Following elimination from the Champions League, the Stamford Bridge side of CollinsBeans looks at five key areas that need to be addressed in SW6
Quite what “Technical Director” Michael Emenalo has on Roman Abramovich is not clear, but it seems hard to believe he is still being employed for his business in the transfer market. Emenalo always comes across as a somewhat sinister figure, forever lurking behind the dugout whichever manger is hired or fired.
It is generally understood that Emenalo is responsible for all player recruitment at the Bridge but his recent track record is questionable at very best. The loan signings of Falcao and Pato become increasingly bizarre and laughable each week that passes. Falcao has impressively managed to make “the new Torres” tag look unbelievably generous, while it is hard to get your head around the signing of Pato in January – a player, as of 10th March, who has yet to make a single appearance.
Emenalo also seems to have an obsession for low-grade, cut-price centre backs that will be highly unlikely to ever make the first team. Sure Papy Djilobodji (£2.7m), Michael Hector (£4m) and Matt Miazga (£3.5m) may not have cost much, but the question really is: why?
There has been some recent success with bigger name signings like Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, but these were hardly players that were under the radar. And the list of dubious names, that for whatever reason have not worked out, is really starting to mount up – Juan Cuadrado (£23m), Marco van Ginkel (£8m), Mo Salah (£11m), Andre Schurrle (£18m) and Marko Marin (£8m) to name a few.
The squad looks like it needs serious redevelopment in the summer, and the players coming in really need to be the right ones. It is sadly hard to have any real confidence in Emenalo delivering on this.
Promotion of youth
Lack of players coming through Chelsea’s youth academy is hardly a new theme and it will be almost impossible for anyone to replicate John Terry’s achievements. But surely with all the money spent on the academy, there should have been decent first team players in the squad by now? Clearly a revolving door approach to managers has not helped, as anyone in the hot seat is understandably focussed on short term results which inevitably leads to emphasis on experienced players.
Yet the whole approach to youth seems strange, especially the staggering 30 plus players out on loan – none of which you suspect will ever feature in the starting XI. Ruben Loftus-Cheek looks one of the best talents around at Chelsea for years, yet despite signing a whopping new contract, his game time is still severely limited. The young lad needs minutes on the pitch, and with the current season petering out into a trophy-less, mid-table finish, surely there is no better time to throw him in and give him a run of games?
Lack of leaders
Replacing a spine of Cech-Terry-Lampard-Drogba was never going to be an easy task. They were exceptional players with that rare combination of ability and character. These types of serial winners do not grow on trees, and with it looking like the last man standing will be unfathomably kicked out during the summer, the hole they have left is huge. With these men in the side, you always felt Chelsea could drag themselves over the line in big games even if quality-wise, the opposition was superior. Beyond this big four, Chelsea sides of the past always had other characters and players you would describe as winners knocking about too – Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole for example.
Quite simply, the current squad lacks these sort of players. Chelsea desperately need to find a new generation of leaders to take them forward into the next few years, Easier said than done of course.
This campaign there have been too many Chelsea players – particularly in the final third – who just do not produce consistently. No one quite epitomises this like Oscar. Sure he scored an impressive hat trick earlier this year when MK Dons gave him the freedom of the pitch in a FA Cup game but away from that, dozens of matches go past where he simply does not contribute. Oscar has gone beyond frustrating, and is now just a depressing presence in the squad. The type of footballer for which the phrase ‘flatter to deceive’ seems almost custom designed. It is time to sell up.
Eden Hazard has simply stopped trying which is mysterious, but primarily just enraging. Watching him go through the motions for a last 16 tie against PSG in the Champions League was diabolical, and he must surely now be sold too. Particularly given the fee he will command. No team can afford to have players that only turn up when they feel like it.
Pedro has been inconsistent since arriving in the summer, Diego Costa is a constant injury concern, Loic Remy has just not worked out and this all leaves a very patchy looking forward line that cannot really be relied on to deliver week in, week out.
Willian has been outstanding this season, and Pedro looks worth persevering with. Costa is the type of player Chelsea need to keep around too, but these three must be supplemented with quality attacking players. Quite where these will come from, with no Champions League football to offer, is another matter.
A new gaffer
Guus Hiddink has steadied the ship and clawed back some respectability, but he was only ever a short-term solution. Chelsea now desperately need a dynamic new manager who can rebuild and essentially address the above issues – add quality and leaders in the transfer market, and promote some youth into the first team.
Not an easy task, and securing a top four spot next time around already looks like it could be a tough ask. Manchester United and Liverpool, likely to also miss out this season, will no doubt strengthen. And this campaign has quite emphatically demonstrated that you cannot rule out the supposed smaller teams either.