Following a summer of rumours and misinformation, Chelsea have finally announced that Maurizio Sarri has become the new coach of the West London club. His appointment has brought the number of permanent managers at the club to 13 in the 15 years since Roman Abramovic became Chelsea owner in 2003. Most fans are delighted by this appointment and are excited to see how he fares in the world’s most competitive league. However, any success that he achieves will, in the long term, be more dependent on the off-the-pitch activities of the club’s hierarchy than his coaching on it.
No sign 0f a long-term plan
In the 2017-18 season, the Premier League top goal scorer, Mohammed Salah, and the player with most assists, Kevin De Bruyne, had both been players at Stamford Bridge in their youth but were eventually deemed surplus to requirements – this is just one example of the short-termism showed by the club in recent years.
Even though this strategy of planning for the immediate future has coincided with the most successful period in the club’s history, there must be a point where it would be more worthwhile to be part of a long-term project that will ultimately provide a basis for sustainable success in the future.
Chelsea’s much-maligned loan policy has been focused on generating revenue rather than helping young players to develop and eventually play for the first team for too long. Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah are just two of the exciting prospects who had become disillusioned with their lack of playing time and left for other Premier League clubs. The fact that since the 2014-15 season, Chelsea’s under-18 sides have won the FA Youth Cup for 5 consecutive seasons and 2 UEFA Youth League titles is proof that their academy system is working – surely some of these players deserve a chance to make the step up into the senior squad.
Will Sarri be trusted?
In the last few seasons, the amount of money spent by both Manchester clubs has become truly stratospheric and Chelsea can no longer compete with them financially. Therefore, now would be the ideal time to start spending money more wisely and invest in younger players with a view to integrating them into the first team.
During his tenure at Napoli, Sarri wasn’t exactly known for being a renowned developer of youth talent but at his previous club, Empoli, he gave key roles in the squad to players who were 23 or under. Given that the facilities at Chelsea are geared to create players for him to use, there is hope he can make the most of them and add to the reputation he built for himself in Italy.
Implementing this new model would require an extraordinary amount of trust to be placed in Sarri and in the short-term the results may suffer; but, if it’s done well, the club’s future may be much brighter for it. Clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham have shown in recent seasons that sticking with the right manager will pay dividends.
With Jurgen Klopp at the helm, Liverpool have managed to go from 6th in the 2014-15 season to having a second successive season of Champions League football with one of the best attacking trios in Premier League history. By contrast, Chelsea’s tendency to chop and change manager every two seasons isn’t conducive for attracting players who want to be part of a long-term project. The managerial merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge must breed uncertainty throughout the squad, the assurances you get from a manager about your playing time and squad role mean nothing when they’ve been sacked. By backing a manager, you provide a platform for the team to develop by allowing them consistency in personnel and managerial philosophy.
An end to Chelsea’s boom and bust?
The boom and bust nature of Chelsea’s last 4 seasons where they’ve twice won the league and then gone on to miss out on Champions League qualification the following season is a damning indictment of the club’s current strategy. This inconsistency is holding the club back when it comes to cementing their place as the solid “top four” club they have been over the last decade. Investing in the future and appointing a manager that has the total trust of the board is the first step in the process of regaining that stability.
With Sarri finally in the managerial hotseat at Stamford Bridge following a summer of off-the-field turmoil, it could finally be time for the change in the trajectory of the club that it has desperately needed for the past few years. His Napoli team played some of the most exciting football in Europe last season and gained plaudits from far and wide, including high praise from Pep Guardiola himself.
The greatest thing for a football fan is seeing your team be successful whilst playing attractive football. The latter part of Conte’s reign was marred by his tactical decisions that made Chelsea games dull and uninteresting. He began to set up the team with an almost Mourinho-esque level of pragmatism that ultimately only served to turn the fans against him. The hope is that Sarri will be able to mould this team into his distinct style and, ultimately, bring success without compromising on that style.
Overall, it is becoming increasingly clear that the club’s model is starting to become unsustainable and has affected their results over the last few seasons. As the landscape at the top of the Premier League changes, the most successful clubs are now being managed by coaches with a focus on building towards the future. It has become time for Sarri’s Chelsea to move with this tide or risk being stuck in the shallows.