Chelsea is in the midst of a revolutionary year in every aspect. Overturning the transfer ban could potentially hamper this progress.
Ever since Roman Abramovich’s Russian revolution started in 2003, Chelsea has always followed a win now model which was applicable to everyone involved with the club from the manager, to the players, to the youth, and to the staff. This culture, while in its nature was short term, instigated an elite mentality that brought with it unbridled success.
It helped establish Chelsea as a global brand, the rewards of which are felt to this day. The club has one of the biggest fan bases in the world which in turn results in colossal TV revenue and sponsorships. It put Chelsea on the map as an elite club. But the price Abramovich paid for this success though was a dangerous level of instability and uncertainty.
The hire and fire policy meant that managers like Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte never got the time to implement their long-term vision for the club and that discouraged managers like Pep Guardiola from ever joining. The young players at the club and the academy were sacrificed for players with large price tags; Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku are the source of a million yearly regrets.
Short term planning meant Chelsea often wasted millions on players who never good enough for the club, tactically or culturally, and the Blues lost their ruthlessness in the transfer market. Some parts of the fanbase became as impatient as the club as it felt like it was in state for eternal change and transition. Chelsea depreciated from being an “elite club” to just a “top club”.
The summer of 2019 marked change again but this time it was a change for the better. Frank Lampard’s appointment as head coach cemented the return of many legends who understood what Chelsea Football Club represents. Chelsea’s talented academy graduates were not only utilised in preseason but have become fundamental to the plans of the club for the entire season. Chelsea’s loan army was sizeably reduced as the club seemed to finally attempt to shift to long term culture. Much of this was possible because of Chelsea’s two window ban.
Had the ban not been in place, a new striker would have stolen Tammy Abraham’s minutes. New defenders would have forced Fikayo Tomori and Reece James out on loan. Mason Mount may not have been a starter. A big money winger would have convinced Callum Hudson-Odoi to leave. Lampard’s return may have never happened.
Two avoidable draws, one crushing defeat and one unconvincing victory in the first four games of the season is far from an ideal start but the morale remains high due to the club is doing something different; taking a step in the right direction. Of course, Lampard is going to have to justify moral victories with real results but those results will come soon enough.
The process to getting Chelsea back to being world class includes these young players and manager making mistakes and learning from them. It is the process of growth which takes time and patience. The ban has forced Lampard to work with a fixed squad which will help him learn to adapt and improvise due to the personnel (one of the most important traits of a great manager). The youngsters that demand their chances will be thrust into high pressure situations which will help them improve mentally. The squad and staff will develop together.
The reports of our January ban being lifted can potentially derail this process. Chelsea raised a lot of money over the summer by striking smart deals. The club has a war chest to realistically sign multiple near-world class players when they decide to spend it. Chelsea’s pressing needs would be to find a new left back to compete with Emerson, a centre back , and a winger to replace Willian and Pedro. These needs can be planned for and looked at in the summer of 2020.
The option of doing business in January will ensure that the club reverts back to depleting their budget with panic buys. These players might just be above average, or not improve on the current squad options drastically enough or could be cup tied in Europe. They will also take some time to adapt the club during the season’s most crucial and hectic period. Lampard will have an easy way out instead of trying to improve the current set of players.
Chelsea’s current squad has a huge scope for improvement and the potential to do it. Defensive errors can be curbed by forming defensive partnerships over time. The understanding between midfield and defence will grow as the season goes on. Attackers and strikers will link up better by playing together more often. Lampard will find the perfect middle ground between a gung ho, possession and pragmatism by the end of the season. He will even have opportunities to call on youngsters like Marc Guehi when the situations call for it.
After a year of analysing the club and loan army’s performances, the club can identity its transfer requirements, go to the market with a comprehensive plan, and swiftly execute it. Near world class players like Jadon Sancho and Kalidou Koulibaly can be realistically signed with prior planning in place. The last time the club did that was with Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis in 2014. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea won two trophies that season.
Until then the club must try to find the answer to its problems from within and it must persevere to improve. This year will be the most important for Lampard and his players to develop and grow, and for that to happen the club must avoid the lure of the fruitless January window at all costs.