To say it’s been a season to forget for Chelsea would be something of an understatement. After starting the season in the Champions League and with fans excited by the arrival of nine new players, it will end this Sunday out of Europe next season, in the bottom half of the table and with the most expensively assembled squad of under-performers in the history of English football.
No wonder not one but two Chelsea managers fell on their swords at Stamford Bridge during a wretched campaign.
As the reality of the post-Roman Abramovich era kicks in, there can certainly be no complaints about a lack of investment. Far from it in fact.
Newcastle United’s new Saudi owners have taken a somewhat surprisingly measured approach to gradually improving the Magpies’ first-team squad. But that is not how Todd Boehley roles.
Like a youngster who has stumbled upon a transfer kitty cheat code playing Football Manager, the American billionaire has spent a staggering £533m on new players in just 12 months.
When the nine players he had signed off on by September 2 collectively weren’t doing the business for him, he simply stuck the biggest plaster imaginable on a metaphoric broken leg by signing another eight in the January transfer window.
That included a British record transfer deal for Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, who quite understandably were more than happy to accept a £107.8m offer for a player they signed a year earlier for £10m.
Boehly’s spend-big-to-win gamble hasn’t paid off in the short term, but the Blues do have a vast array of super-talented footballers on their books as a consequence.
Another cause for optimism in West London is the decision taken by Boehly to reduce the number of hours he is committing to Chelsea each week, so he can focus on his other business interests.
Providing he is not taking his annual transfer budget with him, a more hands-off approach could be just what incoming manager Mauricio Pochettino needs, but even more so for his players, judging by accounts from throughout this season.
According to a report in The Times, Boehly had been regularly turning up at Chelsea training sessions alongside co-owner Behdad Eghbali. Players are said to have seen this as added pressure when preparing for matches.
Another report describes the shock of Chelsea’s players when January signing Mykhailo Mudryk was introduced to his new teammates. The Mail reported that the Ukrainian winger was paraded through the dressing room alongside his advisors before Chelsea’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, leaving the playing staff taken aback.
This particular move demonstrates a big difference between the Premier League and US sports, where dressing room access is far more commonplace. Players were also left stunned by Boehly when he entered the dressing room earlier on in the season to tell the players their season had been ’embarrassing’.
When Graham Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel as the club’s first team manager, a run of just two wins in 16 matches left the players ‘unconvinced’ by the former Brighton man’s methods, according to The Independent.
But Boehly and the Chelsea board were not for turning and stuck with the man they had brought in. He was eventually sacked on April 2, leaving Stamford Bridge with the lowest points-per-game return of any Chelsea manager. Kai Havertz admitted the Chelsea squad had already been left flummoxed by Boehly’s decision to sack Tuchel in the first place. He said: “Everything that can go wrong went wrong for us this year. We had a change of ownership, which was a big change for the whole club. And then Thomas Tuchel was fired, which of course always makes a difference in a team like this when you’ve been successful with a coach and then gets fired out of nowhere.”
With no European football to concern themselves with next season and an over-inflated squad, that will surely need trimming down before any more new recruits can realistically be considered this summer, 2022-23 is a season the West London club won’t want to reminisce about very often.
But with Pochettino on his way in and Boehly finally taking a welcome back seat, there is still hope for the Blues’ collection of millionaire footballers to get back out there and produce the type of success their fans have come accustomed to.