This past summer was a big turning point for Chelsea. The previous year, Chelsea faced many different issues and different types of adversity, but managed to finish third in the Premier League table and win the Europa League in Baku. The firing of Maurizio Sarri gave fans mixed feelings over what the future of Chelsea Football Club will look like, but the return of similar faces to Stamford Bridge gave fans a sense of nostalgia and relief for their beloved club. Frank Lampard was appointed new Chelsea manager and Petr Čech returned to his beloved club as the new football performance advisor. Former Chelsea managers haven’t had the best connection with the higher-ups of the club, from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Carlos Ancelotti, Roberto Di Matteo, Antonio Conte, and most recent Maurizio Sarri, so the hiring of Petr Čech was intended to change that.
The constant change in managerial positions has not stopped Chelsea from winning silverware, but what it has done is finally reveal the flaws and weaknesses of their hierarchy. On top of that, Chelsea were handed a transfer ban last spring for their alleged breach of conduct of signing young players. The original sentence was a two-window ban denying Chelsea the opportunity to make any transfer signings during the 2019 summer window. Chelsea were able to reduce their sentence when the court arbitration of sport (CAS) halved the ban to one window. Chelsea by this point were already serving their ban and by January were given the rights to purchase once again. Before Petr Čech, there was Michael Emenalo.
Michael Emenalo, the former Nigerian football player and coach, became Technical Director for Chelsea in 2011. In what came as a surprise, Chelsea parted ways with Emenalo as technical director in 2017, who joined Monaco as sporting director. Emenalo reportedly had previously sought to terminate his tenure back in 2013 after just two years when Jose Mourinho was rumored for a return to Stamford Bridge. There were many reports that speculated on why Emenalo left Chelsea. Rumors such as not wanting to come between the conflicts of Antonio Conte and Marina Granovskaia, and having a hefty schedule that interfered with his family time. This was a big blow as he was a big figure at the club, and responsible for the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thibaut Courtois. Emenalo was also a key part in recruitment and scouting. He was involved in many high-profile recruits such as Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. His absence was missed for a while and Marina took complete control over Chelsea affairs. Her methods came across as troubling as she would often be at odds with Chelsea managers in the past. This was an ongoing theme and became very worrying for the club. Former managers in the past had their own ideology and wanted the backing from above, but that never truly transpired.
With the introduction of Petr Čech, Chelsea are hoping for a new way of handling future Chelsea transfer affairs. This promise has already faced its first obstacle when the board failed to bring Frank Lampard any acquisitions this past January despite hefty requests. Lampard voiced his frustration in a pre-match conference where he claimed he wanted new transfers but none came.
Petr Čech’s Illustrious Career
To completely understand why Petr Čech was brought in, we need to briefly summarize his football career. Petr was born in Plzen, Czechoslovakia and started playing football with Viktoria Plzen, which was then called “Škoda Plzen”. Petr played striker early on, but moved to goalkeeper after breaking his leg. He signed his first professional contract at the age of 17 in 1999 for local club Chmel Blšany. He played sporadically for the two seasons he was stationed and in 2001 would transfer to one of the strongest teams domestically, Sparta Prague. At only the age of 19, Petr was already playing first-team football and was achieving records for such a young age. His first campaign recorded a league milestone of not conceding a goal in 903 competitive minutes. This would inevitably earn him his first move abroad to Ligue 1 side Rennes for a fee around €5.5 million (£3.9 million) in 2002. He was one of the few bright stars for the underperforming French side, but would finally move to a top side in 2004 where he became the most expensive goalkeeper in Chelsea’s history at that time. His fee was for £7 million after an initially rejected bid in January of 2004.
During this time, Chelsea already had a first-choice goalkeeper in Carlos Cudicini, but a preseason injury allowed Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to promote Petr Čech into the starting role. He became the first-choice keeper, and earned a clean sheet in his Premier League debut in a 1-0 victory over the powerhouses, Manchester United. Čech would continue to break records at such a young age, including a record of 1,025 minutes without letting in a goal. In 2004 Petr was given the highest recognition by the Premier League for that record and won the Premier League Golden Glove at the end of the 2004/05 season. He notched a total of 21 clean sheets that season, and only conceded 15 goals in the league. The 2004/05 season alone was one of the Chelsea’s best seasons in franchise history, and Čech helped them notch their first Premier League trophy since 1955. Čech continued to thrive in goal at his new club, and accumulated many other impressive honors. In 2006, he was named Czech Footballer of the Year for the first time in his career.
The year 2006 was evolutionary for Čech’s career, but in a very strange way. The Czechoslovakian keeper sustained a head injury against Reading after colliding with Stephen Hunt inside the penalty area. The knee of Hunt hit Čech directly on the head and Čech required instant medical treatment. He was taken off on a stretcher after several minutes, requiring surgery for a depressed skull fracture. Initially, the injury wasn’t deemed severe, but afterward, doctors revealed that the injury nearly cost Čech his life. The aftermath gave Petr intense headaches and he was sidelined for about four months. He returned in January of 2007 donning rugby headgear. This would become his trademark look, and he continued to wear the cap even after his injury healed completely.
The successful mid-2000’s and early 2010’s were a turning point for Chelsea as their talented core reached their peak and provided Chelsea many trophies. By 2011, Chelsea managed to capture every English trophy and became one of the best clubs in English football. Their only missing piece was European silverware. By 2012, after reaching the finals once and semi-finals several times, Chelsea went on to overcome every hurdle and obstacle during their Champions League run, and went on to win the holy grail. It all came down to the wire against Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger missed his chance before Didier Drogba scored the deciding penalty to give Chelsea the victory. Petr Čech was the first to embrace Didier Drogba after his winning penalty and this moment would become a savoring memory for the future.
Didier Drogba’s match-winning penalty against Bayern Munichpic.twitter.com/gzMESTwJHQ
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) July 10, 2019
Čech ended his Chelsea reign in 2015 and moved to North London rivals, Arsenal. He would go on to win the FA Cup and Community shield for them and ended his distinguished football career in 2019 in the Europa League final against his former club Chelsea, losing 4-1.
How Can Petr Čech Help Chelsea Be More Efficient?
Petr Čech doesn’t have any football director experience, but that’s not his current role. His current tasks are to oversee the first team matches and practices, and report to Marina Granovskaia on what he sees. He is often spotted in the East Stands behind the dugouts or in the West Stand box alongside Marina. Čech is also responsible for communicating with the academy staff, Chelsea scouts and loan departments. He relays valuable feedback to the higher-ups and provides counsel to Marina on football matters. Having a key figure at this position is vital due to the past conflicts between Marina and Chelsea managers. Petr Čech’s calm demeanor and football experience gives Chelsea much better intel on future acquisitions. He also acts as a glue between the manager and director of operations. Frank Lampard and Petr Čech have a wonderful connection from their playing days, and having trust between them will only help Chelsea.
Learning From The Past
One of the key mistakes Chelsea suffered was their failure to back their managers. Several managers all dealt with the board’s stubbornness and their iron will of reluctance. Jose Mourinho wasn’t given enough time for error and departed Chelsea in December of 2015. He only lasted two and a half years, leaving in the third year of his second tenure at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri faced similar dilemmas and were both not given the proper backing they probably deserved. Making sure that this doesn’t happen again in the future will be difficult, but addressing what went wrong is crucial. All top clubs at their peak have strong connections from the manager to the board. In order to move in the right direction, Chelsea have to build a foundation and structure. Jürgen Klopp had the trust to implement a system and improve slowly each season, eventually becoming one of the best, if not the best, team in Europe. Pep Guardiola got the confidence and faith from the very start of his Manchester City tenure. The higher-ups provided Guardiola with the necessary funds to spend and purchase top-quality players, while Chelsea’s board were penny-pinching on transfers.
Bringing top legends back to the club has given fans much more reason to believe in the future, but they have to be cautious in how they do it. They can’t just blindly bring back legends and expect the club to return to their glory days. Utilizing the talents of legends to their fullest potential is what will help the club move forward. Lampard’s high IQ of the game and legendary status gives the team much more trust in the manager. Hiring Lampard was indeed a surprising move on behalf of the board, but now that he is manager, building the proper structure is essential. Petr Čech’s connection from the past can also help ease future tensions between Lampard and the Chelsea board- unlike in the past where tensions never ceased to stop.
Another mistake Chelsea must avoid is the failure of acquiring high-quality talent. The likes of Tiémoué Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta and Alvaro Morata all had bad spells at Chelsea, and still haunt the club today. Being cautious in how Chelsea conduct business is important, and having the constant connection between manager and the board is what Chelsea should aim for. Lampard will most undoubtedly have his say on future Chelsea targets, and so will the board. Petr Čech can be that moderator that helps guide the board on possible transfers, or help the team fill in gaps they lack. Let us hope that the future will bear fruit in this regard.
Conclusion: To Be Determined…
It is still unclear whether Petr Čech’s role at Chelsea will change or evolve, but as of now, being the Chelsea performance advisor is one step closer on improving their future affairs. By next season’s campaign, we could see another position added to the board such as a much more experienced football director to help ease the pressure off of Marina. The ultimate power and decision making will still fall upon Granovskaia, even if Chelsea secure a football director, and providing the proper counsel will be key. Petr Čech’s prestigious career has regarded him as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and Europe, if not in the world. His strong IQ on the game will also be beneficial on Chelsea’s part, especially how they handle future business. His experience could also help guide future Chelsea keepers in the academy. His advice to the team and to the higher-ups will only be welcomed, and it is heart warming to see him back at the club where he most rightly belongs.