Chelsea: A Club Up the Creek Without a Paddle?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

READING, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Frank Lampard (L) of Chelsea reacts with team mates after a Reading goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Chelsea at Madejski Stadium on January 30, 2013 in Reading, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Firing managers, so-called acts of violence against ball boys and supporters in revolt. If the current campaign has taught us anything, it's that Chelsea remains ideal headline fodder for media hacks.

As the club continues to look to the future and adapt with changing times in football, it seems Chelsea is rife with problems. And the biggest of them all? They're in transition, but nobody seems willing to accept it.

In Roman Abramovich, Chelsea has an owner who demands success—his ruthless approach to hiring and firing his managers has outlined that much. But when he has spent in excess of £1 billion in assembling a squad full of international talent, can you blame him?

Well, that’s a different debate altogether, but not since Jose Mourinho has a Chelsea manager been given a fair crack at the whip to build a team and move the club forward. Avram Grant was sacked within nine months, Luiz Felipe Scolari had an even shorter seven, while Roberto Di Matteo lasted five, despite winning the Champions League and FA Cup. 

It seemed Andre Villas-Boas would be the man to break the mould, being a young, up and coming manager who often spoke of his "three-year plan" while being Blues boss. That vision soon turned into a nightmare, though, when he was fired eight months into the job.

Part of his failure at Stamford Bridge was not integrating past stars into his vision. Whereas subsequent managers following Mourinho—and interim managers for that matter—were able to get through their tenure by relying heavily on the framework built by the Portuguese, using the likes of Dider Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard to carve out results, the current Tottenham Hotspur boss looked beyond them a little too early.

Villas-Boas knew players of their ilk would not be the future of Chelsea. It was a bold move, brave even, but when those players had been so integral for the best part of decade, it was unwise.

With star names benched and Chelsea’s season appearing in danger of collapse, the guillotine fell on Villas-Boas. Yet 12 months on, the Blues are in no better a position. Arguably, they’re worse off. Why? They haven’t got anybody steering the ship.

From the highs of Munich in May to the lows of Newcastle in February, Chelsea do not have a permanent manager in place to mould them into a championship-winning outfit. And anyone who tries either feels the weight of expectation from the board or the wrath of impatient fans who not so long ago defined a successful season by a good cup run and top 10 finish.

In turn, the supporters' impatience unsettles the board, which cranks up the pressure on the manager and from a distance, it resembles a scene fresh out of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

The Blues were in transition a decade ago, although the circumstances were somewhat different. Everybody was pulling in the same direction. Now they’re not. Abramovich had just bought the club and almost overnight they went from also-rans to title contenders. Mourinho stepped in and they became champions, instilling that famed “winning mentality” and transforming a collectively talented group of players into a trophy-winning juggernaut

What Chelsea has now is a squad bursting at the seams with talent once more. Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar, Gary Cahill—the list of talented individuals who would not be out of place in any team in Europe, let alone England, is endless.

But what they lack is a manager, afforded time at least, to make that potential worth something. And for that to happen, the club and supporters alike need to accept the hiccups and misery that will inevitably follow as they work to greatness once more.

It all seemed effortless under Mourinho, but for all his talents, he inherited a club on the rise. Whoever Chelsea appoint on a full-time basis in the summer will not so much take over a club in decline, but one at a cross roads.

Get that appointment right and the good times will return. Get it wrong and who knows where Chelsea will be this time next year.