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Why Has Everything Gone Wrong for Chelsea This Season?

At this same stage of the campaign, last year, Chelsea Football Club was among the elite teams in Europe. They had one of the most coveted managers in world football in the form of Thomas Tuchel, a brilliant tactician with a track record of outsmarting the most tactically affluent managers in the game. Under Tuchel’s tutelage, they conquered Europe and challenged for domestic trophies. Fast forward to the present day, Tuchel manages Bayern Munich and Chelsea resides in the lower half of the Premier League, not far drift of a relegation scrap.

We are left to ponder the path Chelsea has followed to regress to the lengths they have, leaving us with the question: why has it all gone wrong for this magnanimous footballing institution?

Roman’s Reign

Most Chelsea fans would lament the change in ownership that has befallen Chelsea. During Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club, the Russian invested billions into Chelsea, making them a European goliath. The club followed a ruthless policy of heavy investment, alongside ruthless treatment towards staff. If a manager was perceived to be underperforming, Roman had little hesitation in sacking them. This is infamously exemplified by his treatment of the iconic Jose Mourinho, the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history, giving him the sack not once but twice.

To Roman’s credit, this attitude towards managerial staff paid off. Since he took over in 2003, he amassed a collection of 21 trophies, including multiple Premier Leagues and Champions Leagues. He created an aura of mercilessness with his ownership, and ironically, the heartlessness of his fellow countryman Putin led to him being forced to cease control of Chelsea.

A Change in Ownership

After Russia invaded Ukraine, it became the opinion of the British government that Roman Abramovich was deeply embroiled in corruption and political tampering in Russia. Thus, Roman was sanctioned by the British government; his ability to travel was limited and his assets were frozen. His links to Russia compromised the operational capabilities of Chelsea to the extent they could not sell tickets; merchandising operations had to be shut down and most damaging of all, players could not be offered contract renewals. His position was not tenable, and he had to relinquish control.

Chelsea became the asset of an American consortium consisting of Clear Lake Capital Group, and Eldridge Chair and CEO Todd Boehly. The group purchased the club for an estimated fee of £4.25 billion and attempted to replicate the ruthlessness of the Abramovich era in their first year in charge of the club. It has not gone to plan. A series of inexplicable decisions combined with monumental investment into transfers has resulted in a sub-par product on the pitch.

Damaging Decisions

The ownership sacked club favourite Thomas Tuchel after an uncertain beginning to the first quarter of the season. Most fans were stupefied that the decision was taken to axe the manager who, in 2021, delivered the club their second Champions League title. Tuchel led the club to multiple domestic cup competition finals last year, narrowly missing out in both to Liverpool, despite the season being shrouded in uncertainty with regard to the club’s ownership.

Graham Potter was appointed, with many fans viewing him as the “flavour of the month” and were not filled with confidence. Their trepidation proved to be justified as Potter was subsequently sacked in April, boasting a measly win percentage of 38.7%. The Boehly administration intensified the issue by heavily supporting both Tuchel and Graham financially, spending over £600 million in transfers, despite sacking both.

The resulting mess is a disjointed carcass with players bought under two different managers, playing for a third, albeit interim manager, Frank Lampard. We see players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cast to the deepest dungeons imaginable. Bought under Tuchel to suit his preferred tactical system, under Potter, he was a square peg in a round system. Costing nearly £17 million, he is just one example of Boehly’s reckless transfer spending that does not seem to follow any long-term planning process.

The Next Steps

Todd Boehly himself has admitted to making missteps and mistakes in his first year in control. Chelsea resides in 11th position in the Premier League, below teams such as Fulham, Brentford, and, most notably, Brighton. Chelsea poached Brighton’s manager, backroom and transfer committee staff, only to sit behind them in the table.

Frank Lampard was re-appointed on an interim basis by the ownership with the hopes of winning fan approval and steadying a sinking ship, but he has dragged them deeper into the abyss. It has proved to be yet another misstep from the ownership. Since this appointment, Chelsea have careened out of the Champions League against Real Madrid and remain winless in the Premier League.

It can be asserted that the root problem of Chelsea’s issues this season stems from the ownership. Decisions have been taken without first constructing a valid long-term vision for the club. Sacking Tuchel will go down as one of the worst decisions in the club’s history, it has fundamentally compromised the composition of both the squad and the inner workings of the club below ownership levels. Throwing money at the problem is evidently not the solution. Chelsea’s next managerial appointment needs to be approached with scrupulous planning. They cannot afford to get another appointment wrong if they want to remain amongst Europe’s elite clubs.


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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