I don’t’ know exactly when it happened, but sometime in the past decade or so, businesses—mostly the big chain retailers—decided that they would always be one step ahead of their competition by being the first to sell stuff for the next holiday. It is October 18 today, and the candy and costumes that line the shelves at my local Target are already being phased out for turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce. Then, as soon as November hits, bam!—it's Christmas time.
I used to think this was something that was only isolated to capitalist ventures aiming to stay one step ahead of the competition and reap the rewards of the over-planning early mom who ruins the fun of the holidays through rigorous structuring and scheduled events.
But, it now appears that this kind of philosophy has taken hold of the footballing world as well (then again, isn't football an equally capitalist venture?).
With nearly two-and-a-half months and some 15 games left before the opening of the mid-season transfer window, a great deal could change between then and now. Players will get injured, others will lose form. Some teams will rise to prominence and move up the table while others will drop well out of reach and hope to stay in the league picture for next season.
All this uncertainty has not stopped the media from speculating as to what the clubs will do come January.
As is always the case with Chelsea, the moves that have been predicted are expected to be big and grandiose. I am not sure what gives the pundits the impression that Chelsea will always spend big during the windows and move players around like a chess match between silverback gorillas, but it seems to be the running theme throughout the tabloids.
Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba have all been placed on the hypothetical chopping block already, but, as has become his M.O., Andre Villas-Boas has quickly dispelled any kind of fact to those rumors:
“We won’t need to sell these players. Apart from Anelka, we have offered them contracts and talks are ongoing. Even if we get to January with no agreements, their loyalty will not be questioned. We’ll try to reach an agreement but the important thing is for the team to defend its interests on the pitch.”
(As much as I loved his ability to deflect the hard questions about personnel future, wouldn't it be fun to see him have a Mancini moment and rip Kalou a new one to the public?)
So, laid out point-blank for everyone to dissect, Villas-Boas has stated that he will not sell any players. I’m sorry, he doesn’t “need” to sell any players, and language is very important in the game of rumor-making. But, is this indeed the correct way to go about the January transfer window as we rapidly approach it (that was meant with sarcasm if you didn’t get it)?
Your opinion on the matter is kind of based on how you feel about the current team and what direction you think they should be going.
It was obvious from the summer moves that Villas-Boas is building a team for the future. He seems to be attempting to become a figure at Chelsea for the next decade like few other managers in the EPL have. Let’s just hope he follows Fergie’s track as opposed to—oh, I don’t know—let’s say, Arsene Wenger’s.
The biggest problem he will face in doing this will not have to do with developing youth, but more with the appeasement of the Chelsea legends. To grow a club, you must first rid yourself of the old.
But when that old is the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and so on, it is not quite as easy as a handshake and pat on the back for a job well done. Hell, Villas-Boas would not even be at Chelsea being paid an obscene amount of money if those names had not brought the club to such a prestigious level.
True fans have the utmost respect for these players and know that they can now compete in barroom debates with Liverpool and United fans over which is the best club of all-ti…uh, I mean the last few years. But true fans also want to see that prominence continue beyond these players.
As the legends age away from their heyday and begin to be praised for more of what they did than what they do, the club could be in very serious danger of falling behind the others in terms of progress.
This is the notion that Villas-Boas was well aware of when he bought a bunch of voice-cracking teenagers over the summer. But, how do you justify playing them over the likes of the most respected players in club history? Well, in all honesty, you really cannot.
You really expect the future Drogba to usurp the current one? How about Oriol Romeu replacing players who have more trophies than he has appearances on any senior team?
It is a difficult predicament for the manager to put himself in. He does not want to upset those who create the disposition of the club, but also cannot risk to have the youngsters unprepared when their time should come.
It is obvious why Villas-Boas would make such a broad, sweeping assumption with little foresight of what will happen over the next two months: It is simply to keep his players playing at the highest of levels. What good is it to add fuel to a fire that is already smoldering at best? Appease them now and deal with when it comes.
Football is thought of in terms of week-to-week or game-to-game. Right now, everyone on Chelsea is playing their role. Some are doing better than others, but others will be doing better than some later. It is just the nature of sport.
Perhaps it is my nostalgic side that pains me to say this, but it may be time for some of those legends to fade into mythical glory and finally be enshrined in that pantheon of the mind that makes gods out of mortals. Chelsea has grown over the past decade into one of the most respected and well-run clubs in the world. They have won trophies, created stars and, recently grown youth into some great talent. This is the only recipe for success in this game and must be continued beyond the 2000s.
Sadly, the only way to do this may be to say goodbye to those we loved and honored and take a chance on both new players and our new manager. Only then is it possible for our children to have this unique bittersweet feeling that makes sports and fandom great, but only Daniel Sturridge, Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand will prove me right as their time comes to give way for a future unknown.