Here we are, once again, looking for a new manager due to Chelsea’s inevitable implosion after a league winning season. In fact, Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea has been the only time in Abramovich’s reign when a manager has survived beyond a season after winning something significant. For a club that is regarded as the second most successful club in England, after Manchester United since the turn of the century, that’s a baffling statistic.
Everybody expected Chelsea to dominate for years to come after the 2016-17 season, when Chelsea were vehemently dominant in a Premier League winning season, where the Blues:
- Equaled the Premier League record for most consecutive wins in a season - 13 (now broken by Pep’s City)
- Broke the record for most wins in a Premier League season - 30
- Achieve the second highest points tally in a Premier League season - 93
- Equaled the record for most home and away wins against different sides - 12
- Equaled the record for fewest draws in a season - 3
- Equaled the record for fewest home draws in a season - 0
The fact that this season was sandwiched between a 2014-15 Premier League winning season, a nightmarish 10th place finishing 2015-16 season and a 2017-18 season where we will, once again, not even finish in the top four is what makes the life of a Chelsea fan special or crazy, depending on where your preferences lie.
A Chelsea supporter’s life is akin to a roller coaster ride. However, at an amusement park, you pay for the thrill and it ends after sometime, whereas at Chelsea, it’s a never-ending soap opera with twists and turns at every corner.
The Roman Empire: Since Abramovich took over in 2003, Chelsea have been England's most successful club pic.twitter.com/E4gaedanaT— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 12, 2017
This season, Chelsea has been filled with the same, “palpable discord” that has often followed our title winning seasons and the biggest reason behind this being the different expectations between the Board and the Head Coach regarding transfers.
Chelsea have been linked with plenty of managers, ranging from pragmatic Allegri to a purist Tuchel. Unfortunately, smart spending, or lack thereof, will be a problem for even our future manager if we keep buying players like Drinkwater and Barkley. The fact that we bought Drinkwater, even though he was going to cost as much as Matic, is truly a shame.
However, one name from the rumoured list of managers does stand out due to his ability to extract the best out of limited resources and that name is Leonardo Jardim. If Chelsea is truly looking to compete with the riches of the Manchester clubs while being financially frugal and developing youth, there is no better option out there.
Most casual fans know Jardim because of Monaco’s 2016-17 season when the Monagasque club scored 107 goals (most in top five leagues for that season) and finished the league with 95 points (most in top five leagues for that season).
However, not so long ago, Jardim was described as an extremely defensive manager. France Football ran a poll asking if Monaco were “Ligue 1’s most boring team” and the answer was a resounding 71% in favour, saying ‘yes’.
”Jardim is getting good results, but his team is playing poorly. He invented new football tactics - the chloroform tactics. It’s impossible to watch them. Fans are dying of boredom.”
-Pierre Ménès; Source: Foot 01
It is a testament to his versatility that the same manager whose team had a meagre return of 4 goals scored, conceded only 1 and kept five clean sheets out of the 6 matches in Champions League group stages, underwent such a big transformation and ended up scoring more goals and securing more points than the Champions League, Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and La Liga winning Real Madrid, Premier League winning Chelsea and Messi’s Barcelona.
Jardim is also a person who often looks towards youth, rather than whine and ask for transfers. William Carvalho at Sporting, Fabinho, Mbappe, and now, Rony Lopes are some of the young players who have reveled under the tutelage of Jardim.
One of the biggest reasons for his excellent track record with youth isn’t just the fact that Jardim has worked at clubs with severe financial constraints and a tendency to sell their best players. It’s also due to his penchant to rotate on a regular basis. Since, this season isn’t over yet, we’ll focus on the last three seasons to compare the difference in Chelsea’s approach towards rotation as compared to Jardim’s Monaco.
In 2014-15 season, Monaco had 19 players who played more than 500 minutes in the league as compared to Chelsea’s 18. In 2015-16 season, Monaco’s number increased to 21 players while Chelsea’s dropped to 17 players. The difference in rotation continued as in 2016-17, Monaco had 17 players who played for more than 500 minutes, to Chelsea’s 14.
However, when we go into detail, we see the stark difference in the approaches. While Monaco had 7 players in the 500 to 2000 minute mark, Chelsea had only 3 out of the 14: Fabregas, Ivanovic and Willian; essentially displaying a set starting XI with little to no changes done for the purpose of rotation. In 2015-16, Monaco had 13 players in the 500 to 2000 minutes bracket while Chelsea had only 9. In 2014-15, Monaco had 11 players while Chelsea had 7 players in this bracket, respectively.
If there were changes for Chelsea, those were forced upon due to injuries, suspensions or when Chelsea were losing a game and had to sub on players to try and change the outcome, rather than a premeditated approach to rotate players and utilize the depth of the squad to its fullest extent.
Tactically, Jardim’s side plays with simplicity as he prefers a 4-4-2. However, he has played variants of 4-5-1/4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 as well. His 4-4-2 takes the form of 2-4-4 while attacking, with the aim of exploiting the half spaces and overloading the wide areas.
His 4-2-3-1 seems to be based on the same philosophy as his 4-4-2 because one of the strikers, out of the two up front, seems to have a free role akin to that of a CAM but on steroids. Meanwhile, his wingers in his 4-4-2 seem to tuck in, akin to wide AMs in a 4-2-3-1, as the fullbacks make marauding runs down the side.
Due to such a high positioning of the fullbacks, when Monaco attack, they attack with complete overload through the wide areas where the fullback on the possession side, the winger and one of the CMs create a 3v2 overload in the wide areas while the opposite winger and the two strikers are in the box, again allowing a 3v2 overload in the box as well. This might vary as sometimes, the second striker might be involved in the buildup out wide while a CM is in the box, however, the tactic of overloading the wide areas and the box stays the same.
If the opposition fullback tucks in, then the fullback on the opposite joins the attack as well and finds himself in acres of space, allowing him to pick players at will through crosses. This is why most of Monaco’s goals come through crosses.
The two CMs in the middle are traditional as while one drops deep in a no. 6 role (Fabinho) similar to what Matic did for Chelsea, the other CM is a more traditional no. 8/box to box type of midfielder who will cover every inch of the pitch.
Defensively, Jardim teams like to defend with two blocks of four and the front two (either the two strikers or the striker and the CAM) begin the press and never allow the opposition CBs to settle down.
However, due to such high positions undertaken by fullbacks, the CMs and wingers need to have great stamina because they need to compensate for this and help out the CBs whenever possible.
Jardim employs a strong man marking structure, aimed at nullifying the opposition attacks rather than sitting back and parking the bus. The pressing only occurs in areas of numerical superiority as his teams maintain a compact vertical line in defence.
One of the biggest reasons behind Jardim’s success isn’t just his penchant for being versatile, but also his man management. As a manager who never played professional football and started managing at the age of 27, Jardim has often managed players who might have had issues because he never played but also ones who were older than him. Jardim made sure this was never an issue.
Honestly, I’ve never had big problems in my 15 years as a first team coach. I always try to be close to the action, so I don’t allow problems to grow. I think that problems exist because people allow them to exist. In football, everything happens in the fast lane. Football is about emotions and if you don’t pay attention a minor thing then it can suddenly become a big problem.
As a manager, one of the biggest challenges that you can face in modern football is the varying personalities of different footballers. If a footballer has made it to this level, it’s certain he has talent. It’s always the mental issues which make or break a player and a manager has a huge impact on this.
Zidane, for example, isn’t the best of tacticians but it’s his man management that helped him turn around a Real Madrid team which looked mediocre under Benitez, who is arguably a better tactician, into a team that won two Champions League in a row.
We are all the same and, at the same time, all different. The same feedback can cause one player to be anxious, another to relax or others to overthink things. That’s why we have to know our players really well. To upgrade the performance of some players I have to motivate them and others I have to be more critical of so I can get a good reaction. Nowadays, football as an industry is more aware of the importance of this aspect. Scouting is more aware of this detail and for me personality and learning ability is essential. If a player has the last two aspects, he can get away with not having certain other qualities.
Another issue that the managers have been facing these days is the complete difference in personalities of modern footballers compared to that of the old guard. You often hear people complain about Pogba’s dab or his 100 different hairstyles, or Michy’s tweets but Jardim seems to completely understand that footballer these days are more than just players, they’re celebrities and have a significant following, akin to that of rock-stars.
Nowadays the world is more complex. There is a greater knowledge from all areas and, today, people actively seek new information. Now you cannot give false information to a player like some coaches did in the past because now your players will understand easily what is true and what is not.
Thirty years ago your coach would say that eating a certain fruit was good for your performance and that would be a law. Today it’s not. It’s also important to understand that we now have social media, agents, and that each player is now a fan’s institution. These are all problems that didn’t exist in the past.
Players have the individuality principle and today they have an appreciation of their image that didn’t exist in the past. Falcao has 12 million followers on Twitter alone, which is more than some Ligue 1 clubs.
It is these comments which showcase that Jardim is more than just your average manager who focuses on tactics. His tactics are simple but effective, his man management is simple but effective, his thought process behind these things are anything but simple and what makes him so effective. This is a man who is a scholar of the sport, rather than an ex player who is going off of anecdotal evidence, even if it is something like man management. He has understood them, studied them and he has mastered them.
However, as was explained earlier, this is how Jardim is now. It’s not how his approach always was and his journey from the lower echelons of Portuguese third division to where he is now, is more important. It showcases Jardim’s ability to achieve the absolute best out of limited resources and his tactical versatility. Let’s get into Jardim’s history and his development into a great manager.
Born in Barcelona, Venezuela; Jardim’s journey was not an orthodox one, by any means. Having never played professional football*, Jardim’s coaching career started at the tender age of 19 when he started coaching an under-13 side and eventually, landed his first managerial stint at A.D. Camacha at the age of 27.
I was coaching an under-13 side at 19-years-old and then I became an assistant manager at 21, before taking my first managerial job at Camacha at 27. I never stopped training. This has given me something that many don’t understand: 15 years’ experience. Listen, experience is not knowledge. Experience is experience by itself and nothing more, it’s completely different from knowledge. Experience gives me the ability to make better decisions and fewer mistakes. That’s what experience can give you - the capacity to make better decisions or to improve decision making as we repeat some of our decisions.
-Leonardo Jardim; Source: FourFourTwo
From then, he moved on to Chaves in 2008, Beira-Mar in 2009 and Braga in 2011 before replacing, present Barcelona manager, Ernesto Valverde as the manager of Olympiacos in 2012. Unfortunately, his tenure at the Greek club lasted for only 7 months as he was sacked in January of 2013, even though Olympiacos were first in the league and 10 points ahead of the team in second.
Olympiacos under Jardim, played 17 games in the league, winning 14 and drawing just three. However, it was his work at Sporting CP that really caught the eye of the footballing world.
Leading a club full of youngsters and one suffering from financial constraints, Jardim did what he does best: do more with less. After coming off of one of the worst seasons in Sporting CP’s history, when the Portuguese club finished 7th in the league, Jardim guided them to a 2nd place finish ahead of Portuguese giants, Porto.
As the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail” and if the 2nd placed finish wasn’t impressive enough, the underlying details definitely are as Sporting were not only bad but they were hilariously bad. The fact that Sporting is one of the “Três Grandes” in Portugal and yet managed to finish 7th with just 11 wins out of 30 league games with a goal differential of 0 is beyond disappointing. To put it into perspective, in 2015-16 season, Chelsea finished 10th with a goal difference of +6 while Liverpool finished in 8th with a goal difference of +13.
To make matters worse, Sporting sold their top-scorer from the last two seasons, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, to Norwich. Sporting also sold Bruma to Galatasaray and Tiago Ilori to Liverpool. Most managers would’ve complained or asked the club to spend money to replace the club’s top-scorer and other rising stars but Jardim doesn’t believe in this.
After recuperating nearly €30 million in sales from the sale of the players, Jardim just spent about €2 million while mostly utilizing player loans and free transfers to strengthen his squad. This was evident in the rise of Fredy Montero, as the Colombian striker, who was loaned to Sporting CP from Seattle Sounders, with an option to buy, ended up being the club’s top scorer in 2013-14 season and replaced Wolfswinkel’s output while making the club some profit as well.
Sporting finished the league in 2nd place with the 2nd best defence in the league, 3rd best attack in the league and the second best goal difference in the league (+34) while spending only about 6% of their transfer income. This is what Jardim does, he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t whine but he empirically makes players better and manages to extract the best out of fairly limited resources.
In 2011, AS Monaco had quite literally hit, what you can call, rock bottom. After winning Ligue 1 seven times, the Monagasque club was on the bottom of not Ligue 1 but Ligue 2 when Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev acquired 66.67% of the club and embarked upon a journey of restoring the domination of once Ligue 1 giants and making it a hub for billionaires of Monaco.
The plan was to turn the club into an ‘aspirational, boutique brand’ as Times journalist Gabriele Marcotti explained it, in a ‘Beyond the Pitch’ podcast, with “high quality, luxury seats for which wealthy Monaco residents would pay around €2000 a game”. Monaco spent around £150 million to lure the likes of James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho to make this happen and turn Monaco into PSG’s competition, both on and off the pitch but this spending pattern didn’t last long.
In their first season back in Ligue 1, Monaco finished 2nd in the league under Ranieri as Monaco finished 9 points behind PSG. However, there was a change in the club’s philosophy as it shifted its focus from free-spending to the present era of austerity™ that presides at Monaco. James Rodriguez was sold to Real Madrid for €80 million, 2013-14 season’s top scorer Emmanuel Rivière was sold to Newcastle United and Radamel Falcao was loaned to Manchester United.
Whether this complete turnaround in Monaco’s philosophy was brought about due to now-useless but once feared, FFP rules or Rybolovlev’s expensive divorce is anyone’s guess. However, one thing was for certain, if Monaco was to survive after selling their stars, they needed a manager who was capable of building and rebuilding teams, over and over again, in a limited budget. Thus, Rybolovlev looked towards Leonardo Jardim in 2014 and the rest, is history.
In his first season in charge, after losing Falcao, James Rodriguez, Emmanuel Rivière, Abidal among others; Jardim looked towards loans and free transfers once again. Aymen Abdennour was signed for €13 million, a 19 year old Bakayoko for €8.5 million and players like Fabinho and Bernardo (who later ended up signing permanently for the club) were brought in on loan as well, to strengthen the team.
The club finished 3rd in Ligue 1 behind PSG and Lyon and reached the quarter-finals in Champions League after topping their group and beating Arsenal in Round of 16 before bowing out to Juventus in Quarter-finals.
In this season, Monaco mostly played a tight 4-5-1 with Toulalan, Moutinho and Kondogbia through with Bernardo Silva and Carrasco out wide, with Fabinho at right back, Kurzawa at LB and Berbatov or Martial up top. As was previously mentioned, Monaco struggled to score in the beginning of Jardim’s regime. In the first 26 games of Ligue 1, Monaco only scored 26 goals and no wonder they were voted to be the “Most Boring Team in Ligue 1”.
Questions were being raised and answers did come. After scoring 26 goals in the first 26 league appearances, Monaco ended the season with 25 goals in the last 12 appearances. It wasn’t that Monaco weren’t creating chances, they averaged 12 shots per game, however the problem was clinical finishing, or lack thereof.
The selling of players continued into next season as Monaco sold Layvin Kurzawa to PSG for €23 million, Aymen Abdennour joined Valencia for nearly €25 million after nearly joining Chelsea as the Blues were looking to shore up their defence, Berbatov went to PAOK, Yannick Carrasco was sold to Atlético Madrid for a reported €20 million, and Kondogbia’s move to Inter for a total fee of €40 million were some of the big outgoings in the 2015-16 season.
The incoming transfers were: €4 million move of Thomas Lemar from SM Caen, €6 million permanent transfer of Fabinho and Fábio Coentrão from Real Madrid, Mario Pašalić from Chelsea, Stephan El Shaarawy from AC Milan were loaned.
Even after losing star players once again, Jardim managed to secure a 3rd placed finish for Monaco in Ligue 1 once again but unfortunately, crashed early out of both Champions League and Europa League.
Then came the big season for Jardim. For once, his star players weren’t being sold and since the project at Monaco has settled down after two 3rd placed finishes as they kept selling players and making profits, this year they didn’t need to sell.
To add to Jardim’s delight, players like Djibril Sidibé for around €15 million, Benjamin Mendy for around €13 million and Kamil Glik for €11 million were signed to help reinforce Monaco’s defence, while Radamel Falcao and Valère Germain returned from loan spells at Chelsea and Nice respectively.
It was the addition on the defensive side that allowed Jardim to allow Monaco’s player to let loose. Addition of Sidibé, allowed Jardim to switch Fabinho to midfield as well, which again proved to be a masterstroke as Fabinho is now, one of the best CMs in the world.
This support by the board led to Jardim doing the unthinkable as Monaco beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title while scoring 107 goals, the most in the big leagues in Europe. They finished the season with 95 points, again most in the top five European leagues in 2016-16 season. They also reached the semi-finals of Champions League while beating Spurs, Manchester City, Dortmund along the way before losing to Juventus, once again.
As is often the case with Jardim teams, his star players were sold, his team dismantled and his castle destroyed, as the free-flowing Monaco were ripped apart by other clubs with money. Their main creator Bernardo Silva and left-back Benjamin Mendy were poached by Manchester City, Bakayoko by Chelsea but the biggest blow came from PSG as they signed Kylian Mbappé Lottin joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial loan, with a mandatory buy option of a massive €180 million at the end of the season. Depth players like Nabil Dirar and Valere Germain were sold as well.
OUT (before season 2017-18):— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) March 17, 2018
Yet, @AS_Monaco are still second in #Ligue1.
Only lost 1 of their past 19 matches in all competitions. pic.twitter.com/WfQdgNNRnH
Players like Youri Tielemans, Adama Diakhaby, Keita Baldé with potential were signed along with Stevan Jovetić were signed but it was nothing compared to the quality of the players they signed. In the first half of the season, Monaco struggled as they were knocked out of Champions League in the Group Stage as they didn’t win a single game and finished dead last. In the league, the cracks were starting to show as Monaco failed to win 3 games in a row as they lost to PSG, Nantes and drew away to Amiens, dropping to as far as 4th in the league.
Most goals scored in Europe's top 5 Leagues this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 28, 2017
Man City (61)
Barcelona (45) pic.twitter.com/kJ6qUDEphv
As he always does, Jardim finally found a solution, as he switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Since losing to Nantes, Monaco are unbeaten in 17 games, winning 12 games and drawing five. The quick transitions are back, the efficiency and ruthlessness is back as well. Jardim also switched Lemar to the no. 10 role and in the beginning, Lemar reacted to it positively as well but eventually his form fell, and Jardim didn’t hesitate from dropping his star player to the bench in order to win.
Thomas Lemar has been so poor recently that Leonardo Jardim dropped him to the bench for Monaco's hard-fought 2-1 win over Nantes this afternoon.— Get French Football (@GFFN) April 7, 2018
Jardim’s has also managed to extract the best out of Rony Lopes. The Portugal international winger has been unstoppable with 11 goals and two assists in his last 14 appearances for the club. After spending three years on loan at Lille and scoring 12 goals in total in those three seasons, Lopes has already scored 14 goals this season and huge credit must be given to Jardim.
14 - Monaco have scored 14 goals with their last 20 shots on target in Ligue 1. Surgical. pic.twitter.com/3v93vPDxf1— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 9, 2018
Monaco may not win a trophy this season but Jardim has proven once that when it comes to rebuilding teams, he may, very well, be the best in the business. If Jardim can achieve all this with squads who are forced to sell off their best assets every transfer window, the possibilities are endless at a club like Chelsea and that’s why, we should hire him. He has shown that he can rotate, play defensive football, play high intensity attacking football, develop youth players and manage his squad without any palpable discord, all while working with limited financial resources.
In the coming summer, one can expect that Lemar, Fabinho, Rony Lopes and Sidibé, among others, might be sold. However, I doubt Jardim will care as these issues are beneath him. He will continue working, continue trying to find new ways to win and get the best out of the players that he has at his disposal.
As he so eloquently puts in an interview, “It fits the philosophy of the club, the strategy... Me? I do not have time to whine.”