The current situation at Chelsea does not look great. I think everyone can agree the problems at Chelsea are from the root up. Whether it’s the divide in fans opinions, the manager, the board, the lack of a Director of football, the reported lack of interest from the owner to the transfer ban. It seems as everything that could go wrong at Chelsea is. So, let’s break it all down.
Recently, Roman Abramovich has had his visa revoked, preventing him from entering the country. The reason as to why, may be due to the increased diplomatic tensions between Russia and the United Kingdom, in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Other sources say it could be due to his visa expiring, and after the recent changes to the visa application process, which required him to prove the origins of his wealth, he simply hasn’t renewed it.
There were also reports of him acquiring an Israeli citizenship which he is eligible for, allowing him to enter the UK for short stays, however, it would prevent him from working in the country. But what does this mean for Chelsea? Well, if Bruce Buck’s recent comments are anything, it shows that the owner is as committed to the club as he was when he first bought the club.
“Everything he’s doing reaffirms his commitment to Chelsea,” Buck told sky sports. “We hear from him several times a day and he’s talking to us about players, commercial activities and our good causes. So, I would say he’s committed to Chelsea.”Bruce Buck when asked about Abramovich’s involvement in Chelsea
Hopefully, this could mean the Stamford Bridge redevelopment plans don’t collect dust on the shelves for too long.
Next the board, more specifically Marina Granovskaia. The Russian-Canadian has been a close ally of Roman Abramovich for over 20 years. Her influence in Chelsea has been rising since the day Roman bought Chelsea FC. She orchestrated the move into Cobham in 2007 and was given the Chief Executive position in 2014, stepping down in 2018 to become the technical director. Her negotiating skills are second to none, as proven by securing the £60 million Nike sponsorship as well as the many player sales which include Oscar for £60 million. Even dubbed ‘the most powerful woman in football.’ She was the person behind the hiring of Maurizio Sarri.
But her recent activity in the transfer market has left fans displeased and questioning her role. The purchases of Danny Drinkwater for £35 million, Zappacosta for £23 million, Morata for £58 million, and Bakayoko for £40 million who have all been poor for Chelsea. While her negotiating skills are top notch, her choice in targets are poor. But personally, I don’t believe she is to blame. After all, she signed Jorginho, Kepa and Higuain, all of whom Sarri will have asked for. The problem is most likely due to the current chief in scouting Scott McLachlan not providing the quality Chelsea need.
Therefore, a Director of Football is more important than ever if Chelsea are to challenge for the title. Sarri will never ask for the players he needs, but he can work closely with a Director of Football who can help build a team for the next generation. And with a fierce negotiator in Marina, Chelsea would be a force to be reckoned with. With recent speculation linking Chelsea to Luis Campos, the current Sporting Director of Lille and former Sporting Director of Monaco. While working at Monaco, he did wonders, signing the likes of Bernardo Silva, Martial, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar, Sidibe, Mendy and many more for next to nothing and sold for huge profits. Working alongside his trusted scout Admar Lopes who followed him to Lille and would most likely follow him to Chelsea if Campos was hired. Even at Lille, he has been doing an amazing job, unearthing talents like Thiago Mendes, Zeki Çelik, and of course Nicolas Pepe. Wherever Luis Campos goes, he not only finds future stars, but players that will fit the philosophy at the club. One can only be in awe of the things Luis Campos could do at Chelsea.
The next problem is the Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri. A lot of fans were excited about the appointment of Sarri, expecting a new attacking style of play in the mould of Barcelona, something Roman Abramovich has wanted ever since he laid his eyes on Pep Guardiola’s team. He even tried to get Guardiola on multiple occasions only for Pep to reject his advances, as the team would have required a huge overhaul, and he didn’t believe he would get the backing or the time he needed to do his job.
Then Marina signed up Maurizio Sarri, a manager whose Napoli team played some of the most attractive football in Europe, a manager not necessarily interested in the transfer market. Recommended by Pep and Arrigo Sacchi, it seemed like a perfect match. The team started off with a 20-game unbeaten streak, displaying the signs of changes and attractive football, fans were singing his name, and everything looked great. Then the draws and losses came, which frustrated a lot of fans. This was due to teams finding a way to battle Sarri’s system, defend deep and man mark Jorginho.
This meant Sarri had to find a plan b, however, the manager stuck to his system, and his players, playing the out of form Alonso for far longer than he deserved, not changing and being stubborn in his ways.
Another reason was due to the Hudson-Odoi situation, with his contract running out, and Bayern tapping him up, fans didn’t want to see one of the most talented young
players to come through their academy slip through their fingers and Sarri took the brunt of the blame. Rightly so, after an amazing pre-season, where he impressed so much that he was promoted to the first team, but since then, Callum hasn’t seen as much game time as he or the fans would have liked.
The reason for having a plan A, is because he is a disciple of Arrigo Sacchi, Pep, and Johan Cruyff. A quote by Pep about Cruyff “He didn’t move onto plan B, as he instead made plan A stronger.” Something both Pep and Sarri have taken into their stride, while some might call it stubborn, if it worked for Cryuff, Pep why wouldn’t it work for Sarri? Even though Sarri is as stubborn as people make out to be, his game against City show he can adapt, not necessarily changing his style, just changing his approach. With time, I believe Sarri can lay the foundations for an attacking Chelsea. As for his lack of youth, he needed to implement his ideas into them. Using the training ground to constantly improve the likes of Ruben Loftus Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, and Christensen, slowly
bringing them into the team, something Klopp always does.
This season he has used the youth, being the first manager in the last 16 years to give as many minutes to the academy products. As for this season, he reached the Carabao Cup final, losing on penalties whilst he’s lead the club to the Quarter finals of the Europa league and sits 3rd in the Premier League. I don’t know about anyone else but to me that is a successful season, especially if he wins the Europa League and finishes in the top 4.
We all know the divide in the fans, not many fans agree with his approach, his stubbornness, some argue he isn’t a ‘Chelsea man’ whatever that means. Sarri is most definitely not free from blame, he has made mistakes this season, his lineups have been poor, and his substitutions have been predictable. Some comparing it to Arsenal, all possession and no end product.
But this is Sarri’s first season in the Premier League, even Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp struggled in the beginning. Sarri, was brought in to change the style of play, to instil a new attacking philosophy and move from the old pragmatic Chelsea. And after 15 years of defensive counter attacking football, that will take time. After all Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The other problem some fans have, is with the transfer ban that FIFA have given Chelsea. They believe that with no new transfers, Sarri won’t be able to sign the players he needs to implement his style by next season. But with the likes of Pulisic already signed, and the vast loan army Chelsea have, Sarri will have a huge arsenal of players to choose from. That is of course if CAS don’t shorten or overturn the ban all together.
To sum it all up, the problems may seem like it is all stacking up, but it is only short lived. You can see this as a glass half empty kind of problem or a glass half full. If Chelsea do hire Luis Campos, and CAS do overturn the ban or even reduce the ban to the winter transfer window, Chelsea will improve, hopefully in the right positions, and with the loan army coming back, they are spoilt for choice.
The key is and always will be patience. Over the last 15 years, with the success of the club, we have been spoilt, always expecting instant success from the managers, but to implement a philosophy, it requires patience. But with an owner who cares passionately about the club, the new director and the exciting youth, the not so distant future is looking good.