During the Roman Abramovich era, Chelsea Football Club have firmly established themselves as a Premier League and European giant. Their Russian mogul has shown a willingness to inject vast amounts of cash from day-dot, but over the last twelve months or so, we’ve seen a shift in his attitude and mantra.
Following a visa rejection, Abramovich has, understandably, decided to stop heavy investment in a country where he’s no longer welcome. That could certainly hurt the Stamford Bridge club; in fact, their stagnancy has probably already cost them their shot at the 2018/19 Premier League title.
A shortened transfer window
First and foremost, let’s start with the managerial drama. Antonio Conte was finally relieved of his duties, but it took far too long to kick him off the hot-seat. Sure, it only took them hours to replace the Italian with his countryman Maurizio Sarri, but the damage had already been done.
With new coaches come new ideologies. That, in turn, leads to a different type of player being required. Sarri will want to bring in footballers who suit his tactics. With a shortened transfer window, the former Napoli gaffer doesn’t have much time to work his magic. It looks as though a deal for midfielder Jorginho is going to be pushed over the line, from under Manchester City’s noses, no less, but the London club need more than that.
Alvaro Morata massively misfired last year and he either needs help or replacing. Sarri may be able to get a better tune from the Spaniard, but the forward craves better service. Outside of the brilliant Eden Hazard, the Blues just don’t have the quality. Willian’s an excellent footballer, but inconsistency showed, and he’d probably prefer to leave through the exit door than remain in West London.
A marathon rather than a sprint
There is only so much you can fix in one window. Just look at Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. They’re in their third summer together. With much work still to do. Make no mistake about it, this one is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint.
The first thing on the agenda is getting rid of the dead-wood. Chelsea have made too many average signings recently. Danny Drinkwater is a decent footballer, but nothing more than that. As for Ross Barkley, it’s pretty easy to forget that he exists in the footballing world; that’s how dire his time at Stamford Bridge has been to date.
I’m all for adopting a lower-spending mould, that’s fine, but only if you can show a clear willingness to give academy products and young superstars a chance. Outside of Andreas Christensen, can you really tell me that Chelsea have given their supreme talent-pool a fair crack at the whip? I don’t think so.
There was really no need to sign the aforementioned Drinkwater. I’d argue that Ruben Loftus-Cheek is already a better player than the Leicester City title-winner, while being considerably younger, allowing more room for growth and development. That’s clearly a belief that England manager Gareth Southgate holds, too. It was the perennial loanee that was a World Cup semi-finalist; not Chelsea’s £35million-rated #6.
It’s just a case of some ridiculous poor decision-making. As the old saying goes, there is no better healer than time. In a World Cup year, with a shortened transfer window, winning a Premier League title may be too much of an ask this time around; particularly with Manchester City and Liverpool both strengthening. I’d certainly say that a domestic cup or two has to be regarded as a positive season, but under Sarri, the only way is up.