Interview

Revealed: The Thomas Tuchel way to prepare for a cup final

It is not a time for new tricks explains the Chelsea head coach…

Thomas Tuchel will experience his first FA Cup final today when he becomes the first German to manage a team in the deciding match of football’s oldest club competition, but he has plenty of experience of cup finals during his previous roles in his homeland and in France.

While no two finals are the same and football culture may vary between nations, Tuchel’s experience has taught him how to navigate through the occasion, both on a team level and personally, and he admits nervousness may be involved.

Firstly, the Chelsea head coach, who will also contest the Champions League final this month for a second year in a row, discusses how he likes to prepare players in the days immediately leading up to a cup final.

Keep it clear

‘What is needed in the situation is to trust my feelings and trust the feelings of my staff, trust also the data, and the general rule is that the more tension, the more decisive a game is, the less new information we give.

‘We try to do the training sessions in the most easy way - short sessions, clear sessions – and it is not the moment to learn new stuff, to implement new tactical tricks.

‘It's the moment to be confident and to be well aware of what our style of play is, what we do good, what our strengths are, and encourage the players to be on their top level.’

Tuchel recalls that ahead of one of first finals, when in charge at Borussia Dortmund, he lightened the mood in the final training by taking the gloves from his ‘keeper and going in goal himself to try to save the shots.

‘I gave a lot of confidence to my players!’ he smiles, clearly not rating his own goalie skills.

‘You cannot do it artificially, sometimes it happens, and anything that can mean laughter is always very welcome,’ he adds.

‘But if you try too hard to make the group smile, it will not happen. It has to come naturally.

‘It’s normal the tension will grow. Once we arrive in Wembley, there will be a certain energy in the air that you cannot be prepared for. You will feel it and then adapt to it and go for it. Embrace the challenge and do what we all love on the very best level.’

It’s normal to be nervous

Although Tuchel’s children are too young to be at Wembley tomorrow, his wife will be there to watch a Chelsea game live for the first time with her husband in charge. Looking at himself, Tuchel has his own pre-match routine although he admits he does not follow it religiously. It is not set in stone.

‘Normally the night before, I try to do sports. This time the team stays in a hotel so we have a meal together, and maybe we talk some situations and we watch some video footage from Leicester again to be prepared for the next morning.

‘Then usually I try to wake up early and do some sports, some meditation for 20 minutes - breathe in, breathe out, eyes closed trying hard to do nothing. And then be ready to prepare the first meeting.

‘I have my ups and downs,’ he adds. ‘Sometimes I'm very disciplined, sometimes I'm not so disciplined, but I think it's normal to be excited and it's normal to be nervous. Sometimes it can catch me before normal matches and sometimes you feel a little more relaxed and calm even if the pressure is on.

‘If it's a huge match it depends. I haven’t figured out a certain pattern, but it's normal for a certain amount [of nerves]. It's important because then you are well aware of everything.’

Time will tell if Tuchel experiences special Wembley nerves during a special football day.
 

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