With this weekend’s revelation that Arsenal may or may not have been talking to Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel with an eye towards hiring him as Wenger’s replacement this summer, I had Thoughts and Feelings. My first one was “I know nothing about Thomas Tuchel”. So, I did what I do - I asked smarter people than me a bunch of stupid questions in order to make myself be smarter.
In this case, the smarter person is Brian Meyers, managing editor of Fear The Wall, SBN’s Dortmund blog, and he was nice enough to answer TSF’s questions about Tuchel so we can know what to expect if this actually does become a thing.
TSF: Despite Kicker being a usually reliable source, this smells like one of those rumors that someone made up on a whim. In your view, is there any truth to it? Why or why not?
Meyers: There really is only one reason I can’t imagine Tuchel going to Arsenal. Sven Mislintat and Tuchel REALLY don’t like each-other. Tuchel banned him from the training ground. Tuchel’s hatred of Sven is one of the first major rifts that split him and (Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim) Watzke. Tuchel is the kind of person to be petty enough to ask Arsenal fire their new head scout as a condition of hiring him.
TSF: Is Tuchel a tactically flexible manager, or does he find what works and stick with it no matter what?
Meyers: A little bit of both! For example, no matter what formation he was using, he always used Julian Weigl as a pivot no matter what. Also, in his second season he stood by a three back lineup despite poor results. Despite that, he has shown he will tinker the rest of the lineup and his game plan to beat opponents. Even deciding to move to three back was a risky choice to take, and it was good for the team that he at least tried it.
TSF: Do you know how irreparable the rift between Tuchel and Mislintat is? Would a new team mitigate the problem, or was it a deeper struggle than we knew?
Meyers: Going off what I said from the first question, there is such a petty silly rift between these too. The problem with their rift, to me, was that reports indicate it wasn’t really over football. They just didn’t like being around each other. They are both adults and if the team can help them get over their silly differences Arsenal may have something really special in the works.
TSF: Given that squad overhauls take time, do you see Tuchel being successful quickly with the Arsenal squad he’d inherit, or would his style and tactics take some growing pains for Arsenal to get used to?
Meyers: Tuchel inherited a squad that flirted with relegation at one point the year before, and turned into a team that had the most points to still not win the Bundesliga. He also won the Pokal in a year where we were rebuilding our squad. He can turn a team. Tuchel’s great skill is unleashing players that are young or struggling.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan stated a big reason for his improvement at BVB was Tuchel having private meetings with him and encouraging him with self-help books. Tuchel is great for things like that. If you believe a lot of Arsenal’s problems lie in player potential not being realized, he is your guy.
TSF: Does Tuchel have a “player type”, or is he more invested in a system and then finding players to fit it?
Meyers: Tuchel unleashed the potential of some great players at his time at BVB. It didn’t seem like there was a specific kind of player he would favor, but he worked great with young guys. He took the unknown Weigl and made him a world class midfielder(at least for those two years, this year Weigl has faltered). He brought up Christian Pulisic and gave him his first shot. He got a lot out of Moussa Dembele and Mkhitaryan, both of whom had their footballing problems going into their time under Tuchel.
When it comes to player recruitment, though, it’s hard to tell what to expect from TT. BVB has Michael Zorc doing most of that business, so it is hard to tell who Tuchel brought in. Other than players that show potential, a type of player he used is players that are multi positioned. Erik Durm, Mathias Ginter and Raphael Gurreriro saw time at a bevy of positions other than their natural spots under Tuchel.
TSF: How did Tuchel turn BVB around after falling out of the CL?
Meyers: He tested out different lineups and helped players develop quickly. We don’t do nearly as well that first season without Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and Weigl all playing out of their minds, though.
...oh hey you have two of those guys.
TSF: Any final thoughts?
Meyers: I think you guys are set with Tuchel. Just beware, he is a control freak, which i didnt super get into here.
Thanks to Brian and Fear The Wall for taking some time to talk with us!