As Thomas Tuchel attempts to pull Chelsea away from another blue on blue revolt at Cobham, the senior board members ought to be looking at themselves in the mirror. A savage home defeat in the league is not an unusual occurrence either, the fact that it was against West Brom only exacerbates that loss. Whilst Tuchel could be found guilty of over manipulating his starting XI on Saturday, and the players could look at their reaction to Thiago Silva’s sending off, the blame goes deeper. The Chelsea board’s failure to mentally strengthen the squad over the last few seasons has seen the on-field XI once again defeated in a way unacceptable to most fans.
If we are totally honest as Chelsea fans, the arrival of Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho spoilt us beyond our wildest dreams. For all the criticism we can lay at the Portuguese one’s door now, that initial period built a team and ethos that would see the club win trophy after trophy for a decade and more. That same backs-to-the-wall, ‘they shall not pass me’ attitude does not exist amongst the current group of players. Individually it probably does, and we’ve seen that in these behind the scenes incidents that more worryingly get leaked. Perhaps, even when it’s going well there is a camaraderie that you would expect to see. However, it’s when the wheels come off the bus that the collective are not singing from the same hymn sheet.
It’s easy to point at Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba and say that’s the kind of spine we lack currently. Individually, they excelled, but as a group, they were out of this world. However, it wasn’t just those four. Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho and later, Gary Cahill, allowed the creative players up field to play with freedom. These random capitulations just wouldn’t happen on their watch and this is where you look at those responsible for player recruitment.
There can be no doubting the skills of Abramovich’s chief transfer negotiator, Marina Granovskaia, she has implemented some of football’s greatest deals over recent seasons. However, whilst Frank Lampard (as manager) was certainly backed with player purchases, other managers—notably Jose 2.0 and Antonio Conte—were not. With players like Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater, there were others being brought in over managers’ heads—a disconnect between club and coach began.
The obvious follow on from that is for that disassociation to transfer onto the training field. Neither Bakayoko nor Drinkwater made the grade at Chelsea. Recent acquisitions have appeared to focus on creative players rather than those of defence, but without a solid, mentally strong team behind them, they have struggled to deliver. Sadly, Alvaro Morata barely lasted a season such was the pressure he felt. We have to hope Timo Werner overcomes his current goal drought rather than also falling by the wayside. Then there is the on-field leader.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been a fine servant of Chelsea Football Club. He gets the club and he appears to be one of the game’s good guys, very much in the mould of Juan Mata and the sorely missed Ray Wilkins. However, is he a strong enough character to manage the players during a game? We had insight to that during the League Cup Final when Maurizio Sarri was manager. Azpilicueta, during the whole Kepa-gate injury incident that saw Sarri storm off down the tunnel, went missing.
As a collective group, the players of Chelsea are mentally weak when their backs are against the wall. There’s little the manager can do to impact that in-game once the rot sets in. Like a car with no steering wheel, the Blues are heading straight for the scene of the accident. A strong voice has to be dictating to the players on-field. Chelsea lacks that leadership; John Terry spoilt us all.
The mere fact that there has been disagreements behind closed doors shows that players do care and that’s certainly a positive. What’s sad though is, this article could have been written at any time within the last six years and that’s on all sections of the club. However, it’s up to Tuchel to now find a way to channel that individual desire amongst the players that care into one that influences the squad as a whole. He managed a tricky bunch of players at Paris Saint-Germain well, and will need to implement that same spirit into the Stamford Bridge dressing room.