Chelsea Squad Celebrating a Goal

Chelsea FC: A Project Worth the Patience or a Dysfunctional Mess?

In 2022, Roman Abramovich was forced to sell his beloved Chelsea. Effectively ending the model that had seen the Blues become the most successful club in England since his takeover in 2003.

The Russian was a highly popular owner within the fanbase due to the unprecedented success of his era. He earned the love and respect of every Chelsea fan as he turned the club from a mid-table team to a force to be reckoned with in English and European Football.

Yet, by the end of his era, the club was decaying in terms of how modern football clubs operate. Two months after the start of the process of sale, the club was sold to an American consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. Fans did not know what to expect from their new owners and whether the same level of success could be had.

It is safe to say it has been a rollercoaster ever since.

Roman abramovich former chelsea owner

Summer 22′: A Messy Transfer Window for Chelsea

During the new owner’s first summer transfer window, the lack of experience in how to operate a European football club was apparent.

All the transfer power was handed to the team coach, Thomas Tuchel. The German coach who got the team through the sale process and was one year removed from winning the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea has been handed the keys to everything related to football.

The coach, who guided the team to two domestic cup finals and finished 3rd in the Premier League through the extremely difficult circumstances Chelsea was facing in the 2021/2022 season, was seemingly untouchable to fans.

However, during the summer transfer window of 2022, the first cracks started to appear between the popular Thomas Tuchel and the new owner, who had zero credit with the fanbase.

In the media, the relationship between the two was clear. They did not see eye to eye. Every Tuchel press conference turned into a subtle attack on the club’s transfer policy, but the new ownership could not risk sacking a widely popular coach during their first months.

“I spent a lot of time with our new owners to align our thoughts and ideas, to discuss and re-discuss our opinions. I can do my job, but some extra stuff came to it. With every day, we know each other better and the communication gets clearer.”

Thomas Tuchel before Chelsea’s first game in the 2022/2023 season via
Koulibaly Signs for Chelsea

Hence, they surrendered to his requests in the transfer market, signing his former Dortmund striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang instead of what the fans believed was more important, a midfielder. Tuchel was essentially Chelsea’s manager, and the football department rolled into one.

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Through all that, you can sense the new ownership wanted to take the club in a different direction. The first chance they could take to sack him, they took. With just 10 points from a possible 18, including a 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champion’s League, the German’s time in England was over. Graham Potter was subsequently brought in.

From the outside, it looked like Chelsea’s new owners were obsessed with how well Brighton & Hove Albion was run and wanted to emulate everything Brighton & Hove Albion was doing. They went out and hired Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter, who was initially brought in on a 5-year contract with the promise of patience to build his own project as he did in Brighton. 

Simultaneously, Chelsea hired two directors of football: Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart. They both operated in tandem as co-directors of football, a structure barely seen in European football although popular in American Sports.

The Potter Stint

The “Potter Era,” or more appropriately, the “Potter Stint,” started well with some good results and an acceptable brand of football, and Chelsea was intent on backing him in the transfer market.

Chelsea had a spending spree in the winter transfer window of 2023, barely seen in European Football. Chelsea broke the English transfer record to sign World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez on an eight-and-a-half-year contract. They beat Arsenal to the signing of Ukrainian wonderkid Mykhailo Mudryk and a host of young players that made fans learn the word amortization of transfers.

But that spending spree heightened the pressure on Potter, and the strategy of hijacking other club’s targets failed. With the young squad needing time to gel and get accommodated to the Premier League pace, the results quickly deteriorated.

Chelsea was in a free fall in the Premier League table, and suddenly, the promise of patience evaporated; Potter was sacked and replaced by club legend Frank Lampard in the hope of steadying the ship. 

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Instead, results became worse with Lampard; the team barely won any games and was humbled by Real Madrid in Europe. In the league, Chelsea was getting farther from any European places, let alone UEFA Champions League spots that the club is accustomed to. 

Potter at Chelsea FC

In Comes Poch

After the end of the miserable 2022/2023 season, in came Mauricio Pochettino, the man who built Tottenham’s best team in decades but had a failed experience in Paris Saint Germain. He is most famous for developing young players and drilling them into his football principles.

Another spending spree followed in the summer of 2023 with a teardown of the squad that American sports franchises would be proud of.

Out went Champions League winners: Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Edouard Mendy, Ngolo Kante, and in came another British transfer record in Moises Caicedo, Romeo Lavia, and Christoper Nkunku with the fans feeling the euphoria of beating Liverpool twice in the transfer market.

Poch managing Chelsea

The new ownership was achieving the dreams it could not achieve in American Sports due to the constraints of cap space. This was followed by a mostly good preseason and an exciting performance in a draw against Liverpool on the opening weekend of the Premier League

The exciting performance against the Reds had given fans hope that their team would at least be able to compete for a Champions League spot. With the lack of midweek games and the additional time on the training ground, some even went further and expected the team to compete for the league title.

“Chelsea will be the big surprise, they’ve performed well under Mauricio Pochettino in pre-season. The new signings look confident, they look for the ball and aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

“Mykhailo Mudryk looks a lot more confident this season, Christopher Nkunku is a great player too, he can be a great signing, it’s unfortunate that he is starting the season with an injury. I can see Chelsea competing for the Premier League title too.”

Dimitar Berbatov prediction on Chelsea before the start of the 2023/2024 season

Suddenly, the results started to deteriorate again. The euphoria of transfers started to wear down the more the season went on. Chelsea fans started to learn that winning in the transfer window does not always equal winning on the pitch. The football the team was playing edged closer to relegation form and not a club that spent more than 1 billion£ on transfers in less than a year and was expected to at least compete for a UEFA Champions League spot. 

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Frustration at the “Project”

Faith in the project is starting to wear thin. Questions about how a project could be built around a 39-year-old centre back in Thiago Silva, and a midfielder who may leave the club in Connor Gallagher arose.

The fans started to ponder why Chelsea’s best CB, Colwill, was deployed as an LB. As well as why a club that had spent so much failed to bring in quality on both ends of the pitch: Goalkeeper and Striker.

The pressure started to increase, and a major question has been asked constantly by all football fans: How could a team spend £1bn and become worse?

Although there are always two sides to the coin, an optimist fan will tell you that you have an ambitious and creative owner who wants to win at any cost. In doing so, they have forced UEFA and the Premier League to change their rules and limit amortization to 5 years.

A pessimist fan will tell you that this is an ownership that thinks the best solution to solve any problem is to throw more money at it. In the process, making the problem worse.

Chelsea Spending 1 Million
Credit: Sky Sports News

With every false hope arising from a good performance against a Top 6 team, a crashing defeat comes to a team at the bottom of the table, and the fans and media alike don’t know what to make of this Chelsea team. 

The club does have a chance to get their first trophy in the Boehly era, as they have reached the Carabao Cup final, and there are certainly signs of improvement under Poch.

But the question of whether Chelsea is a project worth the patience or a dysfunctional mess is still in the air. Only time will tell if the method of chucking money at a project and hoping it sticks will work out.

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