With new owner, Chelsea experiences disastrous season: ‘Rumbles on all sides’

With new owner, Chelsea experiences disastrous season: ‘Rumbles on all sides’
Frank Lampard and Thiago Silva

NOS Soccer

A new owner, two trainer changes and a 12th place ranking; it’s not Chelsea’s year, to say the least. And it’s not just a bad run or a down phase, but 39 points after 33 games.

“It’s rumbling on all sides,” also sees former Chelsea player Boudewijn Zenden, who has also been an assistant coach at the London club.

If Chelsea finish in 12th place, it would be the worst Premier League result for the club since 14th in 1994. This century, Chelsea finished outside the top-six only once: in 2016, ‘The Blues’ did not get beyond tenth place.

Today against Bournemouth, Chelsea gets the chance to win another game for the first time in weeks, having failed to do so for nine duels in a row – including the Champions League double against Real Madrid.

Over 600 million euros

Since American businessman Todd Boehly took over the club from Roman Abramovich last year, things have been unsettled at Chelsea. With Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter, two trainers have already worn out. The poor performance is all the more striking because Boehly and consorts have spent more than 600 million euros on new players since last summer, to which must be added the purchase prices and severance pay of the departed managers.

Ten most expensive purchases Chelsea since summer 2020 (source: transfermarkt.co.uk)

Player Previous club Amount in euros
Enzo Fernandez Benfica 121 million
Wesley Fofana Leicester 80.4 million
Mykhaylo Mudryk Shachtar Donetsk 70 million
Marc Cucurella Brighton & Hove Albion 65.3 million
Raheen Sterling Manchester City 56.2 million
Benoît Badiashile AS Monaco 38 million
Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli 38 million
Noni Madueke PSV 35 million
Malo Gusto Olympique Lyon 30 million
Carney Chukwuemeka Aston Villa 18 million

Among others, Raheem Sterling, Enzo Fernandez and Noni Madueke came to London, as did João Félix, who was rented from Atlético Madrid. Yet it appears once again that flinging millions does not bring additional prizes. “We already knew that, of course,” Zenden states. “But of course it gives you a lot of opportunities.”

Boehly wanted a new direction. When Chelsea started the season moderately, coach Thomas Tuchel was sacked. The same German had won the Champions League with “The Blues” more than a year earlier. The promising Graham Potter came over from Brighton for several million and had to lift the club.

“With Potter they hadn’t brought in the wrong coach either. He had already shown it at Brighton. But at Chelsea it became a different story,” Zenden said. Early last month, the party was also over for Potter. According to English media, he received more than ten million in severance pay.

Boudewijn Zenden in his time as a Chelsea player

Old acquaintance Frank Lampard had to at least bring Chelsea still close to European soccer. That has not succeeded in recent weeks. Indeed, things have actually only gotten worse. Six games played, six losses. Real Madrid was too strong twice in the Champions League and in the league Chelsea lost to Wolverhampton, Brighton, Brentford and Arsenal.

Motivational problems

To make matters worse, the players also seem to suffer from motivation problems. Sometimes they even make a lax and uninterested impression. According to Zenden, this is due to a sum of factors.

“For now, there is zero clarity on what course the club is going to take and who the new coach is going to be. With Lampard as interim coach, it seems a bit rudderless at the moment. As long as the management doesn’t provide clarity, things will continue to rumble on. As a trainer, you try to keep everything outside of soccer out of the locker room. But right now there is no stopping it.”

Boudewijn Zenden as assistant to manager Rafael Benitez at Chelsea in 2013

There have also been times of turmoil at Stamford Bridge in recent seasons. In 2019, for example, Chelsea faced a transfer ban, and under previous owner Roman Abramovich, you knew as a coach you were never sure of your job. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was suddenly the position of oligarch Abramovich himself that was in jeopardy. He was forced to sell the club.

Zenden thinks the new board may need some time to reach a course of action, but does see a difference in dealing with trainers between Abramovich and Boehly.

“It’s more volatile now. With Abramovich, as a trainer, you knew you only had a short lifespan. You could win the Champions League, but then if you started badly in the league you were out again. There were a lot of changes, but despite that the trophy cabinet was continually replenished. Now there is a new leadership and a lot falls away.”

Vision missing

A good structure and soccer vision are aspects that are now missing. Getting all noses in the same direction is important, especially with a new board.

“If someone comes in with a new vision and they start with good results, it is easier to get the rest to go along with it. If the results lag, you’re back to square one, especially if it’s not clearly stated: this is the coach for the coming period and this is how we’re going to do it. In essence, that’s already taking too long again.”

In business, if you put the best people together, but there’s no chemistry and the characters don’t complement each other, it’s not going to work out. So is that because of the manager, or the composition itself?

Zenden on why it doesn’t seem to be running at Chelsea

According to Zenden, an interim coach is not the solution anyway. “Often it’s not because of the coach, but more because of the structure or even the composition of a group. So if you would want to do something at all, you can also reason that the technical man made a wrong composition. In business, if you put the best people together, but there is no chemistry and the characters don’t complement each other, it’s not going to work out. Is that then down to the manager, or the composition itself?”

So plenty of things to work on at Chelsea. It won’t be easy, because in the coming weeks there are still games against Manchester United, Manchester City and Newcastle United on the schedule, clubs from the current top-four. Enough reason, then, to quickly provide that structure and clarity.

Kayleigh Williams