Chelsea proving their project is doomed to fail regardless of manager
For the last 18 months, Chelsea Football Club have lurched from one crisis to another.
Usually, they’ve been an institution built to withstand disasters, but that mystique and invincibility has been lifted since Roman Abramovich was forced out of the club.
Todd Boehly and BlueCo took control in 2022 but they have managed to take Chelsea backwards to the point where you wouldn’t be foolish for wondering if this was an act of self-sabotage.
A chaotic summer prior to the 2022/23 season – in which Boehly appointed himself as interim sporting director – was quickly followed by the sacking of Champions League-winning manager Thomas Tuchel.
That was understandable. New owners want a new coach. A typical sporting tale, particularly among Americans like Boehly.
Graham Potter was the man they turned to. Again, hardly controversial. He’d built solid foundations at Brighton before leading them to a club-high ninth-placed finish in his final full season. It wasn’t in-keeping with Chelsea’s usual managerial recruitment strategy, but it was a step seemingly worth the risk.
After a fast start, Potter was unable to pick up and rally his troops in the face of adversity, the first sign that this was a job slightly too big for him.
The January transfer window only added more ingredients to Chelsea’s Eton Blue mess. They needless won a bidding war with Arsenal for Mykhailo Mudryk. They paid Enzo Fernandez’s £105m release clause. Reports came out that the squad was so big, some senior players would have to get changed in the corridors of the club’s Cobham base.
Potter was sacked in April, replaced by Bruno Saltor and then Frank Lampard until the end of the season. Mauricio Pochettino was confirmed as the new head coach for the 2023/24 season.
Signs of premature promise have already faded, the notion that Chelsea could at least be a fit and competent pressing team challenged by a lengthy injury list of over 11 players.
With the players available at his disposal, Pochettino has so far failed to work his magic, most recently evidenced by their 0-0 draw at Bournemouth.
It was a story that Chelsea fans saw plenty last season – dominate the ball, make some half-chances, lose composure in the final third.
That Chelsea have spent over £1bn on transfers under Boehly but do not have a single natural goal-scorer in their squad is a tragicomedy. No other team would dare use such resources without bringing in one star striker.
Nicolas Jackson, one of many rough diamonds that needs sanding down, stumbled across the frontline in a frenzy, spurning chances and firing the ball behind in slapstick style.
Chelsea’s squad is full of such prospects but they are not going to be afforded the time that they or Pochettino need. The pressure brought about by their club size has been multiplied by their astronomical transfer spend and failures of last season.
Pochettino will eventually start winning games but he’d do very well to bring success to Chelsea. Not necessarily because of his abilities, but the culture and environment that has taken over the club.
The fortunes of Chelsea on the field and off it are intertwined when the madness extends from their post-match playlist. Their project needs to change.