What has gone wrong at Chelsea?

Chelsea have lower non-penalty expected goals in the Premier League in 2018 than Brighton and Leicester. The Blues have taken eight points from their eight league matches to give them the 12th best record in the English top flight.

In all competitions, Antonio Conte’s side have won four of their 15 matches. That includes the widely-criticised, ultra-negative performance away at Manchester City last weekend when the Italian was seemingly happy for his team to avoid a drubbing.

This now typical biennial Chelsea meltdown has been happening to a chorus of Conte bemoaning his squad with the occasional jibe at his employers. There is something almost comical about the immensely rich west London club pleading poverty. Chelsea turned over £428 million in the 2016/17 season to hold their place at eighth in the Deloitte Money League.

While there has been an altering to Chelsea’s transfer policy, the club still spent heavily last summer. Every club has weaknesses in their playing staff, but that does not excuse the disastrous 2018 that has left the Blues on the brink of another season without Champions League football.

We all expect crises at Chelsea. The turnover of managers is both cause and effect of the turbulent footballing bubble that centres around Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea are on course to – again – replace a manager who won them the league title less than 12 months ago.

Conte’s demeanour has been unrecognisable from the cheery, near hyperactive manager of last season. In part, that’s the difference between a good season and a bad one.

This, though, is also a reflection of how such openly emotional managers are a risk. When things are going well, it can be a relentless momentum, but when the team is in need of a lift, managers driven by emotion are too often a negative impact.

Even aside from the pettiness with Jose Mourinho, Conte’s public comments this season have frequently been negative. A far cry from the grinning interviews of early 2017. How must it have felt to consistently hear your manager claiming he does not have the players he wants?

This is where football is at a crossroads. The vast majority of managers still demand complete control over player recruitment. Clubs are moving away from that model, partly because it’s inefficient, partly because even the managers show little to desire to stay anywhere long enough to make that worthwhile.

Chelsea are no longer spending like the Manchester clubs. The club has been moving to make profit from the transfer market for several seasons, and doing it pretty well.

What they need, though, are managers who both understand and accept that approach. It might mean a turn to a new generation who are head coaches, not controllers of everything going on at the club.

It, of course, cannot all be attributed to disagreement over the playing staff, but this has certainly contributed to the downfalls of Mourinho and Conte.

Chelsea’s awful 2018 is not the causing of one individual. It is yet another internal power struggle. Maybe their next appointment will take this into consideration and halt the every-other-year emergency.


Written by Sam Cox

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_

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