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‘He really has the balls!’ – Chelsea boss Tuchel reacts to Van Gaal’s passionate tirade at Dutch journalist

The Blues boss was pleased to hear the Netherlands coach come to his defence over the team’s style of play

Thomas Tuchel has praised Louis van Gaal for having “the balls” to speak his mind after he praised the Chelsea coach during an outburst at a press conference.

Van Gaal had an altercation with De Telegraaf journalist Valentijn Driessen over the nature of a three-man defence.

The 70-year-old highlighted Chelsea as proof that a 3-5-2 formation does not necessarily mean a defensive approach, saying: “I take my hat off to Mr Tuchel, because he got in halfway through [the season].”

What did Tuchel say?

Tuchel was pleased to hear Van Gaal come to his defence and says he is an admirer of the Netherlands coach.

“Somebody sent that to me. It was a pleasure to play against him as a very young coach in Germany when he was coach from Bayern Munich and he has this kind of brutal honesty when you talk to him or when he goes to the press conference, which is what I really love,” Tuchel told Sky Sports.

“He has really the balls to speak it out, what he thinks. Sometimes it’s not to his advantage, but I think right now, it’s nice to hear him talk about football. He has a certain age. He has a huge experience. He has influenced football in general with all his clubs, all his teams, on such a high level.

“Not just because he defended me in person, which was nice, of course, but in general, he is not afraid to speak out. Sometimes I or other colleagues maybe think ‘let’s don’t speak out’ because we’d just create trouble and we want to protect a calm atmosphere… But he’s a nice guy, I like him.”

Do Chelsea play defensively?

Thomas Tuchel Chelsea 2021-22

Tuchel agreed with Van Gaal that his side do not set up to prioritise defending over attacking football, stressing that an attractive style is most important. 

“Well, what is defensive and what is offensive? I think you can debate for hours and for weeks and in the end for years,” the German coach added.

“For me it’s more to stay active. If you take the Champions League final, we had not a lot of possession and of course we had to defend because of the quality of Man City, but we never were passive. We never just parked the bus in front of the goal.

“If a game is active, it’s attractive. So you need to have answers to all the questions and you have to respect the strengths and strategy of your opponent.

“Sometimes we have a lot of ball possession but it doesn’t feel like a really offensive game. I had some games in Paris with PSG with ridiculous amount of ball possession, but we could not pace it up, we could not accelerate in this special game. So it felt like we controlled it, but it didn’t feel like attacking football.

“So what is attacking football? One of the best transition teams was Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund and with Liverpool in the last years. Sometimes they don’t have much ball possession, but then you see these fast attacks – and they have these fast attacks because they defended deep before.

“So it’s all connected and what I heard from Van Gaal, I was clearly on his side! It’s important that it’s attractive, that it’s active and it’s intensive and you can show these attributes in all parts of the game, in the moments where you defend, and also when you attack.”

What did Van Gaal say?

Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal’s comments were prompted by Driessen’s suggestion that he wanted Netherlands to focus on a more careful approach than the attacking style that the coach and country are famous for.

“You have no idea at all. I’m sorry to say it, but you’re just a journalist,” Van Gaal said. 

“You want to implement your vision, but you have no vision in football. You have a vision for the newspaper, fantastic. You attract attention and so on. But with 5-3-2 or 5-2-3 you can attack incredibly well. Chelsea shows it every time, with different formations. And I take my hat off to Mr Tuchel, because he got in halfway through [the season].”

When Driessen pointed out that Van Gaal’s first book says otherwise, the ex-Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss said: “Have you ever heard of evolution? I’m developing – and Memphis is developing too. Me, at the age of 70.

“With 5-3-2 you can play distinctive football. Only you don’t want to. Well, then you should write that. I read it again and then a faint smile arises again, because I think: ‘there you have Valentijn again’. It’s so easy to write that. I can’t do anything about it.”

Further reading

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