Pep and Tuchel; Manchester City and Chelsea; what is there not to love?
As witnessed in the Premier League fixture last weekend, the UCL final between Manchester City and Chelsea will be a brilliant game of football, whatever the result. While the Pensioners were able to squeeze out a victory against the now champions of English football, it was a game that demonstrated exactly why the two English sides will clash for European glory.
They are each playing absolutely stunning, fluid and defensively stout football. Each side has shown great organization, great ingenuity and innovation in fixing their weaker bits while further developing their stronger points.
While both teams are playing brilliant football, they each took different roads to get to remarkably similar teams at the end of the same competition. Therefore, it begs us to look back on how we got here, so as to better understand what we might expect when they meet in the Champions League final.
Chelsea: From Lampard to Tuchel, the road has been remarkable
Chelsea nearly had an FA Cup trophy last season were it not for Arsenal, and so the rough start Frank Lampard suffered during this season could not be overlooked.
With the amount of transfer money spent during the summer compared to the last campaign, it is small wonder of course. For Roman Abramovich, not even a team legend is safe from the sack should his team underperform.
After signing Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and others, the lull in the season Chelsea went through was simply unacceptable. Luckily for Chelsea, the fact that Thomas Tuchel had been recently canned by PSG presented an opportunity. And just like that, it seems the fit was obvious and natural.
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While Mauricio Pochettino would be hired by Paris, Tuchel would go to Chelsea. While I do not agree with it from the PSG perspective, I think it is easy to agree that everyone has made out better than Tottenham . With that said, what Tuchel has brought is simply breathtaking.
He’s widely regarded as a tactical genius as well as a perfectionist. He is obsessed with football, with winning, in a way similar to Pep Guardiola and the great managers of this and past generations.
He is machine like and ruthless when it comes to efficiency and responsibility. For Chelsea, this was precisely what was needed after the lax nature under Lampard.
Lampard could be a good boss but he needs more time and this experience. Tuchel, on the other hand, was able to slot in and instantly get the best out of not only their new German players, but all their players across the board. The team bought into the passion, into the spirit, into the possibilities and they’ve done this by relying on sound, organized defense, as well as a blistering, clinical counterattack.
This combination, alongside the organization and depth of Chelsea, has gotten the team this far. While it has been wonderful to watch from the neutral, football loving spectator, what Manchester City has done might arguably be more interesting.
Manchester City: A Pep in your step is all you need it appears, as well as midfielders
City is a whole different ball of strings because as this might be one of Guardiola’s most impressive clubs. They did not begin the season wonderfully, appearing stiff, reactionary and inefficient. Everyone knew Manchester City would improve, yet when they did, the pace instantly became something overpowering and different in its integrity.
This team did not solely rely on its forwards to score but pumped out goal after goal from its midfield players. This isn’t to say that City did not enjoy brilliant wing play from the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyhad Mahrez or Phil Foden, but simply that City became so incredibly good playing tiki-taka with one another that they were able to move the ball upwards, outwards, before pouring into the box to finish off any proper ball that came their way.
It has been an absolute joy to watch and when the team won nearly twenty straight at one point of the season, it appeared that this team was a bit different than the others.
City did not rely on Kun Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne or even new starlet Foden. The club shares the ball perfectly and simply executes flawlessly. While Chelsea won the last match against City, do not be surprised come the final, City are simply too complete across all phases of the game for even the tactically astute Tuchel to make up enough ground.
Chelsea and Manchester City: Trophies and counting
While Chelsea attempts to win the FA Cup, City would be incredibly happy to earn a treble this season. Winning the Premier League, Champions League and EFL Cup in one season would absolutely be one of Pep’s best jobs across his career. But it will not be easy.
Tuchel has brought two different clubs in consecutive seasons to the final of the Champions League. This is no small feat and with a victory against one of the greatest managers in football history, Tuchel could be adding his name to the list of great coaches to have won the highest prize in European football.
The Premier League bout was simply a warm up, a feeling out of sorts, for each team. Neither team is the same as when they met one another in January although with wins last week and in the FA Cup semifinal in April, Chelsea must certainly feel as though they understand what they’ll have to do to win.
City ,meanwhile, will know that they have many cards to play. They will be able to change strategy or utilize different pieces in different ways to be able to steadily grind down Chelsea .
Not overthinking things will be crucial and while depth of Pep’s knowledge is well known, do not be shocked if he lets his players play as he has all year. He believes in them and this new style they’ve employed.
I believe that Pep will win it for City, further cementing his legacy across European football. No matter the result, this will be an entertaining final – certainly a more interesting one than the last all English final between Liverpool and Tottenham.