Roman, Lay Foundations - Part 1
There is a myth or a so called saying that the sackings over the years has led Chelsea to rack up more trophies than Manchester United during Abramovich's era. In other words, rotating the managerial hot seat have left us winning trophies. The pundits and fans alike believe this and they cite Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid as examples. However, I beg to seriously differ from this school of thought and this season and last season is proving such myths to be wrong.
I will attribute our success over the years to the foundations laid by Ranieri and Jose Mourinho whom essentially built the core of this team. That core being Cech, Makalele, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Drogba, and lately, Ivanovic and Mikel (starting DM in both Carlo Ancelotti and RDM's trophy winning year no matter how sick it makes some fans feel). A significant portion, if not, 90% of the players were recruited under the guidance of 2 managers with significant coaching experience and lasted over a season or more at Chelsea - Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho. Not only were a core built, but a tactical system was employed over the years that made us successful.
There is saying in the Bible as follows:
'They are like a person building a house, who dug a deep hole to lay the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the floodwaters pushed against that house but couldn't shake it, because it had been founded on the rock.'
Regardless of whatever manager hired, Chelsea was successful in terms of winning trophies and securing a top 4 position because a solid foundation had been built. However, that foundation had been laid by competent architects - coaches with the managerial experience and football knowledge of recruiting core players under a period of STABILITY. Any tinkering with that foundation led to disappointing results and eventually sackings of managers e.g. Scolari and AVB. The managers who ended up resorting to the regular starting XI endured success and in some cases trophies.
Champions League success which is the yard stick any Chelsea manager is measured with was secured by RDM and almost tasted by Avram Grant. These managers are not tactically astute, geniuses or whatever you want to call it, but the foundation was strong enough to see them through to winning it and almost winning it. An important ingredient was their ability to motivate the players and make them believe in themselves. You may call it luck or whatever, but I believe the core of the players were much more responsible for winning it than the coaches hired and fired like the pundits and Chelsea fans resort to.
The core of a team is supposed to last about 5 to 6 seasons and in some cases 8 seasons. The first core have served their purpose and on their way out of Chelsea with Drogba being the first to leave with Cole and Lampard following this summer. Where there is a problem is in the recruitment of the 2nd core (or laying of another foundation) and this is where the sackings and hirings like Zara changes clothes according to seasons has led me to believe changing the managerial hot seat isn't responsible for the success but the foundation laid.
When Mourinho and Claudio were recruiting players, they was a specific purpose and tactical system in mind that the next manager could just change or add things and follow up on the system the previous manager was trying to implement. In that case, it was almost irrelevant what manager we have at the top. However, this recruitment only came with the possibility of the manager knowing some sort of stability was guaranteed.
Since Mourinho has been sacked, we don't even know who exactly recruits our players. It is Piet De Visser today, Emenalo tomorrow, our new coach today, Gourlay next week and Pini Zahavi next year. No one bothers to ask how this player will be utilized within the new coach's system. In addition to that, the new coaches are denied whatever players they request hence their failures. Latest casualties being AVB and RDM.
Take our current team for example. Which coach actually recruited Ramires, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, and Torres? I didn't say under which coach were they recruited, but which coach recruited them? AVB wanted Willian, Falcao and Moutinho. RDM wanted Falcao and Moses. Of that 5, we only got Moses. Herein lies in the problem.
Most coaches choose to either control possession or control the space. The coaches that are able to control both are superb teams and almost unbeatable - Barcelona, Dortmund in their double winning season, and Juventus. This current Chelsea team is neither because we are broken team with players who fit one or the either system, but not both. In Rafa's press conference, he said the following:
'The kind of players we have need to be in possession because they cannot compete physically with strong opponents like West Ham. The balance needs to be better.'
There is a saying that most games are lost in the midfield. How are we a possession team and we don't possess central midfielders who do the basic things of a possession team - KEEP POSSESSION.
Mikel and Ramires can't keep possession enough. Hazard, Mata and Oscar do not have the physical attributes or the mindset to close spaces against opposition and has led to a broken team, hence our poor run. Including Lampard, Terry in the starting lineup or hiring Pep doesn't cure this issue.
The game against West Ham was reminiscent of Juventus, Shakthar, Atletico Madrid, and West Brom. As it turned out, Chelsea were fine in the first half because West Ham WERE SO BAD not because we were excellent. Sam Allardyce made JUST ONE CHANGE - Introduced Diame who did a Marschisio and Fernandinho on our central midfielders. RDM was called an imbecile since he wasn't able to deal with such intensive central midfielders.
So I ask another question - how come the allegedly tactically astute Rafa Benitez couldn't deal with it? This is where clamours for Pep drives me nuts because they are weaknesses in the squad you can't correct no matter how tactically astute you are. This is one of the examples. One could have argued he should switch to a 4-3-3 with Oscar, Ramires and Mikel in the middle to do the pressing and contain Diame. However, we still don't know how to press intelligently and lack the numbers in central midfield to deploy a 4-3-3.
Ray Wilkins said:
'He is running out of options. If #Guardiola was to come in and got sacked, where do you go?'
I agree and disagree with this statement. Roman has run out of options for hiring established and celebrated coaches. However, he hasn't ran out of coaching options. The Italians and Spanish are churning out coaches as much as they are churning out young upcoming players. However, this isn't the route he will go. And unfortunately for him, he has got to start all over again and regardless of what happens, Pep Guardiola or Mourinho or the next coach cannot get sacked in less than a year.
We are in a period of rebuilding with no particular identity and we must allow the next coach rebuild this team with an identified tactical system in mind aka laying the important foundation that will last us for another 5-6 seasons and in some cases, 8 seasons. The gulf between Chelsea and the PL title has remained high single digits to double digits for the past 2 seasons and that appears to be the case this season. It is high time management and the board allow competent Coaches rebuild this team as they see fit.
You could argue that other clubs have top management executing the player transfers to fit the club's philosophy. You can point towards Barcelona, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich as examples. However, those clubs do not have a former Manchester United Executive, an old lawyer and a former U-15 girl's coach handling player transfer decisions. What do these 3 know about a football philosophy?
I will continue with a lay a foundation series Part 2 focusing on Michael Emenalo, Bruce Buck and Ron Gourlay and why Chelsea fans have to turn some of that angst from Benitez to Bruce and Ron Gourlay.