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No more Mr Nice Boehly: Chelsea owners light a fire under ‘embarrassing’ squad

We’ve got spirit, yes we do; we’ve got spirit, how about you?

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Chelsea FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

In case there was any doubt about the new Chelsea owners’ desires to win and make money, two things that go hand-in-hand as they see it, the stories emerging over the past couple days from Stamford Bridge should certainly put them largely to rest. That’s not to say that all their decisions have been perfect or smart, nor did they have to necessarily go about their business at the club the way they have done. Far from it.

But as we approach their one-year anniversary, it’s pretty clear that they are not happy with what they’ve seen. Unlike in the Big Apple, where profits expand when spirits go down, our profitability both on the football pitch and on the balance sheet has nosedived. And that’s not all on them.

Todd Boehly, Behdad Eghbali, and Hansjörg Wyss were all on hand at the Bridge to witness the team get played off the park by visiting Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday. Afterwards they paid a visit to the dressing room, and unsurprisingly, it was not for a bit of good game slap-ass.

No, as per various reports today, the hour they spent in there was mostly to inform the players that they are the most embarrassing bunch of embarrassments that have ever embarrassed, and that they should all be embarrassed of themselves. Or as the Telegraph put it, a pep talk, but not the Guardiola kind.

Chelsea’s previous owner, Roman Abramovich, was not one for such limelight, especially in his later years. And at the start of his ownership, his appearances on the training ground either meant that a manager was getting sacked or that the manager was about to be saddled with a new, big-money, but ultimately underperforming striker. “He is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” Abramovich fostered a culture of winning and player power, after all. There is no slacking on the Death Star!

This time, it seems quite clear that the players were the target of the owners’ ire. But it’s also clear that this was hardly their visit.

“Todd (Boehly) comes to the changing room every game. He had different chats with us after different games. I’m not going to say what he said but it’s normal when he comes into the changing room.”

-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: The Athletic

Such hands-on ownership can be seen as either supporting or overly oppressive, depending on your stance on micro-managing. How would you feel if your boss’s big boss was constantly looking over your shoulder? Would it inspire you or would it debilitate you? Would you even care? You probably should on some level; they pay your salary at the end of the day.

Graham Potter used to talk about watching the All Or Nothing: Arsenal documentary. Maybe Boehly’s been watching the one about the Chelsea Women.

Caretaker manager and former player-power player Frank Lampard, who has quickly grown frustrated with the squad’s levels of effort, determination, and aggression since his appointment ten days ago, certainly sees no problem with it.

“For me, there may have been some criticism of our old owner for not coming to games. Not being around and that wasn’t always true to be fair. But when an owner is invested in their interest in the team and wants to help and improve it’s the prerogative to have the input they want.

I remember the moments as a player of owners first coming into the dressing room. It first happened at Chelsea, never anywhere else before and I remember being really happy that they were there. You could touch them, you could high five them and listen to them and feel them. That’s not a bad thing in terms of the identity of the club and where you want to get to. There is no problem with it from my point of view.

“I had my things to say after the game. If the owner comes in and wants to be positive and speak to the players, then I think it is his part to do that. It can be regular in the modern day. It shows passion and that’s the first thing that I like.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London

The Telegraph’s report makes it a point to say that the owners only addressed the team after Lampard was done with his post-match address, preserving the sporting hierarchy.

So, the fire’s been lit. Good. It’s been far too comfortable for far too many for far too long this season.

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