And so it ends. Chelsea’s 2017-18 season is over, with the Blues beating Manchester United in the FA Cup final to finish on a high, collecting another trophy as we so often do. Winning and winning even when we’re not at our best has become the identity of Chelsea ever since Roman Abramovich bought the club and that continues despite all the adversity.
Chelsea's FA Cup win consolidates their 4th place in the English clubs' all-time major trophy table. And 15 of their 23 all-time trophies (65%) have come in the Abramovich era, which accounts for 13% of their history. pic.twitter.com/lufWydjDTI— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) May 19, 2018
In the past 4 years, Chelsea have won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and one League Cup but you can’t help but get the feeling that the club is going in a wrong direction and all this will end if we don’t change our ways. This is not about the manager, it’s not about the style of play and it’s certainly not about us missing out on a particular target, rather, it’s about the club lacking a vision or at the very least, a coherent vision.
Antonio Conte may stay or he may leave. He has done his job and taken a club that finished 10th, looked out of sorts and needed to replace not only their club captain and leader, John Terry, but also transition in other ways like the loss of great players like Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. He also had to survive against the onslaught of arguably the world’s best managers in Pep Guardiola with free spending Manchester City, Jose Mourinho with free spending Manchester United, Pochettino who was settled and revered at Spurs and Klopp who’s had a strong backing at Liverpool.
Antonio Conte’s work here is done. pic.twitter.com/mheGab2jWV— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 19, 2018
Conte has passed that test with flying colours, he’s earned his paycheck and our respect. He replaced John Terry with Andreas Christensen successfully, implemented a system that revolutionized tactics in England, delivered a Premier League title against all odds and even in a season where everything seemed to be going wrong, he delivered a trophy. For comparison, Pep Guardiola has won exactly the same number of trophies in the same duration that Conte has and Conte did it with a fraction of a budget that’s available at Manchester City.
2 year of Pep at City: Premeir League and League Cup.— ayobami pase (@apaseayomi) May 19, 2018
2 years of Conte at Chelsea: Premier League and FA Cup.
But one is a success and people see the another as failure and should be sacked.
Unfortunately, another season out of the Champions League shows that there are faults in the process that needs to be fixed. Even a serial winner like Conte can only do so much. His future alone will not be a fix to our problems. The club needs a coherent vision now more than ever.
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have both come out, in recent days, and said more or less that they are ready to sign an extension and commit their future to the club if we sign better quality players. That says a lot. If even your players feel like their teammates aren’t good enough, then there is no way around it. It leads to not only disharmony and discord within the squad but the players begin to lose faith in ownership and the management’s ability and willingness to be successful.
Eden Hazard firing shots at Chelsea’s transfer recruitment “For me to be the best, I need good players” pic.twitter.com/Xof0aq5eNo— - (@HazardEsqueSZN) May 19, 2018
“I don’t know, I still have one year contract. I will speak with Chelsea now, maybe after the World Cup. I love this club, I love to be here.
“But as Eden (Hazard) said as well we need to see in what way this club is going forward.
“Obviously we want to win trophies like today, we want to be winning the title again. Obviously we need some big additions as well.
“I think if you see how City and United are spending, I think if Chelsea wants to be a club on top they need to show it as well.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Daily Star
As much as the club would like to spin the narrative and make it seem like these two players are leaving because of Conte or his style of play, it’s far from the truth. Great players want to play in great teams, ones that give them a chance at the trophies that matter. And Chelsea are far from great right now.
Chelsea have been the most successful team in England ever since Abramovich bought the club, but signing players like Djilobodji, Pato, Drinkwater, Barkley, just to name a few, does not aspire to that same pedigree. Spending wide (more, cheaper/worse players) rather than tall (fewer, more expensive/better players) is not how the best stay on top. It is also detrimental to actually utilizing our fantastic academy — spots next to world class signings that could be filled by top prospects are instead filled by mediocre signings, who then end up playing next to more mediocre signings.
Perhaps inadvertently, the situation in defence this season is a great example of this, as Chelsea made just one signing instead of three — Antonio Rüdiger proving to be the best acquisition of last summer — and thus we had the possibility to give minutes to Andreas Christensen.
Years of bad transfer policy and incoherent and haphazard planning with multiple last-minute scrambles have led to this moment, where, it’s not just the manager who is asking for better signings but it’s the club’s marquee players themselves. Eden Hazard has once again shown that he is the club’s best attacker by single-handedly turning the FA Cup final on its head with his performance. He continues to be the difference between a 0-0 draw and a win while Courtois was also excellent between the sticks. Losing Hazard, especially, would be a huge blow for the club.
However, it’s not that they’re just asking for us to sign better players, in fact, they’re asking for the club to create a strategy, a vision, a plan of action rather than winging it as we so often have done. The club needs to find its identity again. Do we want to win at all costs? Then, we must trust Conte and back him. Do we want to play beautiful and aesthetically pleasing football? Then, we must trust Hazard and bring in Sarri but we must also need to back him.
Do we want youth integration? In that case, the club needs to stop buying lots of mediocre players but buy great ones for the starting XI and fill the depth with youth, rather than filling the depth with mediocre players while also getting a coach like Pochettino or Jardim. This would also require the club to not expect titles after titles from these managers who are being brought in for the sole purpose of integrating youth while also helping the club transition from Chelsea of old ways to being a self-sustainable, financially frugal club.
Again, it doesn’t necessarily matter which path the club choose — we might have our personal preferences of course — what matters is that we fully commit to it, rather than having a club which can’t implement its plans because there is a lack of coherence and communication between the different structures within the club. This is not to say that this is a time to panic or that everything is lost. Chelsea is still the one of the most successful clubs in the world. It’s just time that we finally decided to start acting like one and remember that we’re not David, we’re Goliath.