Premier League

Life Beyond Conte: Why Chelsea are in Crisis

Crisis is the wrong word to describe the current situation surrounding Chelsea Football Club, a team that, a little over a year ago, was celebrating a record-breaking Premier League title; a team that is the seventh-most valuable  in the world; a team that employs Eden Hazard and N’golo Kante, two contenders for the Golden Ball this World Cup.

Pre-season training started this week under Antonio Conte, the manager whose 3-4-3 wreaked havoc on the Premier League. Multiple stars, including Jorgihno, an Italian defensive-mid wanted by nearly every other big team in the world, are linked with possible transfers to the Blues. Everything seems fine.

Crisis isn’t a strong enough word

This is also until you realise that neither Hazard or Thibaut Courtois have signed new contracts, with only a year on their deals remaining; that the owner, Russian Roman Abramovich, has fled from Europe and is currently living in Israel because he couldn’t extend his visa for England.

Next year, Chelsea could be without Hazard, Courtois, or Kante – rumored to be headed to Real Madrid – leaving them without a superstar, a traction engine, and with an absentee owner. Crisis isn’t a strong enough word to describe the baffling, confusing, avoidable mess Chelsea find themselves in.

Like Manchester United during their swoon after Ferguson, Chelsea’s problems stem from a failed transfer policy. More accurately, Abramovich failed to replace a quartet of Chelsea legends – Peter Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba – and sustain the success that the club had in the 2000’s.

Yes, Courtois filled in admirably for Cech, but Drogba’s replacement Diego Costa has already left the club, while Lampard and Terry have never been adequately replaced.

Looking back at last years transfers, the mismanagement of transfer funds is clear to see:

  • $29,000,000 – Antonio Rudiger – 27 appearances with 25 starts, establishing himself as a starting center-back. Only good transfer this summer (so far)
  • $40,000,000 – Timoue Bakayoko – 29 appearances with 25 starts. Outright disaster. His performance versus Watford in the Premier League might have been one of the worst performance in Premier League history. Only 23 years old, so still some hope
  • $58,000,000 – Alvora Morato – 31 appearances with 24 starts. Brought in to replace Diego Costa, Morata struggled in his first season in England; Conte’s tactics, plus an inexplicable loss of form, meant the Real Madrid product was second-best to Oliver Giroud during the second half of the season.
  • $23,000,000 – David Zappacosta – 22 appearances with 12 starts. Chelsea paid over $20 million for a player who will never be anything more than a back-up, which is slightly problematic
  • $35,000,000 – Danny Drinkwater – 12 appearances with 5 starts. Meant as replacement for Nemanja Matic, Drinkwater could not establish himself at all during the season. Already looking to move on after one season.
  • To recap: Chelsea paid $201 million dollars for 5 players, only one of whom is going to be a starter in the foreseeable future. With that $201 million, Chelsea could have hypothetically bought the following players: Mo Salah, Harry Maguire, Romelu Lukaku, Kyle Walker, and Mario Lemina.

Hired and fired

Of course, the problems go beyond the transfer policy. Abramovich’s reputation for sacking and hiring managers on a whim seems to have finally caught up with the Russian. Since taking over Chelsea, the Russian has now hired and fired 11 different managers: from great (Jose Mourihno) to very, very poor (Andre Villas-Boas, anyone?)

Negotiations have stalled with Sarri, though a breakthrough might have just occured in a joint transfer deal for Jorghino. In the past, Abramovich would have had Sarri in before the FA Cup Final had even finished.

It’s unclear what liquid funds Chelsea actually have, and the purchase of the Italian defensive midfielder means possibly, probably, another player will get sold to balance the books. Will it be Courtois? Hazard? Kante? Will Chelsea actually promote one of their youth players they have been holding, or will prospects leave like Lukaku, De Bruyne, and Salah did?

In 2018, uncertainty reigns over the blue part of London, and skies are going to remain cloudy for the foreseeable future.

You can read more from Jon Kibel my visiting his blog, here.

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