Chelsea Must Look to the Future

by Sam Wheatley

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Chelsea’s season has ended without a trophy, and whilst Ancelotti believed he may find out “this week” about his fate, owner Roman Abramovich had other ideas and wielded his axe not even twenty four hours after the final day defeat to Everton.

Ancelotti’s departure is a shame on two fronts.  Firstly, Ancelotti is a likeable man who I believe got a lot right during his tenure at Chelsea.  Admittedly, the European success that Abramovich craves did not materialise for the West London club under Ancelotti the same way as with his Milan side that relentlessly featured in finals and the final stages of the Champions League.  However, I don’t believe Abramovich to be blameless for Ancelotti’s misgivings.

The problem is that even after a double in his first season, Ancelotti’s position was never safe.  The miracles he worked with an ageing Milan side were arguably testimony to a far greater quality of older player – not to mention that Milan have a far greater youth set-up that can bolster the squad when injuries hit.  Injuries did hit Chelsea, and the youth team players were found out as not being anywhere close to up-to-scratch.

The centre-back problem from earlier in the season, eventually solved by simply buying David Luiz from Benfica for £25m, was the root of a lot of Chelsea’s problems as they slipped down the table after a fine start.  But it is Abramovich that is too keen to open the chequebook rather than provide any sort of stability or structure to the club.

Only Joshua McEachran has looked as if he may one day be good enough – other young players such as van Aanholt and Bruma that have been called into action at various stages have looked far from comfortable.  This isn’t to say that these players aren’t capable of developing, and don’t forget that young players with the calibre of Kakuta and Sturridge are on loan to other Premier League clubs, but how is it possible to create an environment to yield the fruits of probably quite an expensive youth team set-up when the club lacks any stability in its coaching staff?

Far from suggesting the Arsenal approach of only fielding players from the club’s academy and never winning anything, you need only look at Manchester United and Barcelona for the recipe for success.  The academies use the best of their crops and fuse them with established players (which Chelsea do have in their droves) and expensive signings either in the prime of their career, or bought young and nurtured into the club’s philosophy.  Chelsea lack a firm philosophy – it is subject to the same flux as the appointment and sacking of coaches.

Chelsea will strengthen their squad over the summer, but first they will need another coach.  Villas-Boas, successful young coach at Porto, has to be the hottest property on the manager market at the moment.  Villas-Boas has recently quoted his contract’s release clause at €13 million.  In a summer that will require an expensive overhaul at Stamford Bridge to keep up with an unrelenting Manchester United side and a Manchester City side that can only improve, will Abramovich make his pockets deep enough to sign a manager and the players required to bolster Chelsea’s trophy assault next season?

Whatever happens at Chelsea over the summer, something needs to change.  Short of appointing himself coach, Abramovich will have to find a man that he can trust and invest in the future of the club.  Whether it is Villas-Boas or someone else, Abramovich has to look at a model to secure the long-term future rather than the quick fixes that have become endemic at the club.  No doubt Chelsea will still have the ability to challenge with this squad alone, but without more stability and careful investment the sacking of Ancelotti will look more like petulance than a positive response to a season without a trophy.

Follow me on Twitter @samuelefrumento

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