Chelsea have been one of the most fascinating, exciting, and successful clubs in the last 19 years under Roman Abramovic. Winning five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, two Europa Leagues, two Community Shields, one Super Cup and finally the Club World Cup in February, Chelsea proved that a club can show great success on a continued short-term basis.
But all fairy tales must come to an end, and Abramovich’s ownership of Chelsea came to an end when the club was seized from him after sanctions imposed by the British government. Because of the breakout of warfare between Russia and Ukraine.
Todd Boehly has taken over, and he hasn’t been shy with his money. He sacked popular manager Thomas Tuchel due to their “long term visions not matching” early on into his ownership and has spent just shy of £500m in just 6 months, similar to Liverpool's spending in the last 10 years!
It is safe to say that the heavy investment has not been returned to Boehly yet, as Chelsea sit 10th in the Premier League. Fans are chanting ex-manager Thomas Tuchel’s name, Graham Potter is under extreme pressure, and after an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup, shipping 4 goals to Manchester City, Todd Boehly must be wondering what he has done wrong…
Here is a breakdown of all the things that Chelsea have done wrong, starting with the loss of key players last summer (especially on free transfers), their replacements, injuries, sackings, panic buys and their long-term strategy.
Let’s start back in the summer, where Chelsea lost a lot of key players, including two of the members of their very sturdy back three, Rudiger and Christensen. To put it simply, the replacements haven’t been anywhere near as good, and it has made the whole Chelsea side shaky.
Both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen left on free transfers in the summer, to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. They also lost Timo Werner, who despite the media taunting him for his lack of goals, had a big impact on Chelsea’s style of play with his pace, runs, penalties won and chances created.
With 2 of the back 3 leaving, and with Thiago Silva 38 years old, it was time for a big defensive shake-up at Stamford Bridge. The first purchase was Wesley Fofana for around £75m from Leicester City, but the centre back has been injured for most of his Chelsea career so far.
Fofana is just one example of Chelsea’s gigantic injury list this term. For the upcoming Liverpool game, the Blues will be without Armando Broja, Ben Chilwell, Christian Pulisic, Denis Zakaria, Eduoard Mendy, N’Golo Kante, Raheem Sterling, Reece James, Wesley Fofana through injury and no Felix through suspension.
Most clubs struggle through injury curses, but Chelsea have used the tactics of signing their way out of the problems, which have proved very expensive.
Chelsea spent over £100m trying to sure-up their left side, capturing the signature of Brighton left-back Marc Cucurella and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling. Both haven’t lived up to the hype or expectations since arriving on London.
Kalidou Koulibaly was seen as a great deal when he was announced at the Blues, but the 31-year-old hasn’t settled well into the Premier League and has struggled. At 31 years of age, Chelsea fans could be doubting that he will ever justify the fee that brought him to the bridge.
They have also spent a combined £100m on Benoit Badiashile, Carney Chukwuemeka, Andrey Santos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, David Datro Fofana, Joao Felix, Gabriel Slonina and Denis Zakaria. Many of these signings have been in recent weeks, but such a large quantity of signings for so much money makes it seem Chelsea have a “scatter-gun” approach to signings or are panic buying.
They targeted a lot of players after the World Cup, such as Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez, and have also signed Mykhaylo Mudryk for £88m from Shahktar Donesk. Mudryk has publicly announced his interest in Arsenal and his deal to the Emirates was all but sealed when Chelsea hijacked the deal. It is almost like Boehly is scrolling down a trending Twitter timeline to pick out his transfers, without any long-term plan. The Ukrainian joins the Blues with almost a bigger cost to Arsenal than gain to Chelsea, who already have Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and loanee Joao Felix able to operate the wide areas.
Chelsea’s transfer strategy is strange, mimicking the Abramovich era where managers were short lived and upcoming superstars were purchased fast for big fees. We have never seen it to this scale though. There is confusion to whether this is due to Graham Potter or Todd Boehly.
The reason for Potter’s motives would be ‘shiny’ things. By this, we mean trending and current players. Potter has historically worked on the strictest of budgets and has had to be careful with money. Since Chelsea can avoid Financial Fair Play (FFP) due to the ownership change, Potter is making the most of this. With the short time he has spent, he hasn’t established his preferred style of play yet; and is making the most of signings of high quality whilst he has the luxury of it.
The reason for Boehly’s motives would be to make a statement of intent to his fanbase and to the rest of Europe that Chelsea are still well and truly a European powerhouse not to be messed with. The other reason, of course, is stress. The multi-billionaire instantly piled heaps of pressure on himself after the shock sacking of Tuchel, and his new manager had to bring him success. Whilst sitting 10th in the Premier League, he is panicking in January and showing his inexperience by throwing money at every player under the sun, going back to the “scatter-gun” analogy.
Two signings that prove this point are Aubameyang and Joao Felix. Aubameyang was never going to work. The striker relies on his pace as the biggest asset of his game but is 33 years old. The Gabonese international said that he had unfinished business in the Premier League, but he could only score 4 goals in his last 17 Arsenal performances, for a team that Gabriel Jesus has proved that it’s not too hard to score in. The age, his poor attitude (portrayed at Arsenal), and recent Premier League form proved this signing was always going to fail. The only reason that made sense for this signing was to reunite Aubameyang and Tuchel, but the manager was sacked within 10 days of the forwards arrival.
Joao Felix just seems like the same mistake. He is on an extremely costly loan deal and is not the right fit for Chelsea. He will not break Chelsea’s ‘striker-curse’ not just because he doesn’t fit their system, but because he is only at Stamford Bridge for 6 months as well! It just doesn’t seem that Chelsea learns from their mistakes, from Felix after Aubameyang, and from Aubameyang after Lukaku.
Chelsea needs to utilise Potter for exactly what he did at his former clubs, setting up a tactic that works, without reliance on flash individuals, but a team that works hard and gets results. Boehly states that their long-term strategies match, so give him the right players, not just lots of right and wrong players. If Chelsea uses their money more efficiently, they could be right up there in a few years, but they need to stop throwing it away first.