Thomas Tuchel was forced to get Antonio Rüdiger out from training early after the defender got into a heated confrontation with Kepa Arrizabalaga in less than 24 hours after Chelsea’s 5-2 loss to West Brom at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel had appealed for unity after Chelsea faltered in their attempt to qualify for the Champions League, only to be forced to interfere when tensions erupted during a training session. After a scuffle with Arrizabalaga during a small-sided contest, the manager called Rüdiger back to the locker room five minutes early.
The incident is thought to have occurred when Rüdiger went in late on the Chelsea goalkeeper. Arrizabalaga responded angrily, and an angry exchange of words escalated into a violent altercation, causing teammates to separate the couple.
Tuchel, whose 14-game unbeaten streak came to an end against West Brom, took command immediately and sent Rüdiger in early after determining that his fellow German was not calm enough to finish training. Arrizabalaga remained to conclude the session. Rüdiger later apologized to the Spain international, and Tuchel, who is looking for a good response when Chelsea plays Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, is said to think the situation has been settled.
However, Rüdiger and Arrizabalaga, who did not play against West Brom, were not the only players to clash after the loss to Sam Allardyce’s struggling side. Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta argued with Reece James in the locker room after the loss. On a day when Chelsea’s entire defense struggled to inspire, with Thiago Silva sent off for two bookings inside 29 minutes, James was partially to blame for West Brom’s second penalty.
Tuchel, who took over for Frank Lampard in September, would need to hold his staff together. While Chelsea remains fourth as a result of Tottenham’s blunder at Newcastle, Sunday’s incident served as a reminder that the atmosphere will change easily in the face of adversity.
Rüdiger is one of the team’s strongest personalities, and although the 28-year-old has performed admirably since Tuchel’s arrival, he had a strained friendship with Lampard and the former manager’s assistant, Jody Morris.