A war. A sanction. A sale.
Only 15 months after the purchase of Chelsea; the team is different. Gone are the days of recognizing who has the ball just by the way they move … well, minus Sterling.
From temporary shirt numbers in preseason, to a constant shuffling in and out of first-team players, you wouldn’t be called a plastic if you were to ask “who scored that?” As it most likely wasn’t us that scored, and if it was, he’s probably spent less time in London than a college student immersing himself in the rich cultures of the world by studying abroad in the one that’s closest to him.
Clearlake were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
The disruption is widely broadcast.
The ever-hungry press waits patiently for the next morsel of news. And if it doesn’t come, they’ll just take something from a few days prior, change some of the words, and republish anyway.
The fans have watched as their beloved manager was fired for what he thought was optional overtime. They looked on as their favorite players moved to places never seen in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Cities”; like Manchester or North London. They realized, in hindsight, that qualifying for the Europa Conference League would’ve actually been a pretty good season.
As the new season begins; all that’s left are the memories of that one pass Mason Mount made that Kai Havertz actually scored, or that one time Billy Gilmour played great against Liverpool, or that one moment, even if it was a fraction of time, that Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Christian Pulisic were actually not injured.
So, was all this change necessary? Or would a gradual turnover have set Chelsea FC up for a better tomorrow?
The most recent change, well until the sun rises tomorrow and another change occurs, has been to the people between the sticks.
Earlier in the window, Chelsea parted ways with Édouard Mendy, most remembered as the guy who sold his soul for a few months of world-class goalkeeping. As Robert Johnson was aware, the devil collects his. And with Mendy, it was no different.
From helping Chelsea hoist the Champion’s League title, to second-choice behind Kepa, to a howler in his debut for Al-Ahli Saudi FC, the fall’s most apt comparison is that of Gandalf’s into the Deep Chasm.
As Kepa regained the No.1 spot, it seemed likely that Mendy would leave. The No.2 spot was solved when Robert Sánchez signed from everyone’s favorite club Brighton.
But the unusual move occurred when the skink went down for the year and Madrid came calling for Kepa.
Now, with the announcement of Djordje Petrović from MLS, Chelsea have sent two keepers away, spent nearly 40 million in transfer fees, and came away with what could be argued as a step up, or a step down … depending on how weak you believe Kepa’s wrists really are.
Todd Boehly might have traded out the rest of the squad like a deck of Magic cards, but the defense came to him a few land cards away from playing his 4-4-3. So additions in defense were necessary.
Who would’ve been the perfect signing? Whoever was signed by another club and has done well of course!
With Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen leaving for free, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana, and Marc Cucurella were the chosen ones to join us on what we thought was the Riders of Rohan pummeling through the orcs at Helm’s Deep but ended up being the scouring of the shire.
Marcos Alonso left to score against Tottenham in another league and Matt Miazga did something too. But the defense was about incomings.
Also, it was January when the club finally realized that Reece James’s three dozen injuries might make it a risk to not have a backup, and Malo Gusto signed ... but he was saved from the clutches of Graham Potter and Frank Lampard and would join us in the summer. Benoît Badiashile was not so lucky.
Unfortunately the 30-day return policy on Koulibaly expired. The local/not local at all Goodwill said they’d be glad to take him, Mendy, and N’Golo Kanté and Hakim Ziyech, too. After an afternoon of watching him frown, they gave Hakim back.
But Koulibaly left, with the fondness of being part of Chelsea’s worst season in Premier League history.
Lewis Hall’s rise from academy player to the best player in the history of the sport happened in only 654 minutes. Almost a Chelsea record. Sitting behind only Billy Gilmour in the length of time between “hasn’t played” and “legend”.
As for this past summer? Axel Disasi signed up to be a part of the biggest trusting of processes since Philadelphia. Levi Colwill came back from the beach just as beach season began. Ian Maatsen returned with a trophy haul larger than England legend Harry Kane. And Lewis Hall’s love of magpies and Todd Boehly’s love of pure profit broke the hearts of Cobham fans everywhere.
It’s not every day you can inherit world class, and if Clearlake bought Chelsea two years ago, they would have.
Instead, they inherited something closer to Robert De Niro in “The Irishman”.
An aging Jorginho. An oft-injured Mateo Kovačić. And an aging and oft-injured Kanté. Once highlights of our squad, now on contracts nearing their end and their legs nearing it too.
The season started out as most Thomas Tuchel seasons do. With telling the world we don’t need midfielders, and somehow one coming in on loan anyway.
And just like the other times it happened … it didn’t work. So as Boehly mistook this young midfielder for Messi as he watched the World Cup in-between Lifetime Christmas movies, he knew he had to spend whatever was necessary. Maybe he wanted to win? Maybe the movies hit that sweet spot right in the feels as the incredibly impressive female lawyer from the big city comes back and leaves her career to help this guy help his dad sell Christmas trees.
Jorginho and beta version Jorginho were sold that January. And a new midfielder was finally coming. But why stop there?
Kovačić also left in January. But kept playing with Chelsea through May.
In the summer, Todd went to his favorite banter bro Tony Bloom. And for a life age of the earth, the saga of Moisés Caicedo went on. Todd even gave Bloom £25mil as a show of good faith for their third-string keeper.
During all this, Todd kept Blue Suede’s Hooked on a Feeling on repeat and when a midfielder whose name came to him each time he repeated the song, he knew it was fate.
Meanwhile, Bloom called up another American to decide the fate of an Ecuadorian. The Fenway Group knew that no one could resist all that history and their favorite German.
Well, resist he did. On top of that, Roméo also saw the true colors of his Juliet and that she actually could have paid for the full dinner, and not keep insisting they go Dutch.
During this year, Todd also couldn’t say “no” and signed up about 42 midfielders who couldn’t even grab a beer with him on their American tour. Forever Young Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and “if he was only given a chance here, he’d definitely be great” Ethan Ampadu also left.
Knowing there was a gaping hole for his kind in the squad, Conor Gallagher knew there was a distinct need for his ability to run fast at an opposing player with the ball, and once they pass it, run at that guy.
And Mason Mount ... is an attacker and won’t be in the midfield section.
As the departures of Rüdiger and Christensen pushed forward the need for new center backs, the lack of depth pushing the need for full backs, and the aging midfield creating a need for new midfielders, there wasn’t really a true “need” for forwards … unless you’ve watched them play.
Chelsea’s attack has struggled since the departure of the Man of 1,000 Burgers, Eden Hazard. Fans knew it’d be hard to replace him, but they might not have realized just how tough it would be.
Captain America, Generational Talent, The Boy Who Dreamed, Turbo Timo, Tree of Gondor. Chelsea tried. But still the feeble legs of Ben Chilwell and Reece James were Chelsea’s best chance at scoring. That, or getting Jorginho a penalty.
Raheem Sterling arrived. A guy who knows how to score as long as you give him seven chances a match. Sadly, Chelsea doesn’t give the entire team seven chances a match. We even got a guy who scored 31 league goals in the Bundesliga. Yea, it was in 2016, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang even played for Tuchel before. What could go wrong?
That didn’t work. So Chelsea doubled the Fofana quota, got a guy from Ukraine, took a guy failing in La Liga on loan, signed a Tottenham youth player with hopes the double-jinx would win Chelsea trophies to spite Spurs. Then looked at every single person who scored a goal in Brazil that didn’t yet turn 20.
But it still didn’t work. What ever should Todd do?
Digging deep into his inner Picasso, Boehly knew that every act of creation begins with destruction. And it was demolition time.
Academy lad known for fixing his hair and playing well versus Norwich? Sold.
Hope of a Nation who plays card games with Reece James in the infirmary? Gone.
The tall man who would be King or probably a striker, but when played there generally doesn’t do anything? Sold.
No one is safe. Unless their contract is too large and no one wants them.
Now, for the rebuild. Nico Jackson and Christopher Nkunku. Scratch Nkunku, he’s hurt. How about young Carney Chukwuemeka? Damn, hurt too. Armando Broja? Still hurt.
As Todd looks at the classrooms of Cobham, he gazes as if he’s Anakin Skywalker wandering the halls of the Jedi Academy eliminating the younglings.
Is there enough cash for one more?
Was the overhaul needed?
Looking at each section, it makes sense. But did it need to be this quick?
Keepers? Mendy’s far removed from his great run and will Kepa ever be a top keeper? Is saving money, potentially over 10 million a year, worth it? The two new keepers are young, have each shown some potential. But is it a sideways move? Or are we worse off?
Defense? New signings were needed. But were they the right ones? Is Chelsea’s inability to shift Cucurella going to come back to haunt them if Lewis Hall turns great? Or would he have always been behind Chilwell, and Maatsen and never match his first few appearances?
Midfield? The midfield needed a revamp, but should one of the three stalwarts have stayed on? Is the record amount of money spent going to be worth it in the end? What about the young players? Has Chelsea signed too many and will they all just be blocked by Enzo, Caicedo, and Lavia anyway?
Forwards? Should Chelsea have continued one more season before changing the attack? Or did the contract situations and demands of the players, combined with seasons of ineptitude up front force Boehly’s hand into dealing with the attack now?
As Chelsea step into the spotlight, much like Dave Grohl returning to stage after Chelsea’s physios treated his broken leg, will they regain their status as the nemesis of every top club? Will they ruin football once again?
Or will they only destroy the very thing they thought they were rebuilding?