Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was left frazzled on Wednesday night after watching his side slump to their second defeat in three Premier League games, with a dismal 4-2 home loss to Arsenal.
With his side having now conceded eight goals in that same time frame, the German was desperately searching for answers during the postmatch debrief at Stamford Bridge until he finally hit upon the root of the problem.
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Indeed, the roots literally were the issue for Tuchel, who blamed the condition of the pitch for the role it played in Eddie Nketiah’s opening goal, as the striker tucked away after pouncing on a scuffed back-pass from Andreas Christensen.
Thomas Tuchel mutters under his breath as the pitch undoes his Chelsea side. AP Photo/Frank Augstein
“To say that the pitch is difficult to play here is maybe sounds like an excuse but it is a very, very difficult pitch that we have here,” the Chelsea boss grumbled. “It is not to our favour. The ball bounces very, very awkwardly in front of Andreas when he wants to play this ball.”
Tuchel also referenced the error made by Edouard Mendy during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Real Madrid which saw the Blues’ keeper bungle a bobbling back-pass as Karim Benzema nipped in to complete his hat trick in a 3-1 drubbing.
“We had the same mistake against Real Madrid that cost us the next round,” he added. “This one [Nketiah’s goal] cost us the next match, I cannot remember when we got a goal like this.”
Rather than any great act of treachery on behalf of the Stamford Bridge turf, it’s also perfectly feasible that Tuchel’s defenders have simply been found lacking a little composure under pressure in recent weeks. Who can say for sure?
Andreas Christensen fails to connect with a back-pass leading to a goal for Arsenal. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Of course, the Chelsea manager isn’t the first manager to resort to fantastical and/or wafer-thin excuses in the face of suboptimal results. In fact, it’s become something of a tradition at the very top of the game.
Klopp versus the elements
An affable and jocular character most of the time, even Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been forced to trot out some truly baffling excuses in moments of substantial duress.
Indeed, after sitting through an exasperating goalless draw in the Merseyside derby in the 2018-19 title race, that saw the Reds lose ground to Manchester City, Klopp exorcised his frustration by lashing out at the elements.
“I know people don’t like it when I say it, but the wind came from all different directions, the ball was in the air a lot,” he griped.
Klopp then blamed the wind again when Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves last year, complaining that his players “struggled to control the ball” due to the blustery conditions at Molineux. Obviously Wolves seemed to cope just fine on the night.
Ferguson sees the grey mist descend
Never shy when it came to diverting criticism away from his players, Sir Alex Ferguson waged many private battles with all and sundry during his long and distinguished tenure at Manchester United.
One of the pugnacious Scot’s most infamous remonstrations came in 1996 when United hit a rough patch of away form and duly blamed the club’s new grey change strip.
United lost four of the five games they played while wearing the accursed kit, with the final defeat coming against Southampton at The Dell.
Fergie’s side were 3-1 down at half-time when he ordered the players to ditch the grey shirts on the basis that the drab, mottled pattern meant they were struggling to distinguish each other against the backdrop of the crowd.
The away side emerged for the second half wearing their blue and white striped third kit, but still found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat having failed to “re-dress” the balance.
Wenger struggles to settle in his new home
Often the wily and elusive yin to Fergie’s fiery yang, Arsene Wenger forged a reputation for offering equally feeble excuses during his heyday as Arsenal manager, including a propensity for brazenly and repeatedly claiming to have failed to see any incident that could possibly be described as contentious.
The Gunners’ boss infamously blamed the referee for his side’s 10-2 (TEN-TWO!) aggregate defeat against Bayern Munich in 2017, and also the Wigan Warriors rugby league team for churning up Wigan Athletic’s JJB Stadium pitch one week before his side’s disappointing 2-2 draw in 2010.
However, his magnum opus came in the wake of a poor start to the 2006-07 season when underwhelming draws against Aston Villa and Middlesbrough led Wenger to blame Arsenal’s brand new Emirates stadium — a lush, expensive modern arena that he himself had strived to tirelessly to get built.
“I personally put our bad start to the season down to the new stadium,” he said. “We dropped some points that any team will drop when they move to a new stadium.
“It is linked with the unfamiliarity [for our players], as well as the fact that a team that comes to the stadium has no bad memories.”
Mourinho blames it on the Barca ball boys
Jose Mourinho has made it his business to dish out blame at almost every juncture during his managerial career, with his own players usually bearing the brunt along with match officials, the media, club executives, fans, physios, balls, etc., etc.
The perennially sour Portuguese boss also has a checkered record when it comes to ball boys, who have stumbled into his crosshairs on several occasions.
Most notably while in charge at Real Madrid, Mourinho raged at Barcelona’s ball boys (or lack thereof) after watching his team lose in the Clasico in the second leg of the 2011 Spanish Supercopa.
Speaking after the game, he revealed he was aggrieved with Barca’s ball boys going missing after half-time, by which point the Catalans were 2-1 ahead on the night and 4-3 up on aggregate.
“Real Madrid gave a spectacular performance from the first to the last minute. We came here to play,” Mourinho said. “What I’m about to say is not a criticism, I’m just stating a fact: There were no ball boys in the second half, which is something typical of small teams when experiencing difficulties.”
Barcelona went onto win 5-4 on aggregate and claim their 10th Supercopa title
Guardiola talks balls
Much like Mourinho, his longtime managerial nemesis, Pep Guardiola, has also rattled through some true humdingers when it comes to postmatch excuses.
Indeed, the Man City boss really had to plumb the depths after watching his side get taken to penalties by then-Championship side Wolves, after 120 minutes of goalless toil in the round of 16 of the Carabao Cup in 2017.
After Wolves had just become the very first opponent to prevent his side from scoring a goal in regulation time that season, Guardiola said that there must be something wrong with the ball.
“The ball was unacceptable for a high-level competition,” he complained. “It is too light. It moves all over the place. It is not a good ball. It’s impossible to score with a ball like that, and I can say that because we won.
“I’m not making excuses. All of my players said: ‘What is that?’ I’m sorry, Carabao Cup, it is not a serious ball for a serious competition’.”
The ball in question was a Mitre Delta, used in English football league competitions since the 1960s.
Pardew the party-pooper
Perhaps the finest, flimsiest, most down-right nonsensical excuse ever uttered by a professional football manager came early in the 2012-13 season after Newcastle United had just lost 2-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Toon had faced Greek side Atromitos in a Europa League qualification playoff on the Thursday and therefore asked that their game against the Blues be moved from Saturday to Sunday to give them an extra day to prepare.
However, given that it was only the second fixture of the Premier League season, the authorities rejected the request and Newcastle were forced to plod on, losing out to first-half goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.
Alan Pardew was Newcastle boss at the time and the best he could do to assuage himself and his team of culpability was to blame the scheduling of a popular Caribbean street fair that has been taking place in London on roughly the same date in August since 1966.
“Today was a little bit unfair on us,” Pardew muttered afterwards. “We couldn’t move the game to Sunday because of the Notting Hill Carnival.”
Ah yes, that old chestnut.