Review of Roman Abramovich’s club policies
When Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003, fans and players expected a lot to change in the club. However, the amount of money and time which Roman put into the club surprised everyone. This passion, dedication and personal involvement in every club matter, shown by an owner, was never seen in any club before. Roman ran the club like a fan, very emotionally connected to the victories and losses of the club. In every match, we could see him reacting to goals, misses, cards, like a fan. He desired to make Chelsea the best in the world, not only on the football pitch but also as a brand.
For achieving this target, RA took and is continuing to take decisions which are completely unorthodox. Many pundits, fans, managers and players have clearly expressed their disappointment in the way Chelsea is run. There is no doubt that Roman holds the club very close to heart, but the general feeling is that the policies of ’hire and fire’, spending big, little promotion of youth and the latest 1 yr contract for 30+, are doing more harm than good by affecting the stability of the club. There has been no shortage of success at the club, but how long can this be sustained?
The ‘hire and fire’ policy is the most hated policy by everyone, including the Chelsea fans. Fan favorites like Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelloti and Roberto Di Matteo were removed without any remorse. Mourinho’s departure is termed more as a ‘mutual consent’ , but it happened because RA’s interference did not suit Jose. Now, Chelsea has a lot of trophies to show and justify these decisions. In fact, Chelsea is the most successful English team in the Abramovich era. Continuous change of manager ensures that the motivation of the team is high. The players are always willing to prove themselves, and tend to give a little bit extra under a new manager. These are the slight pros of this policy.
Coming to the cons; this policy really damages the image of the club as a brand. There has been lot of hate for Chelsea after the sacking of Di Matteo. Continuous sacking also affects the mentality of the new manager. The goals of the new manager will be to ensure short-term success instead of long-term. In this way, the manager never really thinks about the promotion of youth, phasing out of senior players, the finances of the team and other long term targets. Every manager spends big, wins games, has a good run, and when the expected bad run comes, he is sacked. Villas Boas tried to make a new Chelsea right from the word go and failed miserably. He knew that he had less time to make it work. An assurance of a long term job would not have resulted in AVB trying to change the team so rapidly.
Due to the ‘hire and fire’ policy, right from Mourinho’s time, the team has essentially been depending on the same group of players to pull them out of bad times. Even in the current season, Chelsea has had more wins when John Terry and Frank Lampard were playing. Every manager who comes to Chelsea, improvises with what he has, to achieve the targets. Any attempt to change the style and team results in a bad run, which is not acceptable by RA’s standards. As a result, the team has never evolved. All managers after Mourinho have failed to change the team significantly. Di Matteo changed the team a lot. He was rightly phasing out the senior players and building a young energetic core like Jose, but a bad run ended that project too.
A long term change in the team will always be accompanied by a trophy drought. Reports say that Roman is waiting for Pep Guardiola to get free. The question is – will RA give Guardiola the time? Incorporating the Barcelona style in Chelsea will not happen overnight. If the same trend continues, there will be no top manager who loves his job willing to come to Chelsea.
The policies of spending big and lack of promotion of youth are directly affected by the ‘hire and fire’ policy. The Chelsea youth department has improved a lot in the RA era. Quality youth players and reserve teams players have led Chelsea to a lot of success at the academy level. However, no manager is willing to give these young players a break into the first team, as the target is immediate success, which is easier to achieve by spending big. The huge amount of talent available at our disposal is being wasted. No manager in the RA era has got the time to think about the future and groom the likes of Josh McEachran, Patrick Bamford, Lukaku and Sam Hutchinson. Fabio Borini and Scott Sinclair are few of the academy players who have left the club due to lack of opportunity. Ryan Bertrand is the first player after John Terry, from our academy, to become a regular member of our first team. But, John Terry broke into the first team before Roman came to the club.
Recent reports indicate that Daniel Sturridge and Islam Feruz are also on their way out of Chelsea. To be fair, for Benitez, it is better if he buys an established striker like Falcao, than give Sturridge, Lukaku or Bamford a chance to prove themselves. There is a gun to his head and his job is short-term for now. Lukaku and Bamford, both, have been impressive after being loaned.
Spending big is not a problem if the club has got the money. However, a player bought by one manager is not favored by the other manager who then faces the problem of making both the previous signings and his own signings happy. It never looked like AVB and RDM wanted Torres as their lead striker, like Ancelloti or Benitez. Similarly, Benitez does not favor Oscar like RDM did. For Chelsea, this also makes signing new players difficult. A player might think twice before going to a club where he might not fit into the plans of the next manager. Moreover, most of the transfers of the club are dictated by Roman and super agent – Pini Zahavi. Hence, it doesn’t always mean that the new signings are a part of the manager’s plan.
So, in the end, because of ‘hire and fire’ policy, the manager thinks about immediate success which is achieved by big money signings and lack of promotion of the youth. The player worries about going to a club where the manager might change in a few months, which makes his own future uncertain.
More than the players and the managers, its the club’s reputation which takes a hit. The ’1yr contract for 30+ players’ policy is really against the will of the fans. No one wants to be associated with a club where there is a lack of empathy between the management, fans and players. A club should respect its seniors, manager, youth and the feelings of the fans. The lack of respect shown to Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole by offering only 1 year contracts is something which the club fans really disagree. Its not just about the fans; even the team benefits a lot from the experience which these senior players offer.
Now that Roman Abramovich has won all that he could with Chelsea, it is time he gives Chelsea a period of stability. The difference between a double and a treble winning team is stability, which is absent in Chelsea. With stability, the current crop of first team players and youth will certainly shine, giving Chelsea the only thing left – The treble. It may mean that Chelsea has a trophy-less run, but then there will be similar success without damaging the club’s reputation as a brand. Roman should also be willing to listen to the needs and demands of the fans to some extent. After all, the club is nothing without its fans. Its the fans who complete a club.