A question I find myself asking for the second time in 3 years.
Chelsea have gone through several “crisis” in the 12 years since I have supported the club, notable one’s being:
- Mourinho’s sacking in 2007
- Ancelotti’s sacking in 2011 for which I till date have no reason
- Andre Villas Boas appointment and sacking in 2011 the only one I whole heartedly supported.
- Mourinho’s second sacking in 2015, which in my opinion still remains under a shadow of rumours and uncertainty.
Come June of this year we might yet again be facing another crisis if we are not already in one right now. This one though feels different to the previous ones, there is more at stake this time around and in my opinion Chelsea are at a crossroads, and we as a club have an opportunity to either break this cyclical process of success and failure or continue on with it.
Last season was the first season I thoroughly enjoyed watching Chelsea since Ancelotti’s two seasons in charge. That celebration from Conte when Diego Costa scored the winner against West Ham in our opening game was something I had not seen any manager do at Chelsea since probably the “Happy One’s” first stint in charge. Even then Conte’s passion on the touchline and celebration were infectious and the way we dominated the league last season was amazing. Cut to last Sunday, the fans, players, and Conte could not be more different. Before I talk about my opinion of what is wrong I will mention the three parties at Chelsea:
- The Board – Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea and is only really bothered with major decisions that take place at the club. I don’t think I have seen him at Stamford Bridge this whole season and that probably might be due to mixture of personal, political, and financial problems. The main two figures other than Roman are Bruce Buck who is the chairman, and Marina Granovskaia who is a director and basically oversees transfers of players.
- The Players – Naming all 23 would be tedious but if you watch football you probably know some of them.
- The Head Coach – Antonio Conte
Now fans usually tend to blame all of the above, one of the above, or a combination of the above, and I think some parties share more of the blame than others. Lets start with the least to the most.
1) The person in recent years and certainly in this case with the least blame is Antonio Conte. Conte can only be blamed for his recent failings but it is not something that has come out of the blue. Conte has no plan B and that has probably been the most annoying aspect of him this season. No manager is perfect and each and every manager in the Prem has been criticised by their fans at some point in time. Managers especially young ones learn the same way players and fans do. Conte is a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve and while that is great when you are winning and he is gesticulating, positive and exuberant, when we are losing he can be seen with his hands in his pocket usually staring at the ground. We have seen more of the latter this season.
As early as the end of last season Conte had stated that last season was a MIRACLE. Any fan in my opinion who thinks otherwise needs to look at it properly. Conte stated time and time again in pre season that if they were to post a successful defence of the title they needed to build on what they had and that this season would not be any where as simple as last season. Fans state that he has been sulking and moody and whining etc but which manager would be happy were they in Conte’s shoes. Conte is no idiot he is no fool, the board clearly promised him something and they did not deliver and that is what has annoyed him this season. At City and United, Pep and Mourinho are on the same page as the board which is that they will provide the cash and the manager can spend the budget on the players he wants. At Liverpool and Spurs, Klopp and Poch are on the same page with the board in that they wont spend as lavishly as others but the managers can decide who they want to acquire. Arsenal seem to have a board and a manager who have perennially been on the same page win or lose although Arsenal might want to change that page.
Antonio Conte isn’t even the manager at Chelsea, he is the head coach, and that might be a technicality but it is one which is highly relevant. Fans say they want a manager who promotes youth, has Conte not done that? Last season he brought in Loftus Cheek, Ola Aina, Ake and Chalobah, they might not have played regularly but they played more minutes than they had in any of the recent seasons. This season he has brought in Ampadu, Hudson Odoi, Sterling, and most importantly Christensen. Christensen has become one of the first names on the team sheet but recently he has made mistakes and that is something you need to accept if you want youth to be promoted. Klopp and Poch are probably the managers who promote youth the most but they have suffered in that only recently have those youth players gained any experience to successfully challenge other teams in the Premier League. Chelsea’s average age has reduced this season with transfer such as Bakayoko, Morata, Rudiger, Emerson, and Barkley coming in. Conte stated that he wanted to keep Matic this season so that he could ease Bakayoko into the team. What happened was that the board sold Matic to United and thereby forcing Conte to throw a half fit Bakayoko into the deep end that is the Premier League. The only player that Conte wanted to sell was Diego Costa, and yes he was a great striker but his numbers were no where near the likes of Kane or Aguero and his tendency to have mood swings had annoyed Antonio Conte.
Social Media is crying out for Tuchel, or Allegri, or Poch etc but does anyone honestly think that the way clubs are spending at the moment these managers will bring any immediate success. Say Conte is sacked Chelsea will have to pay him 9 million in compensation, and we bring in one of the above managers, what is to say that the board wont do the exact same thing they did to Conte this season. To implement your philosophy as a manager you need TIME, and LIBERTY without these two things you can’t make a football team in a managers image.
Conte’s biggest mistake was to win the title last season, and when he stated time and time again that he needed players of his choice brought in and patience from the fans and that this season would be a struggle otherwise, why are we blaming him for being the only one who was honest from day one.
2) The second highest share of blame goes to some of the players at Chelsea Football Club. I refuse to blame Bakayoko, Morata, Christensen, Zappacosta and Rudiger because they are all young and it is their first season in the Premier League, it would be better to judge them on their performances next season. Drinkwater I don’t blame because he has not played and I don’t believe he was a Conte signing. Barkley has been injured and so cant say anything about him, Emerson would come under the same category, he has not played and next season would be a better judgement of his skills. Giroud we know about but is mostly an impact sub. The only experienced players who can hold their head up high are Kante, Azpilicueta, Alonso, and Willian. The truly legendary players are the ones who shine when the team is playing poorly. We used to have a good 5 or 6 of those players but they had to retire or move on because that is football no one can play forever. Azpi and Willian have been consistent since they arrived at the football club, in the good times and the bad you can say these players played well. Willian was are Player of the season in 2016. Kante is Kante and Alonso is no Roberto Carlos but you can still see that he gives his all on the pitch. The rest such as Moses, Fabregas, Cahill, etc down tools when the going gets tough. Moses in particular has been caught out this season, the amount of times he makes the wrong decision is hysterical I am 22 and even I know that when you are 30 seconds away from half time and are leading by a goal just kick the bloody ball away. Offensively Moses offers next to nothing. That leaves me with Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois. Hazard is our teams Salah, our teams Messi, this season he has been no where near as poor as he was in 15/16 but he has been no where near as good as he was last year. That is largely due to the part that he feeds off the energy of the players around him, many people say that if Hazard plays well the team plays well but its the opposite of that. That has been proved over the last 3 seasons. Courtois has been decent but seriously if he wants to go to Madrid then leave otherwise just sign a contract and concentrate on football. Today’s players feed of the energy at their club, gone are the days when players like Drogba, Terry and Lampard played on when things were falling apart around them. The players play for the club and their fans, all of these players earn exorbitant amounts of money and don’t need to worry about who to buy and finances etc, their only job is to give their all for 90, or 180 minutes depending on the week.
3) Finally the crux and soul of what is wrong at this our dear football club is how it is run, and who it is run by. It is run like a business and not a football club and it is run by business men, and people who in no way have any knowledge of what the sport is about. The problem with the Chelsea board and the fan base at large is that short term fixes and success have spoilt us to the extent that it has taken away any patience we might need to expect long term stability and success at the club.
Let’s look back at the summer of 2015, we are premier league champions after Mourinho’s second season back in charge (it should be noted that he only won the Capital One cup in his first season back, but we should sack Conte). The 13/14 transfer windows brought players like Willian, Matic, Schurrle, Salah, and Zouma, while we also sold certain players like Mata, and De Bruyne. 14/15 we bought Costa, Fabregas, Cuadrado, Filipe Luis, Drogba to name a few and sold a certain Romelu Lukaku. These two transfer windows were more than decent though it did contain a few sales that we would live to regret. Now just when we have won the title and Mourinho needs players to build his team upon, in the summer of 2015 we buy Pedro, Baba Rahman, Begovic, Kennedy, Falcao (post United), Miazga, and DJILOBODJI. We sell or loan out Ramires, Filipe Luis, Cech, Salah and Cuadrado. We all know what followed, Mourinho lost his mind, players lost interest and we finished 10th. Conte came in and the board goes out and buys him, Michy, Kanté, Alonso, Luiz, and Eduardo, the rest is history.
It is the summer of 2017, we are premier league champions after Conte’s first season in charge and the fact that we finished 10th the previous season. We are back in the Champions League and Conte publicly states that we will have to add to the squad with a mixture of experience and youth. Conte expects Lukaku is on the way, only to find out that he is dabbing his way to United we bring in Morata Conte is relatively happy. Conte wants Bonucci as we already have young center backs in the form of Christensen and Zouma, the board says have one more and give him Rudiger. The board deliver on Bakayoko but sell Matic to United someone who Conte hoped Bakayoko would learn from. We round of the window by panic buying Zappacosta and Drinkwater when Conte had asked for Alex Sandro, and Vidal. Now every single one of the players Conte asked for would have improved Chelsea’s starting XI but instead the board sold or loaned out experienced players and brought in young players who conte had to try to convert into title winners, Conte cannot pull it off twice. To add to the stupidity we loaned Batshuayi to Dortmund when he was finally entering some sort of form, a decision that left Conte baffled. It is no surprise that we were second at the beginning of January and started to regress post window.
Why do we not have a replacement for Emenalo yet? I am starting to think that Marina was the problem all along not Emenalo. The board needs to be injected with people from a football background so that they can bring their experience to help run the club in a better way.
Finally, what is the solution?
Firstly, the structure of Chelsea Football Club needs to change if we are to enjoy success over a prolonged period of time. For once the club need to support the manager by giving him control of transfers and a sufficient time period in his contract to create the team in his image. Whether that is Conte or a new manager only time will tell but either way they should be given that independency. I believe that we have the best option and that the club should stick with and back Conte in the summer, he has been completely honest with the fans since the beginning and has integrated youth and experience to his best ability, Rome was not built in a day. Any players not happy with the decision should leave, we have moved on before and we can move on again. Fans want Tuchel? What has Tuchel won? Klopp had won the Bundesliga, Poch had proved himself in the prem before taking up a job at Spurs. Conte had won 4 successive league titles until this season give the man some bloody respect. Its pathetic how fans on social media want Conte out. I don’t think any of the managers mentioned to replace Conte, and even Pep himself would have been able to win the premier league last season the way Conte did. If the board had behaved with Pep in the way they have with Conte, not even being given the title of Manager let alone having freedom in buying players, Pep would have left Chelsea before the season started.
Secondly time has to be given to Conte or any new manager that comes in, and that time is not only given to them by the board but also the fans. This season has not been abysmal by a long shot the only problem has been that our best this season has not been good enough because we did not reinforce the positions in the squad with players that the manager could work with and mould the squad around. We as fans only need to look around us, when managers get players they want and the time to create a team from fans and the board they are able to achieve consistent performances, such as City, Liverpool, and Spurs.
We are approaching a fork in the road at the end of this season. We as fans need to make sure that instead of taking the road that leads to short term success followed by anguish, we instead take the road that leads us to long term success in the form of consistent challenges for premier league titles and domestic and European trophies. Some might say that we had that until on recently, yes we did but during that time we were the richest of the teams.