Thomas Tuchel has opened up on the most challenging season of his career – and described it as “fun.”
The Chelsea manager insists his hunger for the game remains as strong as ever, despite having to cope with the fallout of Government sanctions on Roman Abramovich and the drawn out sale of the club. And now he has set his sights on emulating Roy Hodgson by managing into his old age.
Chelsea effectively secured third place with a 1-1 draw against Leicester last night - with Tuchel already planning a meeting with new owner Todd Boehly to lay out what he needs to mount a title challenge next season.
Chelsea also lifted the Club World Cup and European Super Cup, as well as reaching the finals of the Carabao and FA Cup.
That came despite the backdrop of Abramovich having his assets frozen because of his links with Vladimir Putin, which raised fears about the future of the club. But Tuchel claims he has relished the challenge.
“It makes it maybe at the very top of the list of (challenging) seasons that we’ve had,” he said. “In that moment you adapt to that situation, you try to adapt and you try to find solutions and it’s always challenging.
“It can be from results, from the atmosphere in the dressing room, from crazy things like sanctions, which nobody could predict or ever think of.
“It was very challenging, but at the same time it was also demanding, but also a lot of fun. It is a pure pleasure to be in the middle of it and still have the chance to guide the team and to be a part of it.”
Tuchel has made it clear that he wants to lead the fight to break the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool next season. He is hoping for major backing from Boehly in the summer as he bids to overhaul his squad.
He is adamant his hunger for the game has not diminished – and even believes he can follow in Hodgson’s footsteps. The pair go head-to-head on Sunday in what will be the 74-year-old Watford boss’ final game before retirement.
It’is maybe a miracle we are in the top three the whole season.
Tuchel said: “If it is his last game he deserves full credit for his career and it is impressive that at this kind of age he still has the energy and commitment and the love for the game. I think it can happen to me to be very honest, but let’s see. I’m pretty sure I will still be in love with football.”
Last night’s draw means even if Chelsea lose on Sunday, Tottenham would have make up a difference of 18 goals to leapfrog their fierce rivals.
That represents progress in the Premier League after finishing fourth last year. But the German accepts improvements must be made to mount a genuine title challenge and is set to hold talks with Boehly about his transfer needs.
“We will be very open and honest,” he said. “He will get my point of view if he wants to have it. Of course, we lose key players and we struggle lately to win our home games.
“We struggle with efficiency, with goalscoring records, with consistency, with determination, with precision in the box against teams who defend deep. It is like this, but we lack huge quality like N’Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, Reece James (through injury).
“It is maybe a miracle we are in the top three the whole season without these key players because we missed them for weeks and weeks and weeks and it never stopped for us.
“Maybe this just needs to change - that we have everybody available. But the top teams, Liverpool bought a fantastic player in the winter to make the existing squad stronger. Man City signed (Erling) Haaland already to make the existing squad stronger.
“We are losing players so at the moment my focus is to build a strong team and to see what’s even possible and then we think about how we close the gap.”