Chelsea Lately: Unhappy Days Indeed

Patrick Johnston@PJSoccerJunkieCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20:  Carlo Ancelotti (L), Manager of Chelsea talks with assistant Ray Wilkins during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at Upton Park on December 20, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
Phil Cole/Getty Images

The current form of the double winners of the last English campaign is close to hitting a free fall.  Some would prefer the spiral motion, but however you see it, it does not bode well.  What has happened to explain such a fall from grace and even more importantly, what does it mean for the Blues of Stamford Bridge?

Looking at the recent past and trying to put a finger on the reasons for the swoon all lead to one event that inexplicably can be considered the catalyst: the sacking of assistant Ray Wilkins.  While standing on the training ground watching a reserve match with headman Carlo Ancelotti in mid-November, Wilkins was summoned into the administrative offices and clinically sacked. 

No real explanation has yet to come forth and the victimized Wilkins is still searching for answers.  And make no mistake about it, if Ancelotti wanted Wilkins, he would still be where he belongs, in Chelsea blue.

Other than saying karma is a bitch when it comes back to bite, what other explanation can there be?  When events occurred on that fateful November 11th, Chelsea sat on top of the Premiership looking down at 19 other teams.  Since then they are 1-4-4 in league play and find themselves fifth in the table.

To put an exclamation point to the current form, the dismal run is bookended by a convincing 3-0 thumping to then struggling Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in mid November and the just occurred 1-0 capitulation to cellar dwellers Wolverhampton at Mollineaux.  Calling Wilkins a talisman would have been far fetched not too long ago, but now one has to wonder.

While the explanation of the treatment of Wilkin’s is more of an intangible as it really does not offer something we can put our hands on, the effects of this collapse, if it continues, will be obvious and far reaching.

Chelsea has become more than just a football team and it has invested wads of cash and significant hours of time of sweat equity to become a brand.  The success of that brand all begins with the results of its flagship.

Having visited the training ground of Cobham and Stoke D’Abernon and interviewing some of the top Chelsea brass in 2008, it was made clear that the ambition of Roman Abramovich was for Chelsea to be the premier team in world football in 2012. 

The “10-year plan” as it was laid out had the team winning every trophy in every competition.  Even more important, when asked, the only team that any one in the footballing world would refer to as the best would be “Chelsea.” 

Along with that distinction was a whole industry attached which involved merchandise, franchising, and player development.  The blue of Chelsea is conspicuous in the current American soccer landscape.  Their kits are worn by several of the top youth programs in the country.  These clubs have affiliated themselves with the English outfit in a blatant effort to establish that they “associate with the best.”

When visiting one of the Meccas in US Youth Soccer, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, only a blind person would miss the influence of Chelsea. 

Soccer retailers prominently advertise and display Chelsea replica in their catalogs and websites and generate considerable activity.

Losing can not be good for business and having labeled the English juggernaut as Chelsea Inc. in an article published in 2008, they better get their act together before the ten year plan collapses all together or becomes a 15-year plan. 

That will be up to Mr. Abramovich.  Does he sink more money into his pet project or does he let it live or die on the already allocated resources?  Word is that he lets it go as it will, but this writer is skeptical of that being the case.

The average age of the Chelsea squad is up there and it is alarming that there are no emerging dynamic, impact players coming out of the highly funded academy.  So while the present is head-scratching, the future looks cataclysmic.

It is time for the executives at Chelsea to perhaps embrace a bit of humility and understand that it is hard work and honest dealings that will make or break  successful organizations.  Only then will the soccer gods forgive the transgressions of an endeavor gone wrong and sway the forces of karma to the good. 

After all, treating people with respect is just good business.