With football on hiatus and We Ain’t Got No History slowing approaching our tenth (10th!) birthday, it’s as good a time as any to start looking back on some of our recent Chelsea memories.
Here are a few that stood out from March 21s over the past 9-10 years (timezones may change that a bit, but I’m trying to keep it within the European & North American frame; sorry, rest of the world).
It would be two more months before Chelsea would climb to the very top of the European game and turn a wretched 2011-12 season (6th in league, lest we forget, which was the worst in like two decades) into a most spectacular 2011-12 season and into a permanent appointment for Roberto Di Matteo.
So in March, the mood was definitely about looking beyond — losing 2-1 to Manchester City on this same day ended Di Matteo’s unbeaten start to Chelsea head coach life — and the club were searching hard for the next manager. Jürgen Klopp, a rising star over in Germany, was a popular name already. But he was not ready to leave Dortmund just yet, rejecting the Blues’ approach out of hand.
“I can turn [Chelsea] down straight away. I will not be moving there. But I do think it is cool that I am being named in the same breath as Mourinho and Guardiola. That is enough for me — that is already a personal triumph, but I am not available, sorry.”
-Jürgen Klopp; March 2012
Chelsea would be beaten to the Klopp punch by Liverpool in 2015 eventually, with the Reds making the change at manager before Chelsea’s sacking of Mourinho. (That long term project on Merseyside was about to bear the fruit three decades in the making, before the coronavirus struck.) Plenty of potential scenarios for fans of alternative history to explore here however.
Exposing José Mourinho’s constant lies about youth is hardly a ground-breaking endeavor, but it provides a stark contrast to this season’s developments — which, again, may have been aided by the transfer ban, but also very much required someone willing to trust in and develop trust with the young players.
Meanwhile, here’s Mourinho.
“There is no space with this level of demand and responsibility and pressure, there is no space for a player that is not ready [...] I cannot play Solanke against Southampton with 30 minutes to go and the score at 1-1. I can’t.”
“This club is very demanding. It is a club where it is not easy to play football. The level of demand is high. The pressure is big. It is not the same to play in a club where people just accept a so-so performance, or a so-so result or people accept that you finish fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth. This is not the best habitat for a young player to be developed. It is not the best one.”
-José Mourinho; March 2015
It will certainly be interesting to see in the future whether the environment at Chelsea has truly improved in terms of youth development, or if we can only trust the kids when we’re absolutely forced to by the circumstances. We have to believe that Lampard & Morris would certainly continue their policy (while also bringing in key signings), but whether this paradigm shift proves to be a long-term change at the club as a whole is a question that can only be truly answered in the future.
Guillem Balagué got one right when he reported that Chelsea had “agreed personal terms” with Monaco midfielder Tiémoué Bakayoko. At the time, Chelsea had not yet agreed a fee for the midfielder, and the transfer would drag on for FOUR more months before finally getting finalized at around €40m in mid-July.
Looking back, we probably should’ve pulled the plug at some point. Oh well!
Bakayoko was having a pretty good season back at Monaco before the stoppage, though whether they would’ve been willing to activate his buyout clause was unknown. With all teams facing massive financial losses due to the shutdowns, it’s even less likely.