One of the most successful English clubs in terms of trophies over the last 20 years, Chelsea have been a serial title challenger since their takeover by Roman Abramovich in 2003. Back to back Premier League victories, countless silverware at Wembley and a run of 86 home games unbeaten at Fortress Stamford Bridge last decade, spanning over 4 years now sounds preposterous.
However, during the last 10 years or so Chelsea’s mantle of impregnability has slipped. The early Mourinho squad consisted of some of the finest in Europe, with the likes of Terry, Lampard, Cech, Ashley Cole and of course Drogba bullying up front, often frustrating the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in Europe. Continuity though has been elusive and it has been difficult to maintain both consistency of results and taking that next step up the European table to the top 6 or so.
Mixing managers this decade has brought a level of silverware for which most clubs would be delighted, but the Chelsea mantra has been to win every competition that they enter. It looked feasible last decade, but the reality now is that Chelsea are not the feared and clinical outfit they once were.
Current Chelsea coach Antonio Conte has been well documented in his views on transfer policy since winning the League last season, but we are used to managers consistently demanding more and more, so perhaps he didn’t receive quite the sympathy that he hoped. But far more importantly he had the courage – or audacity to question the Clubs ambitions.
It would appear that the owner does not have the appetite to match the Manchester clubs spending sprees, and, Terry and Christensen aside, Chelsea’s Academy success in promoting Chelsea youth team players through to the first team has been scant. Players aside, ex Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon’s’ much publicised claims in 2006 of making Chelsea ‘the biggest club in the World by 2014’ may have been a part of his downfall.
At one stage the apparent obsession with winning the Champions League boded well for the future of the club, with audacious bids flying around the International agents. But with respect to the likes of Ross Berkeley and Danny Drinkwater, great squad players but perhaps not so high on the wanted list of any club with lofty European ambitions. Chelsea’s last World Class signings are becoming harder to recall.
Chelsea’s current position in The Premier League is where they deserve to be claims Conte, although the Champions League games against Barcelona showed guile, cunning and an absence of any shred of luck falling Chelsea’s way. A mixed bag season echoing the throwing away of last years potential Double with a lacklustre FA Cup Final against Arsenal.
A £1 billion new stadium will certainly focus attention on Chelsea, but there are worryingly 4 years to be endured playing at Wembley during the construction period. Breathing time for the Chelsea Board to focus? A time to prepare and re-build ambition?
Hopefully Antonio Conte is right to ask the question, and hopefully he will stimulate the hierarchy at Chelsea Football Club into considering exactly where their ambitions now sit.
Featured image: Von Clément Bucco-Lechat – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45172943