It was on the tip of everyone's tongue, AVB just gave it a name.
It was right in everyone's face, but Emenalo made it visible.
It's the summer of 2012. Welcome to the revolution (née "Project").
A player was sold today. A player who was never more than a squad player, never more than simply depth at (multiple) central midfield positions. A player who arrived as a last minute partial solution. A player whose biggest claim to fame was his hair. His name was Raul Meireles.
It is rather interesting to gauge the reactions to his departure. While he did inspire a cultish following among a few, he was the bane of everyone's existence not six months ago. Now, we're questioning the sanity of the Chelsea front office.
However, Raul is just the latest symptom of the radical change that has been happening right in front of our noses, yet has gone largely unnoticed and undiscussed. The Project - AVB's Project, the Chelsea Project - is real and it is here.
Perhaps it's unfortunate that 'The Project' is associated with Andre Villas Boas. Try as we might to explain the reasons, the naive, supposed tactical genius was simply not very good at his job. He clearly failed to get the most out of the squad he was given, alienating several players and many fans along the way. His Project of slowly weeding out the "Old Guard" produced neither result nor attractive football.
Lost in all the shuffling, shouting, and subsequent jumping for joy was the fact the The Project was still alive and, in fact, doing better than ever. For it was never truly AVB's task anyway. He may have been the mouthpiece, but it was the Chelsea front office and in particular Michael "International Man of Mystery" Emenalo who had been pulling the strings all along.
So what is The Project? Simply put, it is the Chelsea youth revolution. Out with the old, in with the new, as the saying goes. Now, this doesn't mean that all the "oldies" are all of a sudden done and we're going to play just "the kids". Villas Boas tried that for a hot minute before it all blew up in his face. What it does mean is a radical shift in the club's transfer policy and it's actually been going on for at least a full year now.
In January of 2011, Chelsea spent £75 million on exactly two players: Fernando Torres (26) and David Luiz (23). In the three transfer windows combined since then, Chelsea have spent about twice as much on eight times as many players. Of those 16 players, only two were of Torres's age: the aforementioned Raul Meireles (28) and Gary Cahill (26). None of the other 14 were older than David Luiz.
In the meantime, Chelsea have been shedding grey hairs: Yuri Zhirkov, Nicolas Anelka, Alex, Dider Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Jose Bosingwa, Michael Essien (loan), and Meireles have all gone. At just a few days shy of 27, Kalou was the youngest of that bunch. Like a snake's skin or Wayne Rooney hair transplant, the bulk of the Chelsea squad has been renewed with young blood.
This is a drastic departure from the previous transfer policies of the Roman Era. Just how drastic? To the charts!
Actually, just one chart: the average age of major signings. While there is no standard definition of a "major" signing, my basic guideline was whether the player in question was assigned a squad number that season or not. So Lucas Piazon counts, Ulises Davila does not. Exceptions were made for Kevin de Bruyne and Alex.
The first summer's signings were, on average, four years older than the last two summer's. Jose Mourinho looked to inject a bit of youth, but after his departure, the emphasis was on supplementing the squad with experience. Sure, Mourinho built a world class foundation, but after so many years of just slapping a new coat of paint on, something different had to be done.
Cue Michael Emenalo's elevation to Technical Director and a new transfer policy paradigm. The last fourteen major transfers in averaged barely over 21 years old. Signing the young and promising is clearly the new focus. Think Eden Hazard and Oscar, rather than Deco or Michael Ballack. Think Romelu Lukaku rather than Hernan Crespo or Didier Drogba.
It's the Chelsea revolution that we've cried for all those years. We're giving youth the chance to step up and shine. We're signing the likes of Ryan Bertrand to new contract extensions, offloading the likes of Raul Meireles, and putting our faith in the likes of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. The u-21 and u-18 teams are stocked and brimming with talent - and that's after loaning out almost two full starting eleven's worth of prospects! The future looks bright.*
* sure, there's a chance this spectacularly backfires in the present; but not all revolutions can be successful, can they?