No manager, no direction, season tickets going to general sale, a truly horrifying away kit, paying out the highest wages in the Premier League and an entirely imbalanced squad are the last remaining vestiges of Chelsea’s 2010/11 season. Which Chelsea department has scored the biggest own goal, I cannot quite tell, but the away kit is certainly leading by a head. For the Chelsea cohorts the news of season tickets going to general sale may be the counterstroke that finally reveals the disillusionment surrounding the Chelsea soap opera. I have no doubt that Stamford Bridge will be near its 99% capacity come kick-off, nor do I doubt that our Marseille castoff away kit will sell, but it is far from the point. There is a real sense that this season was the nail in an already tight coffin for many long attending fans.
This summer, perhaps above all in the Roman Empire, will be extremely important on so many levels. Finally, and some may say it has been coming, the Chelsea faithful have voted with their feet. I imagine if the club were to take the time out of designing horribly conceived away kits and ask those concerned “why did you decide not to renew” they would not like the answers. Sadly, a very large part of me believes they would not bad an eyelid either way, so long as said seats are filled come match day. What cannot be repeated is the same thought process that pervaded last summer. If the same mistakes are made, particularly regarding squad management, we could lose ground on both Manchester clubs.
The Key Decisions
After chasing Ancelotti for what seemed like years the ease at which he was discarded should act as a timely reminder to any prospective manager: deliver or be gone. It really is that simple. The appointment of a new manager, most likely Guus Hiddink for a second stint, needs to be made with both a short and long-term plan in mind. A sense of unfinished business with a certain Catalan side will provide much of the impetus Guus needs, as well as an affinity and drive in the side not seen since the early days of Mourinho.
Tactically I like how Hiddink approaches games. While many have struggled with the question, “how do you stop a team like Barcelona?” Guus played an almost perfect hand, home and away, only to be broken on a more than controversial river card. Perhaps his most redeeming quality remains his man management skills. Think back to the home leg against Barcelona and picture the desire levels, the absolute commitment to the game plan and the almost perfect execution of nilling the team that could not be nilled.
If Hiddink is appointed then we may finally have in place a man Roman trusts wholeheartedly with the footballing side of his club. Any restructuring of the playing personnel must be driven by the manager’s wants, with the final say on targets also being dictated by who he feels fits the brief best. I am not one that believes giving a manager carte blanche control of everything football related is the way a club should be run. Being an ex-Law student the idea of checks and balances is never far from my thoughts on politics, and I would apply it to the internal politicking that occurs at Chelsea. A manager identifies areas of weakness, scouts/football board determine suitable targets, manager gives his suggestion and football board close the deal. Mind you, we could start by trying to get a few qualified assistants on board…
The title of this piece is focussing on the need for evolution and not revolution. While there is a salient need to develop the squad the wholesale changes some people are suggesting are a) unnecessary and b) infeasible. Much of the weakened areas of the side were due to key players struggling to return to complete sharpness after a serious injury: Michael Essien being a prime example of a player looking laboured by the toils on his knees.
Problem Areas – looking at our entire right hand side as a complete entity, I feel this is an area where we need the most work. Much of the wide attacking talent we are being linked to are right footed players, however the majority of them to tend to play as an inverted winger on the left hand side. If Ivanovic is to remain as our right back, we desperately need an attacking outlet ahead of him. Towards the end of the season sides were simply funnelling the ball towards Ivanovic and allowing him both time and space to cross. For all Ivanovic’s redeeming features, and there are many, his play in the final third is certainly not one of them. Teams could flood our left, stopping the more effective Malouda/Cole combination, and simply attempt to shift us right towards Ivanovic. With Anelka’s tendency to drop either very deep or very central (or a combination of the two) we very rarely had anyone ahead of Ivanovic. Signing an actual wide player allows us to keep the opposition more honest in terms of their defensive structure. If they know we have the ability to deliver quality from both flanks, it should in theory open up both the centre of the pitch and our left hand side.
Central attacking creativity is also something sorely lacking from this Chelsea side. Again, given the names we are being linked to there does seem to be a genuine push to sign someone who can operate centrally and presumably combine with Torres. The reality that you may not be able to fit a 20+ goal a season midfielder and a striker of Torres’ mould in the same side has surely dawned on the “football board.” It will be interesting to see how any situation with Lampard develops if we are to sign someone in a traditional 10 mould. We use an XYZ formula in a 433, X being the holding player, Y the shuttler and Z the advanced option. If Hiddink is to retain this type of 433 and sign a traditional 10, what then?
General width and creativity are issues that have pervaded us since the decline of Damien Duff and the departure of Arjen Robben. I generally believe we need to look at bringing in some forward type players, people like a Robben or Duff, to provide tactical flexibility and more importantly some pace and directness to our play. The last days of Carlo it appeared that Arsenal had borrowed our kits such was the reluctance to shoot.
Potentially a right back could also be on the cards, but I think that is entirely dependent on which forward options we have come the start of the season. If we continue to pursue with players with central tendencies, then a right back does become an issue.
In terms of the existing personnel at the club, the football board need to make the correct decisions regarding departures. If we see faces go they must be replaced with players of a similar (but hopefully better) quality. What we cannot have is the same situation we found ourselves in last season – as soon as there were a few injuries, the season fell to pieces. Squad depth is the key component in any prolonged title challenge, particularly when we inevitably challenge on four fronts.