In the next part of an interview series profiling Thomas Tuchel’s coaching staff, we hear from a long-time member of the German’s backroom team, Benjamin Weber.
In January 2021, the 39-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge alongside his compatriot Tuchel, whom he has been working for as a video analyst since the pair’s days at Mainz, which began in 2009.
After more success in Germany at Borussia Dortmund, he then followed our head coach to the French capital to manage Paris Saint-Germain, before they joined the Blues.
Here, we find out which other sport Weber was close to pursuing a career in, as well as discussing his relationship with Tuchel, his day-to-day role at Cobham and also moving to London in the midst of a pandemic…
How did you get into professional sport?
‘Originally, I was a tennis player. I was playing tennis at a high standard, and I was also studying sport science in Mainz but it got to the stage where I needed a job, I needed to earn some money. So I started to work at Mainz 05, where Jurgen Klopp was the coach, because I knew his assistant Peter Krawietz.
‘I would record all of their games and do reports and from there, I started working in the scouting department at Mainz. That gave me the opportunity to earn some money whilst still studying sports science in Mainz and that was the first job I had in football.’
When did you first meet Thomas and did you guys click straightaway?
‘I knew Thomas a little bit from scouting as he was at Mainz too. When Jurgen left for Dortmund, I was one of the only ones Thomas knew at Mainz so he took me into the first-team set up with him. Then not long after, Arno joined us and Zsolt was already our player, and the group formed from there.
‘With regards to Thomas, we had been out for few nights out together and met up for coffee so we already had some basis of a good relationship but for sure, it got better year by year. You need that trust and loyalty and with Thomas, that friendship – both professionally and personally – was there straightaway. Also with Arno and Zsolt, we have a good bond together.’
How come you didn’t pursue the tennis dream?
‘I did play professional tennis for a while, I played in all the tournaments around the world, and I would say I had a certain talent, but I wasn’t sure if I would be good enough to make it into the top 50 or so to make money from tennis.
‘I also felt a lot of pressure from the sport, plus I had an inflammation in my bicep tendon and at that point, I felt it was a good reason to stop it there and perhaps look for another career.
‘It was a shame because tennis was totally my first love – it still is – but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and I knew it was the right decision.’
Can you explain your day-to-day role at Chelsea?
‘I guess I’m the guy in the background, the person you don’t see on the television. My work is in the background and starts way in advance of the game. I look at the opponents and deliver a file on them, along with James Melbourne and his department. He and the other analysts will prepare it and then I will deliver it to Thomas.
‘We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents and then discuss our tactics, to see how we can best approach the game. During the game, I’m usually up in the stand to get a higher vantage point of the game. I’m constantly in contact with Yogi [Zsolt Low] and then at half-time, I will come down to the dressing room to show clips to the other coaches for us to analyse.’
You had to relay messages to Thomas via Teams during the Club World Cup due to him having Covid, how difficult was that?
‘That game was very tough and personally, I don’t like it when Thomas is not there. He is the main piece of the puzzle within our coaching staff so when he isn’t there, it is difficult.
‘For that game I would speak to him via the laptop and then relay the message down to the coaching staff on the bench but it isn’t the same as when he’s there in person, because sometimes you need him to speak to players directly to get the required response rather than it being a relayed message.
‘I think the hardest thing for Thomas that day was not being at the stadium, so thankfully we managed to win so he could come out for the final! It was very difficult for him to be absent but I also think it shows that as a coaching team, he can really rely on us to get on with the job and deliver every detail what he wants at such a high level too.’
What is Thomas like away from football and what makes him tick?
‘He is such a huge sports lover, both watching and playing. We play a lot of golf, tennis, paddle-tennis, table-tennis and our hobbies are very similar. So that helps with a strong relationship. We play a lot of sports together and I have to admit, I like to see him losing in these sports because generally he wins at everything else!
‘In football, he wins all the time but at the other sports maybe I’m a little better. Either way, it’s nice to see him sweating when he’s losing!’
You moved to London to join Chelsea during Covid, how was that and how settled are you now?
‘It was very tough, I have to say. We lost our jobs in Paris on Christmas Eve and that was a stressful time because we didn’t know what would happen next. Then when the opportunity to join Chelsea came, it was a fantastic opportunity but we still had to tell the family that we were moving to London and they couldn’t come because of the pandemic.
‘So it was difficult not being with them but it also meant as a coaching team, we were with each other all the time and totally immersed in the new job. We suffered a lot in the first few weeks but it was all worth it in the end, by winning the Champions League for this great club.’
What did it mean to you to win the Champions League?
‘For sure, it changed our lives. We had lost the final one year prior with PSG, so to come back and win it with Chelsea having only been here a few months it was just a surreal moment to enjoy. I must admit, we felt confident in the days leading up to it and so that led to a very positive atmosphere.
‘We had the hunger to win it and everything felt right leading up to the final. After the final too was very special, because we got to celebrate with family and friends together which is something that will live with me forever. The season before with PSG, it was during covid so there were no fans at the stadium and I’m not sure it would have been the same.’
You’re all winners in your field, do you set targets or take things step by step?
‘We never set massive goals, we look at what we can achieve in the short term and then focus towards that. For example, at Mainz our objective was to stay in the league and then once we did that, we then looked at where we could go next. We try to be flexible. That’s how we work, and how Thomas coaches, so we look to be adaptable at all times.
‘To look too far ahead isn’t the most practical, so for right now we look at starting the season well. Do not be mistaken though, we all have dreams and like Thomas said in his first interview at Chelsea – we all want to win titles and trophies.’
Does moving into a coaching or manager role appeal to you at all, Benny?
‘As long as I’m wanted in that team [Thomas, Arno, Zsolt] and have an important job to play, I wouldn’t change my role. I think I’ve played a big part in our success as a team with my role and I’m happy with that, I don’t need to be the next Thomas Tuchel or the next sporting director or anything like that. Things work really well as they are and I’m happy to be contributing at a club like Chelsea.
‘I’m flexible to do a different job where required – for example, one week I could be focused on the transfer market and then the next week, I’m looking at opponent reports. I get the same praise internally as everyone else and I’m more than happy with that.’