Woody Allen might be perfect for the movie “How to manage the blues: Look behind”
Chelsea’s problems of late are not one that any manager can solve. Roman Abramovich’s loaded the club with high priced stars who were instrumental in the club achieving unprecedented levels of success but also encumbered it with crippling debt which Abramovich is now putting on its books because he needs to be paid.
The honeymoon is over, the players have turned old, many of them in their twilight, and after seven managers under Abramovich’s hire and fire, the feeling is that the club somehow took the wrong fork in the road. The owner’s desire for instant gratification turns every manager into soulless automatons programmed to seek yet another title without any thought beyond the very short term.
We can point to City whose equally profligate ways is reminiscent of Chelsea’s spending on steroids but these comparisons are superfluous because even while the Manchester club historically struggled in the league, it always produced top notch talent from its academy. That bit of long term vision is being utilized by Roberto Mancini to the fullest in the form of Micah Richards and Michael Johnson amidst all the high wattage marquees at his disposal in the present squad.
There are others like John Guidetti on loan at Feyenoord having a sensational season and Alex Nimely away to Coventry City heralding a new generation, some who fill fit in with City’s more egalitarian and studied outlook of top down and bottom up.
In contrast, Chelsea’s record of youth development has been spotty and expedient. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea’s best prospect is actually a City product. To be fair, Abramovich did pay some lip service after it became clearly evident that Chelsea was a highly leveraged club and the present policy was untenable.
The departures of Peter Kenyon and Frank Arnesen was a signal that the club was looking to change its direction. Under Carlo Ancelotti, there was even a sighting on the bench of what a future Chelsea side would look like when he debuted Gael Kakuta, Jeffrey Bruma, and Josh McEachran to the Premiership. The latter, a highly touted prospect was on Ancelotti’s horizon and there was every indication the Italian had big plans for the midfielder to become an integral part of the senior team. But Abramovich reverted to type firing Ray Wilkins and later Ancelotti after he failed to secure a title in the second season.
McEachran was shipped out to Swansea this January as Andre Villa Boas, Ancelotti’s replacement has been caught in the same maelstrom of ensuring another title and has no time to mentor probabilities.
Chelsea’s senior citizens have also not helped. This is one club where the players hold more power than the manager, a outgrowth of Abramovich’s revolving door that leaves no place for a manager to stamp his authority. John Terry was instrumental in getting rid of Jose Mourinho, going directly to Peter Kenyon to have him removed after he fearing he would be transferred. The same is playing out now with Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole acting the prima donnas after they were excluded from the squad for the Champions League against Napoli.
That decision had Abramovich’s surrogates bending Villa Boas’s ears making sure he did not get ahead of himself. This last week has been spent in damage control as the Chelsea manager became a Buddhist trying to find zen with his senior players. He has virtually assured them he will never tamper with the squad fearing for his job safety. In such a pyramid, there is very little hope for a youngster like McEachran to find a place.
Over-archingly, there is the albatross of Fernando Torres, a £50m vanity project that has left Abramovich obsessing and delusional. Every manager from the day Torres joined has to find a cure for his scoring ills. There maybe even a clause built into the managerial contract to save Abramovich from his biggest mistake. Torres might still score, regain his goalscoring prowess, overcoming what appears to be a protracted case of performance anxiety. But till then he adds to the neurosis afflicting this club’s managers. To quote Woody Allen, “When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room.” Yes, that may sum up Abramovich. He has you by the nutsack.