Neil Humphreys: Chelsea manager Tuchel plays a dangerous game
Chelsea boss shouldn't alienate players before key Champions League tie
Subbing the substitute leaves no room for misinterpretation. There's no face left to save. The humiliation is unequivocal.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is that player this morning.
He's only 20 years old and still learning his craft as a forward at Chelsea. He should be focused entirely on the Champions League tie at Atletico Madrid tomorrow morning (Singapore time), but finds himself in the wrong kind of headlines.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel made an example of him. He used the forward in the way a relief teacher might use the weaker kid in class, disciplining him to assert authority over the group.
Tuchel took a considerable risk in doing so.
If the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success, then the distance between motivational man-management and bullying has to be measured by trophies.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough, the greatest of autocrats, had the silverware to go with the short fuse. But even they seldom substituted an uninjured substitute.
Only Tuchel knows why he effectively humiliated a developing talent twice, but he's already in uncharted territory, just a few weeks into a new job in a new league.
At best, he's coming to grips with a new football culture (a rather simplistic take) or he's misread the room.
One of the reasons for Frank Lampard's sacking was supposedly his "matey" closeness with academy graduates who revered the club legend and saw him as a father figure more than a manager.
Tuchel appears to have taken that alleged criticism of his predecessor to heart, imposing a firm grip on the dressing room and using Hudson-Odoi as a scapegoat. It's a slippery slope if he gets it wrong (see Jose Mourinho for details).
No one suggests Hudson-Odoi delivered at Southampton in a forgettable 1-1 draw last Saturday.
The Englishman was sent on at half-time to ignite Chelsea's lacklustre counter-pressing and make a nuisance of himself in attack. He didn't really do either.
The watching world knows this, thanks to Tuchel's abuse bouncing around an empty, echoing stadium. He subbed Hudson-Odoi in the 76th minute.
Rather than take a moment to gather his thoughts in his post-match interview, Tuchel doubled down.
"I was not happy with the energy, the attitude and the counter-pressing so we decided to take him off again," said the Chelsea manager.
The cynic might speculate on Tuchel's target audience. Were the histrionics a message for Hudson-Odoi to smarten up, a warning to his Chelsea team-mates or an audition for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, proving that Tuchel is ready to play Darth Vader to Roman's Emperor?
Whatever the intention, it was an unsightly spectacle.
Tuchel developed a well-earned reputation at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain for his tactical versatility, an attractive, possession-based game and his ability to get players to operate quickly within his system (which would explain his frustration with Hudson-Odoi).
But he also developed a fine reputation for handling superstars and flaky egos, whilst guiding young newcomers (which would not explain his outburst).
The behaviour was jarring to say the least, perhaps even within Chelsea's corridors of power. On the club's official website, Tuchel had a more considered response yesterday.
"Maybe I was being harsh on (Hudson-Odoi)… I did not feel that he was really into the game," he said.
"For me, this is absolutely not a big thing and only becomes one if people want to talk about it."
Tuchel believes that his forward now has an incentive to impress in the first-leg tie against Atletico.
If Hudson-Odoi delivers, Tuchel will be vindicated. If he doesn't, an unhelpful conversation will begin about the manager's motivation techniques.
Maybe Tuchel is trying a tad too hard. Chelsea's reputation as a club ruled by player power goes back to the days of John Terry's boys having the ear of their billionaire employer when it came to managerial matters.
Clearly, Tuchel wants to underline the new balance of power. But throwing a player under the bus also risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Hudson-Odoi needs a decent game in Madrid not only to prove his manager wrong, but to also prove his manager right.