As an owner Roman Abramovich has often been criticised for the constant chopping and changing of managers which has seen seven permanent (and three interim) managers pass through the doors since the Russian’s takeover a decade ago.
In terms of silverware however, no other team can match Chelsea’s record for trophies won in that period, with another European trophy and sacked manager added to the, seemingly ever growing, collection this season.
The success is obviously great in the short time, but what impact is it happening on the youth players trying to break into the first team?
Since the Abramovich takeover, not one academy player has come through to become a first team regular. Some have often flirted with the breakthrough, Josh McEachran and Fabio Borini two examples, but not one academy player has been deemed good enough for regular action.
Abramovich has ploughed millions in the training and academy complex in Cobham, and the standard of player being developed there is very high, and the club have very high hopes for the likes of Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah to become first team starters.
Recent success in the FA Youth Cup is also testament to the work being done by the academy coaches at Cobham, who have no doubt been helped by the clubs worldwide scouting network.
The track record of Chelsea’s ever demanding owner means that any manager sat in the dugout knows that success is the only way to keep them in a job for the foreseeable future. This means spending out on ready-made talent, rather than trying to nurture an academy player.
There is no stability, look at a team such as Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, his job is safe, and a lot of Liverpool youngsters are coming through into the first team, this isn’t happening at Chelsea and the widely expected reappointment of Jose Mourinho doesn’t show any sign of changing that trend.
As a manager who has never spent more than three years at a football club, and the history of his first spell as Chelsea manager, Mourinho would rather spend, win and leave, than stay for say, five years and have an academy based team.
Speaking in a recent interview with the Guardian, former U21 captain Michael Mancienne, know a first team regular with Hamburg, was criticial of Chelsea’s youth policy.
“I wanted to be playing regularly and obviously I knew that would be a pretty much impossible task at Chelsea. They’ve got so much money, and as a homegrown player you almost get cast aside a little bit. You feel like you don’t get an opportunity unless you go out on loan. And even then you come back, think you’ve done well and you get sent back out on loan again.”
Mancienne joined Chelsea aged 8, and played 118 games during his senior career (2005-2011), however, only four of these came for his own club. Mancienne was on loan during all of this period (twice QPR and Wolves), in the same period, Mancienne’s Chelsea manager changed seven times.
No manager could possibly have kept a close enough track of Mancienne’s loan spells to have enough confidence to bring him back to the first team and with the overwhelming pressure on winning trophies and having money available it’s not surprise that Mancienne made just four senior appearances.
After sacking Carlo Ancelotti in 2011 for his baron season, it appeared the club was heading in a different direction, hiring 33-year-old Andre Villas-Boas as manager. Chairman Bruce Buck spoke about the former-Porto boss being in charge for the next 15 years when he arrived, that 15 years however, turned into 9 months, as Abramovich pulled the plug on AVB’s ‘project’.
Two years on, and the club finds itself at the same crossroads, try to build a legacy like Sir Alex Ferguson’s at Manchester United, or carry on with the same win or bust policy. Managers need to be given time to build squads, just like Sir Alex was and just like Sir Alex proved, it is possible to be successful and implement young players into the first team.
If Abramovich doesn’t take this path, then the millions he has spent on the academy will have all been for nothing. What’s the point of having players like Ake, Chabloah or Lucas Piazon, if you’re not going to allow a manager enough time to bring them through?
There’s no doubt that the new manager (which is almost certainly Mourinho) will spend more money, a striker is defiantly needed, but another area that needs strengthening is the holding midfield role.
How fitting that two previously mentioned players are best suited to that role. Both could have had 20 to 25+ appearances for the club if we had an ounce of stability at the top, but instead, we will spend again and these players will either stagnate in the reserves or go to other clubs and prove how good they are.
Everything Abramovich has ever done for this football club has been to build us into a footballing super power, but the one thing he needs to take us to the next level is right at his fingertips. The team he most wants to replicate bring through a squads worth of talent through La Masia, and Cobham could do the same for the Chelsea.
Without having seen how UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules will actually work, it’s difficult to know how restricted spending will be over the next few years, but the club have worked hard to put us in a strong financial position for any possible scenario.
If we did end up in a situation where we were unable to spend big, then having a ready-made crop of talent at our disposal may come in handy in years to come, but if we continue on this path, players will not want to sign for Chelsea at a young age.
The solution to this ‘problem’ is about a shift in attitude, and with the right management, the change will coincide with the same success that Chelsea has enjoyed in Abramovich’s first decade at the club.
Should we worry about the academy if the first team is so successful? Tweet me your thoughts @DeanMears