mancheser City who have a game in hand.
Tuchel was quick to allay fans’ fears that he might be less inclined than Lampard to play the club’s youngsters who the former Chelsea great promoted to the first team in his reign.
The German’s first team selection against Wolves saw Mason Mount, Reece James and Tammy Abraham all dropped to the bench.
“I wanted to take the weight off their shoulders,” Tuchel said. “I wanted to give the responsibility in this special moment to a bit more experienced players and have them on hand.
“When a big club changes a manager in mid-season you don’t know what effect it can have on young players, that’s all.
“There is nothing to worry about, I like what I see from Mason so far, (he’s) such a nice and competitive guy. Every game I have seen so far, Mason cares for Chelsea, 100 per cent.”
While Tuchel did not rule out signings before the transfer window closes on Monday, he said he was excited about his squad.
“I have zero doubt that we have 21 players who are absolutely ready to play in the Premier League and win games for us,” he said.