First-team coach Zsolt Low was on media duties in Abu Dhabi ahead of our FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Al Hilal, explaining how Thomas Tuchel is working remotely with the other coaches after testing positive for Covid and why Petr Cech has been such a big help during this period.
With Tuchel remaining in London while he follows protocol after his positive test, the hands-on running of the team has fallen to his coaching staff, with Low taking his place in the pre-match press conference in Abu Dhabi the day before our semi.
He explained how Tuchel is playing a constant role in the team’s preparations, as well as the possibility of him joining the team before the end of the tournament.
‘We are continuously in contact with Thomas,’ said Low. ‘We have a lot of meetings together, he is calling us all the time. We get calls during training and also when we come out in the evenings. We try to make it like he is here with us.
‘Thomas followed the Government rules and gets tested every day, so we hope the next test will be negative. We want to give him the feeling that he is with us and absolutely we need his support.’
Low admitted that it is difficult to continue at the same level without Tuchel, but that the support the coaches have received from those around them, particularly club legend and current technical and performance advisor Cech, has been crucial.
‘It is a big challenge that Thomas is not here but we try to make it as good as possible. We have a very good structured club here at Chelsea, we have a lot of support from different people at club.
‘First of all Petr Cech, he’s an amazing guy and supports us very well in these days. Petr is all the time with us. He has a very good feeling for when we need him, when we don’t need him. When we need him he will always step up, but he doesn’t want to disturb us all the time and be part of every discussion and every meeting. He’s given us a lot of support and we’re very happy that he’s with us.
‘We have very good medical staff, very good team management, a lot of support as coaching staff to help us carry on in this situation. We are still in contact with Thomas and he helps us how he can every day to prepare the training sessions, to prepare for team meetings.’
However, despite Tuchel’s input, Low feels he is such an accomplished coach that it will take everyone working together to make up for his absence in person.
‘We cannot copy Thomas, he is one of the best coaches in the world, that is why we have to share it among the whole coaching staff to do different things. We try to push the team forward and we change all the time when somebody sees something or has a good opinion.
‘Thomas is playing his part with messages and phone calls. Until now, the last few days were absolutely perfect.’
While making up for Tuchel’s absence is obviously a huge task for his staff, Low believes the head coach’s enthusiasm, and the time difference, means that not being on the touchline could be just as big a challenge for the German back home.
‘Thomas is on English time and just needs a wake-up call with his alarm to get up for a meeting at 6am in the morning. But the training sessions are in the afternoon so it’s very comfortable to join the training sessions.
‘I don’t know how he behaves at home! It can be very difficult for him to sit in front of the TV with all of the emotions. Thomas is absolutely the coach who likes to be with the team and give a lot of energy for the team. So this is the challenge he has to deal with.’