If Chelsea had any sort of long-term plan in mind when appointing Maurizio Sarri last summer, it’s surely been thrown right out the window by now, and not just because Sarri himself is (probably) leaving.
We can debate the details of what’s happened this season and what’s come before until we’re blue in the face, but the upshot of it all — with the transfer ban seemingly staying in place (can still apply to freeze it, or CAS can freeze it, but unlikely), Hazard gone, Sarri gone, tons of players injured long-term — is that if we play our cards right, we just might be forced into realizing a proper long-term strategy, one that doesn’t just involve short-term fixes.
Long-term and short-term are relatively skewed concepts in modern football, but is a long-term strategy of short-term fixes viable? Sure. We’ve proven it repeatedly over the past fifteen years. We might have even patented it, if such things were patentable. We’d need a good name first though. How about ... Ruining Football One Trophy At A Time.
But the landscape of top level professional football itself has changed in the meantime. Money and coaching can still generate success, but only if spent wisely and in-synch. It’s the difference between Manchester City spending untold millions and Manchester United spending untold millions. The former has done it with a long-term strategy in mind. The latter has done it Chelsea-style, with Chelsea-style results but much worse.
To close the gap — to truly close the gap — to City and Liverpool (another example of long-term strategy paying off), Chelsea need to have a vision, a multi-faceted strategy of targeted spending and opportune development. And a coach to figure out how to put all together and make good use of what’s available to him. This isn’t a revolutionary idea by any means, and many have been saying it for some time, but that makes it achievable. There is risk involved of course. It may be a moonshot, even. If it was easy and obvious, everyone would be doing it.
So how do we go about all that? This is just a broad outline, not even a mission statement, but it starts at the top. It starts in the board room. It starts with a director. Perhaps his name is Petr Čech. Perhaps her name is Marina Granovskaia. Perhaps it’s someone else. Ideally, they all might even collaborate on a shared vision, which then becomes a guiding principle for how we operate in the transfer market, and is also filtered down to the (current) head coach (whoever he may be at the time) who works in tandem with the powers that be rather than in opposition.
Could that head coach be Frank Lampard? Eventually he surely will be. But could he be the man right now? He’s being advised to stay patient and not say yes to the inevitable offer coming from Stamford Bridge, but in a way, this is the perfect time for him to accept the job. If the transfer ban stays, he essentially gets a free year. As long as he doesn’t get us relegated — and there’s plenty of natural talent in the squad even without Eden Hazard to finish in the top six — he’s got time to build for the future. To truly build for the future, from the club’s own talent pool and resources. (We can still sign new players, just can’t register them until 2020 — time to load up on future superstars?)
It would be a luxury not yet afforded to any coach in the Abramovich Era. That of course means that the owner himself would need to buy into it, but that should go without saying.
It would be a bold move. It could be a disastrous move. It might just be exactly what we need.