Chelsea are not experiencing a crisis. That’s right, let’s pull back, put down the pitchforks and hold off on the #conteout tweets. Chelsea are just fine.
The Blues find themselves in good shape for a top four finish, into the knockout stages of the Champions League, and alive in the FA Cup.
However, Chelsea Football Club are suffering from something other than a crisis. For me, it’s a lack of identity and a complete lack of transparency.
While the latter is something we’ve come to expect from most football clubs, no matter what part of the world, the former is something realistic to ask for, and our starting place here.
The problem for me with the Blues this season and the last few years for that matter, is a true lack of identity.
Their transfer policy represents an inconsistent approach at best, their application and integration of their youth and academy players is at the very best uneven, and their preferred formation and style of play on the pitch is tough to nail down.
This is the major cause of frustration amongst fans. The inconsistency coupled with uneven results. In fact, there is a strong argument that these inconsistencies have been present for some time now.
However, Chelsea have a knack at having just enough success to pull the curtain over our eyes. The problems have existed for some time, we’ve just allowed the trophies to paper over the cracks.
Chelsea are a club at this point and time, on a steady decline. They don’t seem to be in the running for signatures of top tier players. They only sign world class talent when they part with world class talent. This is not a club with ambition to dominate the continent.
Major problems exist in this Chelsea organization, but no one will notice if you dangle a Premier League trophy in front of fans every few years.
Even during their years of more consistent success in the last decade. Chelsea were building for the present, the only difference is they were adding talent on top of talent, not talent instead of talent.
And despite all of these problems, fans would stick behind the club, if they had an idea of what was going on.
Conte has hinted at some sort of plan throughout the season, stating on several occasions that they were “trying to lower the average age of the team”.
However, by doing so, Chelsea have spent small fortunes on several squad and role players, while allowing important players to depart the club. Couple this with an incoherent transfer policy and no real transparent plan for their young players, and the situation becomes even more frustrating.
Chelsea need a plan. They need a sense of identity. And they need to share this identity with their fans. The club needs to illustrate its ambitions and share with fans the goals that they are attempting to achieve.
Step by step details aren’t necessary. But fans need a realistic sense of what to expect of the years ahead.
At top clubs, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, PSG, Manchester United, Juventus, and now Manchester City, every season begins with the same objective. Win every competition that the club takes part in.
Of course there is a sense of prioritization, but there is a need to compete on all fronts. While Chelsea fans match this ambition, the club have not mirrored it. The Blues haven’t been prepared to compete on all fronts in some time.
Their title last season, while impressive, is largely attributed to the absence of European competition.
However, when you consider the Blues short history of success, you get the feeling that this has always been the case. For example, the season that Chelsea won the Champions League, they finished in 6th place in the league. They haven’t had the squad to compete on all fronts in some time.
Chelsea need a longterm strategy. They need to decide their ambitions, make a plan to achieve them, and then act accordingly.
It appears as though the board is planning on running Chelsea far more like a business than in years past. Like it or not, Chelsea are now a club on a budget. But this doesn’t have to mean a lack of success. It just means that a plan is required.
There is a wealth of talent in and around West London. Between their squad, loan army and youth players, the Blues are quite the formidable force when it comes to share of international talent. It just needs to be more properly managed and utilized.
Perhaps this is why Chelsea’s former technical director Michael Emenalo departed for greener pastures. There has been too much evidence of his hard work being squandered by those around him.
Overall, there are several Chelsea fans and sportswriters that have weighed in on a longterm strategy for the Blues. I tend to echo a lot of these ideas myself.
I wholeheartedly agree with the concept that Chelsea’s Academy needs to be more prevalent in Chelsea’s first team, even as squad players until sold a few years after.
This would leave the top academy prospects like Christensen, Ampadu, and Musonda, to hang around, while other players are sold that won’t be regulars at Chelsea.
This of course saves the Blues from spending money frivolously on squad players or role players, whatever term you prefer.
Drinkwater and Zappacosta, while excellent players, can be avoided by incorporating players like Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek, Dujon Sterling and Ole Aina.
The money saved can of course be pooled together and spent on top quality, world class talents, such as Alexis Sanchez during this winter.
Chelsea can sustain success and turn a profit. But they need to be smart. They need a plan. And they need to share the basics of that plan with fans, so we can get on board as well.