Coronavirus: FIFA chief Infantino warns football will be 'different' upon return

By Sports Desk April 02, 2020

FIFA president Gianni Infantino warned football will be "different" when it returns, and it says it is impossible to know when leagues will resume.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the majority of the football world to a standstill as governments across the globe attempt to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19, with close to one million confirmed cases across the world and over 52,000 people having died after testing positive for the virus.

Last week, FIFA chief Infantino conducted an interview with La Gazetta dello Sport in which he pondered the possibility of reforming football with fewer competitions to try to cope with the disruption to the calendar.

Addressing the 72nd Ordinary CONMEBOL Congress during a speech via videolink, Infantino stressed the message that tackling the coronavirus crisis remains the most pressing concern.

"Football is not the most important thing, health comes first and should remain our priority until this sickness has been defeated," he said.

"The world is facing new challenges and we have to stay together and work as a team. This is the lesson that football can give: to work as a team.

"Tomorrow we all would like to see football again, but we don't know when we will be able to resume playing and no one around the world knows when we will be able to play like before.

"It is very important that football follows the instructions of the health authorities and governments, and it is very important that football gives a good example, because it's clear that no match is more important than a human life.

"This we need to clearly have in our minds, while at the same time... working with confidence and thinking positively towards the future.

"We have to look ahead and can't remain passive as [the coronavirus] will affect us. Both our world and our sport will be different once we return to normality.

"It is our responsibility as football administrators, first of all to ensure football can survive and secondly move forward once again. This is not only our responsibility but also our obligation."

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    Thomas Tuchel's appointment as the new Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday - and the new man does not have a lot of time to get settled.

    Frank Lampard was sacked on Monday, with Tuchel's widely anticipated arrival promptly following.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain coach took charge of training on his first day and will be thrust straight into the spotlight when Chelsea host Wolves on Wednesday.

    The Blues entered the latest round of Premier League fixtures sitting ninth in the table and Tuchel will be looking for an immediate impact.

    But there are long-term tasks to complete, too, if the German is to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of his initial contract, which runs to 2022.
     

    HELP WERNER AND HAVERTZ

    Having worked with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar during his time at PSG, Tuchel knows all about the challenges of motivating some of the world's top talents.

    At Chelsea, that will mean eliciting an improvement in the performance of his much-criticised compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

    Werner, for whom Chelsea paid RB Leipzig close to £50million, scored 28 Bundesliga goals in 34 appearances last season but has mustered just four in 19 in the Premier League, the most recent of which came on November 7.

    Meanwhile, Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen with a price tag in the region of £70million and a reputation as one of Europe's most creative young stars but has one goal, two assists and just 11 key passes to date.

    Tuchel will be asked to get more from the Germany pair to boost a Chelsea team who have scored only four goals in their past five league outings.
     

    KEEP ACADEMY ACES INVOLVED

    Hindered by a transfer ban in his first season in charge, Lampard at least made use of Chelsea's impressive academy to bring a number of young talents into the team.

    Perhaps most exciting among those were Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour.

    Both Mount, 22, and Gilmour, 19, started Lampard's final game in charge against Luton Town and formed a creative double-pivot in an attack-minded side, earning praise from the coach for their discipline and movement.

    Mount will surely feature in Tuchel's immediate plans, but Chelsea will hope both the England midfielder and team-mate Gilmour can continue to develop over the coming years.
     

    SETTLE ON HIS BEST SIDE

    Between the big spending ahead of this season and the promotion of a number of academy talents, Lampard was certainly not short of options. But that might have been to his detriment.

    Looking to pack an array of star names into a first XI, the team too often lacked balance.

    Juggling club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James proved tricky, while Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma - seemingly Lampard's preferred centre-back pairing - have started together in only 14 of the 29 games so far this season in all competitions.

    There has been concern regarding the form of N'Golo Kante, perhaps played out of position, while Lampard struggled to work out the best fit up front in his 4-3-3.

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    EFFECTIVELY MANAGE UPWARDS

    An increasingly strained relationship with director Marina Granovskaia reportedly contributed to Lampard's demise, so keeping the Chelsea board onside will be crucial for Tuchel.

    Dealings with the top brass at PSG in his previous job were not always straightforward for Tuchel and may have been a factor behind his departure from Paris, which came despite impressive results across recent seasons.

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    Tuchel could hardly complain about the level of investment at Stamford Bridge over the past year, so similar comments towards Chelsea power-brokers would be unlikely to go down well.

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    The 31-year-old enjoyed a productive first few months at Old Trafford as an alternative striker option to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, providing five goals and two assists in 19 appearances in all competitions.

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  • Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge? Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge?

    A day after club great Frank Lampard was shown the door by Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has been confirmed as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge.

    Having departed Paris Saint-Germain in late December, the highly regarded tactician will now continue his coaching career in England.  

    Former Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel won two straight Ligue 1 titles and steered PSG to the Champions League final last season, yet ownership decided the time was right for a change in the French capital.

    Mauricio Pochettino's status as a free agent arguably persuaded PSG to act fast and the boot is now on the other foot for Tuchel, whose availability has allowed him to step straight in at Stamford Bridge.

    FROM PARIS TO LONDON

    There was little Christmas cheer for Tuchel, who left PSG with a record similar to his predecessor in the job - Unai Emery. Both recorded an average of 2.37 points per game in Ligue 1 - tied for the best in club history.  

    The German tops the list when it comes to top-flight win rate at 75.6 per cent (62 wins from 82 games), though that number dips slightly when taking into consideration all competitions, albeit only down to 74.8 per cent (Emery's was higher, at 76.3 per cent).

    Like Lampard, Tuchel lost his job on the back of a convincing home win. PSG thrashed Strasbourg 4-0 in his final game and, while that result on December 23 left them third in the table, they were sitting just a point behind leaders Lyon. 

    Only Laurent Blanc (173 games) was in the PSG post for longer than Tuchel in the time since Qatar Sports Investments purchased the French club. 

    Tuchel averaged 2.67 goals per game in Ligue 1.

    It helps to have a squad that contains stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, of course, though he was the first PSG boss to make it beyond the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, the one trophy that has so far eluded the owners.

    An unconvincing start this term was enough to lead to change. Tuchel became the first PSG head coach to be fired during a season despite sitting in the top three of Ligue 1 since Antoine Kombouare, who lost his job during the 2011-12 campaign.


    FAMILIARITY, PLUS A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

    Roman Abramovich made clear he has the "utmost respect" for Lampard in the statement released to confirm his departure. Still, there was no doubt left over the reason for making the change. 

    "We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as head coach of the club," the statement read from Chelsea.

    "However, recent results and performances have not met the club's expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement." 

    Chelsea have a home game against Wolves on Wednesday and Tuchel will get up and running by taking training on the eve of the match. He takes over a team in ninth place, though just five points off fourth in what is a congested league table. 

    It will be hoped the new man can get the best out of compatriots Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, two of Chelsea's big-money recruits in the previous window who have yet to fire. 

    However, Tuchel will also need to tighten things up at the back, particularly on the road. At PSG, his teams conceded 0.81 goals per game, while it should be noted they leaked just six in Champions League action in 2019-20.

    Since the start of the previous season, only Newcastle (54) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than Chelsea (50).

    They kept a clean sheet in just 17 per cent of their away games under Lampard; among those to have taken charge of 10 or more such fixtures in the competition, this is the lowest percentage of any Chelsea boss. 

    Tuchel will, of course, be able to call upon his old PSG captain Thiago Silva in trying to mastermind a defensive revival.

    There will also be an expectancy to improve the team's fortunes against their major rivals, too. 

    Since August 2019, Chelsea have won just 15 points against fellow 'big six' sides, a joint-low tally alongside Arsenal. During that run, they have scored 17 goals and conceded 28 times. 

    At least Tuchel understands the demands of working for owners with lofty expectations. There is still time to turn this season around but, like his most recent Stamford Bridge predecessors, he will be expected to produce instant results.

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