Chelsea And The Many Silver Linings To Their Transfer Embargo
On the face of it, admittedly, a year-long transfer embargo isn't exactly the making of many a Chelsea supporter's dreams.
But look closer, and there may actually be much to be mirthful about in the coming months at Stamford Bridge.
Time For The Youth To Take the Reigns from The Old
With a year-long embargo, Chelsea will now have to rely on youth to fill the usual gaps that emerge in the typical Premiership and Champions League-chasing first team squad due to injuries, suspensions (etc.) in a season.
What immediately springs to mind this season in particular is the African Nations Cup, where a slew of Chelsea players—including most notably, Dider Drogba, Salmon Kalou Michael Essien and Jon Obi Mikel—will be unavailable for selection for a period.
It will be during the coming months we see the fruits of Chelsea's youth system come to bear. A youth system, which to all intents and purposes, has produced dissappointingly little considering the massive infrastructural and youth investments made during the Abramovich era.
In fact, in one of Jose Mourinho's parting shots to his former employers he bemoaned the lack of genuine youth talent produced by the club's youth sytem. Since then, the regimes of Grant, Scolari and Hiddink have provided precious little evidence to rebuff this claim.
Frank Arnesen, current head of Chelsea's youth system and chief scout, must take some of the blame.
When a move from Tottenham resulted in a £5-8m compensation agreement for Spurs(depending on which sources you consider) after the capture of the former PSV man; many, not suprisingly, expected a complete reconfiguration and improvement in Chelsea's youth system.
Unfortunately, Chelsea and by implication, Arnesen's aggressive youth transfer policies (documented infamously by BBC's Panorama investigation) led to a transfer ban to which, ironically, his own work in the past few years will now be called upon in helping the club bridge the recruiting gap.
With a large number of youth players out on loan currently, don't be surprised to see some recalled over the coming months. In fact don't be surprised to see some trading passes with Terry and Lampard in the first team in the coming months either.
Ancelotti, Safe and Sound Equals Stability
Should Abramovich's much longed-for hookup with Ancelotti—a coach he deeply admired for his work at Milan—go the same way as his affiliation with Andriy Shevchenko, there won't be too many world class coaches eager to take a job that will have by then seen five managerial departures in less than three years.
Most importantly, it will a job where no option to overhaul the aging squad in the transfer market will be available in the short term. (This is of course, ruling out complete chancers like Eriksson or Grant being appointed as a stop-gap measure.)
For Ancelotti the pressure has already resided somewhat with a strong start to his debut season. With a ban on transfers, further signings now won't come under scrutiny— because there'll be none—and Ancelotti can do what he does best: Work with old pros until they can no longer remember where they live, nevermind run!
This all points to stability, a much-needed thing needed at Stamford Bridge, now being inadvertantly provided by FIFA.
As long as Ancelotti doesn't completely make a balls of it, of course.
Break-Even By 2010 Says the Master, "Yes, my lord!" replies Mr. Kenyon
When Peter Kenyon was lured by Abramovich to his Chelsea project in 2003, Kenyon was given one main brief—to attain a break even financial target by 2010.
Well seven years on and hundreds of millions spent on signings, agents' fees, and wages later it now looks as if that target was purely a case of wishful thinking.
Or was it?
It was projected that transfer spending would decline every year since that memorable summer splurge in 2003. And in fairness, it has: Yuri Zhirkov at £18m was Chelsea's only major signing this summer.
And the forecast for transfer spending January and Summer 2010?: zero.
In fact, don't be surprised to see players exit the club as contracts expire next summer. Arjen Robben, now of Bayern, has even warned of an exodus as players leave a stagnant squad.
Perhaps it wasn't wishful thinking after all.
Fortress Mentality 101
The final thing I'd like to point out is something most Chelsea supporters were well accustomed to in Mourinho's days: The Siege Mentality.
With UEFA currently "out to do in Chelsea" and rival club's supporters tittering away at Chelsea's misfortune, this could all well have a galvanising effect on everyone at the club.
An "Us vs. Them" perspective that, rightly or wrongly, has been discarded as Abramovich sought to make the club more media-friendly just may be about to return.
First-team players will no longer look over their shoulder—their places are almost guaranteed in the squad at the club now. Also, players may actually be motivated to play for each other now considering the buck will now well and truly stops at their feet in the coming year.
On the pitch, understanding and striking partnerships between attacking players could now be given stability and time to blossom while coordination and organisation of the defence could improve as the revolving-door policy of Chelsea's right side of defence ends.
It's specualtion, of course—again, Robben could be right and players might see a sinking ship—but a good previous example are Roma, who were hit with a similar ban and yet emerged as a much more tight-knit squad from it all.
Perhaps Chelsea's millionaire mercenaries can now meld together even quicker under in a siege mentality environment and form something much more. Something that, against all odds, may lead them to silverware come May.
Who would bet against it?
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