Determining What's Wrong at CHELSEA

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During the past few weeks, it is clearly obvious that the overall vibe at the club has been somewhat toxic. The stalemate between the fans, the Chelsea hierarchy and manager Rafa Benitez has created a rift which has caused disunity at Stamford Bridge. To add fuel to the fire, the media has not exactly been discreet about the current issues and it does not appear that these daily reports will stop in the near future.

It is difficult to grasp what exactly is wrong at the club; it seems that there are a number of causes that has lead to the disrepute. Some say Roman Abramovich is the cause, others say it is Technical Director Michael Emenalo; most fans say it’s Rafael Benitez, where the media believes it is the Chelsea Supporters that are to blame. The context of the situation makes it difficult to formulate a solution to the problems.

Since Abramovich purchased Chelsea Football Club in February 2003 the billionaire has invested more than GBP1 billion into it. His money was invested in all facets of the club both on and off the pitch and as a result the club won league titles, cup titles, FA Cups and recently the much coveted Champions League trophy.

It is without a doubt that it has been the club’s most successful period in its 108 year history and Abramovich is the sole reason for that. His self imposed media ban often leaves the Russian misunderstood by the media. He is very much loved by Chelsea fans and rightly so, though along with the triumphs, the club has certainly had its fair share of controversies.

Abramovich’s lack of respect towards the game has been evident throughout his tenure as the Boss. The way he has handled “business” at Chelsea in regards to manager dismissals, lack of disciplinary actions for certain players and the possible move from Stamford Bridge has been questionable and is a reflection of the negative reputation of the club.

Romans Army: Abramovich saw his one billion pound investment culminate to a Champions League crown in 2012
Roman’s Army: Abramovich saw his one billion pound investment culminate to a Champions League crown in 2012

Inappropriate behaviour by players, controversial referee decisions, along with racism and fidelity problems are only some of the issues that have marred the perception of the club to the public eye. With these concerns along with the context of Abramovich’s wealth, the press would repeatedly portray the club in a negative light, often exaggerating their problems and depicting them in the media as the ‘enemies of football’.

In regards to the matters on the field, the main negative issue was the coaching carousel. The club has experienced nine different managers in the last ten years. A Chelsea manager’s average tenure of twelve months makes it quite difficult to leave their impression at the club. Abramovich is quite ruthless with them and often a few losses on the board or no success at Champions League level will lead to their demise.

Some say he has every right to do what he wants for it is his club whilst others say it is ridiculous. Each dismissal more often than not has been unjustified which has left many onlookers wondering what goes on in his mind. Most Chelsea supporters disagree with some of the managerial dismissals but have collectively defended him. Romans passion for the club is matched by his investment and the fans acknowledge the importance to support him, until now. His latest managerial appointment has caused unrest with most Chelsea fans.

Yes Abramovich was ultimately the person that hired Benitez, but to be fair he does not control the Spaniard. The way he has handled himself both on and off the pitch at Chelsea is a testament to the man’s arrogance.

The hatred that blues fans have for Benitez dates back six or seven years when the two clubs duelled in heated Champions League encounters. At the time Benitez named the Chelsea faithful ‘plastic’ and has stated that players like Lampard and Drogba were overrated. He also further stated that he would never coach at Stamford Bridge.

In his first press conference as Chelsea manager, journalists gave him countless opportunities to apologize to the fans. Benitez did not take the initiative and issued no apologies for his past comments, instead saying that at the time he was very passionate about being coach of Liverpool and he would not hesitate to say the same thing now, under the Chelsea banner.

The way he handled himself in that press conference solidified his arrogant personality. A two sentence apology could have made the difference between support and hatred but once again his pride was in the way.

Furthermore, Benitez showed his lack of sensitivity towards the issue when he stated that all he needed to do was to win and the fans would turn around and support his appointment. True, the points would definitely have helped his cause with some fans but it seemed that all he was trying to portray to the media was that the supporters could be ‘bought’ with the illusion of winning.

Spanish Arrogance: Benitez is labelled by Chelsea fans as arrogant
Spanish Arrogance: Benitez is labelled by Chelsea fans as arrogant

More importantly, on the field he has showed no tactical prowess often with substitutions that have made people wonder if he knew what he was doing. Furthermore losses at home against teams at the bottom of the table, a draw against a third division side in Brentford and the loss against Corinthians at the Club World Cup has obviously contributed to why the fans think he is simply incapable of being manager.

The most important facet of football management is something that Benitez lacks the most. It’s the ability to get the players to trust him and to play for him which separates good managers from great ones. Some managers might have lack of tactical experience or lack of talent in their squad but if they can inspire their players to believe in themselves and the cause it can eventuate to winning trophies. Robbie Di Matteo is a perfect example of this.  He won the Champions League and the FA Cup with possibly the least talented Chelsea team in the last six years, but he inspired them to glory.

Benitez is a man that does not show emotion, he’s a man that does not like to get close with his players and leaves the relationship strictly professional. It seems the way he manages the squad is the opposite of what the team needs at this point. It has been noted in the press that the players know that his dismissal is imminent therefore the care factor towards him and his methods are low. Though still the problem does not lie solely on Benitez as he can only control the issues on the pitch and not off it.

As Technical Director, the role of Michael Emenalo is primarily football related. Issues such as managerial changes, player acquirement, selling players and contractual conditions are decided by him. Even though it is Abramovich that ultimately approves these decisions, it is the responsibility of the Technical Director to advice him correctly so that Abramovich (who is not a football person) can make the right decision to benefit the team on the field. Therefore Emenalo must be held responsible for lack of knowledge and mismanagement.

His experience to get to where he is today is very limited which questions how he obtained that position in the first place. A former Nigerian international, Emenalo spent his years prior to Chelsea coaching an under 12’s girls side in Tucson, Arizona along with a volunteer coaching role at Virginia Tech University. He was then hired by Avram Grant to be a scout and was promoted to Assistant First team coach when Ray Wilkins left the club which then led him to his current post.

His lack of experience has resulted in many issues for the team. The players are exhausted through the strenuous schedule because the roster is very thin. There are currently twenty three players out on loan and the manager seems to think that lack of personnel have reflected on the clubs negative results this season. These loan moves were all approved by Emenalo.

Furthermore, the weekly debacle about player contracts for some senior players along with the lack of recruitment proves that this man is incapable of his position. When a player is unhappy whether it is because of the manager, club condition or their contractual situations their performances on the field will ultimately suffer. It is important that when the player is on the pitch or training paddock that his mind is clear, this is the primary role of Michael Emenalo. Simply, the facts show that he does not have the ability to handle his responsibilities.

Emenalo: His lack of experience let's one wonder how he became Technical Director at the Bridge
Emenalo: His lack of experience let’s one wonder how he became Technical Director at the Bridge

Success in football is measured by the results on the field. For this to occur there are a number of factors off the field that needs to be corrected. Clearly the major problem at Chelsea is that they are not performing as well as they have been through the last decade, and for this, the Technical Director must fall by the sword. Though through the tough times it is the fans who provide positive support and passion that helps the players and the club to redeem itself.

But according to the media it is in fact the fans that are the cause of all the unrest at Stamford Bridge. Through the past Chelsea fans have been known for their great passion through their chants, the atmosphere they create and most importantly the way they support the club through tough times. For most supporters seeing the club right now is barely comprehendible. They have never seen this type of disunity before. Looking from the outside in, it seems that each negative result does not affect them as much as it used to.

The press blame the section of fans that are against Rafa Benitez for creating the negative atmosphere during games. Though it is important to state that there are also a number of Chelsea fans who have chosen to see past the appointment and instead support the team on the field and not lash out at the manager.

These two sets of fans have caused conflict amongst each other and their disagreements contribute to the negative vibe at home games. The pessimistic support along with insulting songs and boos influences the mind of each player which in turn affects their way of play.

The underlying factor is that most of them feel betrayed by the Chelsea hierarchy. Most fans labelled the handling of Di Matteo’s dismissal as classless and the hiring of Rafa Benitez was seen as unforgivable. It is no secret that Abramovich is the sole person that makes these decisions which in turn has caused some fans to aim their disgust at him as well.

Aside from what Benitez and the executives might think, it is not only wins that will solve this problem with the fans. They must feel part of the club, the passion must come back and they should feel included in the decision making. The hierarchy knows who the supporters don’t want and not taking their opinion into consideration has proven to be the most toxic pill to swallow. The fans are the bread and butter and their support is imperative to Chelsea’s longevity and therefore they cannot be blamed for their ill feeling against the club.

Rafa OUT: Many vans consistently voice their opinion on Benitez's appointment
Rafa OUT: Many fans consistently voice their opinion on Benitez’s appointment

Lately, the events at Stamford Bridge show a disconnection between the board and the supporters. There is no definitive answer to what is wrong at Chelsea at the moment. Right now the club is in a transition phase where old players and the old culture are being phased out for the next generation.

Proper leadership both on and off the pitch is vital to the success of this transition and at the moment the club has it all wrong. To ensure success at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich needs to assemble a team both on and off the field that can work as one.

First, the club needs a manager who can extract the best out of the players, who is tactically great and is able to inspire the team and the supporters. Also they need a Technical Director with credible experience that is able to handle the issues at the club with professionalism and class.

Most importantly, once the correct people are acquired, Abramovich needs to trust in them and create stability at the club. This will get the fans on his side again and re-create the passion that they are known for.  It is time to create a new identity at Stamford Bridge and unite the club once again.

12 Comments
  1. Winnie says

    Please lets be determined and work together atleast we qualify for champions league..we must be united the as chelsea family for us to win the remaining games.remember tottenham,arsenal everton are very right behind.instead lets fight and take man city down.

  2. xtian says

    The only problem was Benitez, but that can change. Unless you can convince me that AVB could also have utilised the squad last season, then we have to settle for the fact that things were falling apart and the change was gr8. RDM was an over achiever, and not the main candidate for Champions league football. It was He who convinced the board that he was running out of ideas. He was even without a striker.

  3. Anonymous says

    emenalo is the biggest problem. its time he gets the sack too.

    1. brynknight says

      That’s harsh. Emenalo, as a technical director, has been responsible for not only hiring and firing managers but player recruitment as well. He’s signed guys like Mata, Hazard, Oscar, De Bruyne, Courtois, Lukaku, (Markovic?), Wallace, Azpilicueta, Cahill and more. On the whole, our signings have been brilliant. In this aspect of his job Michael Emenalo is truly outstanding. He deserves to be retained, although he could become a scout rather than Technical Director

      1. spot on, mate.

      2. chris280987 says

        As TD, signing players is only one of his many roles. I agree signings have been great but what about the other parts of his job. Contract situations, player management, staff hirings, player conditions? I cant think of many teams with able technical directors that have 23 players out on loan and at the same time have a thin squad that at the beginning of the year are involved in 7 different competitions. At the end of the day those players are great but signings is only one part of his role.

  4. arthur says

    Wow, what a great write up. This is the best of its kind. So real and direct. I agree with you on all you wrote here. Mike is my brother, but i have asked that question over and over before. That what did the BOSS saw in him that made him hire him as our technical Director. Any way, lets hope resourceful changes comes soon to bring back our glorious days

  5. Frank says

    Are you serious??? well you gat to know that Chelsea’s failure has nothing to do with T/Director if you all read football…… by the way what’s the importance of having a coach? anyway, i said it before, our problem is this….. (1)bringing in RB to help make FT to find his scoring form wasn’t gonna help (2) Hire & Fire ……… coaches needs time to adapt with his players performance, to know who have the skills to compete in every game**** he needs to sort out where is leaking to get it packed. New York is a beautiful city, but it wasn’t built in a day.

  6. “Abramovich’s lack of respect towards the game has been evident throughout his tenure as the Boss?!” Are you serious? I am not sure what professional background (Chris 280987) has, all I know RA has been spot on. “Buck stop with manager”; if manager “coach” is not accountable for team on field performance then who is? Though CFC Board ultimately has to take responsibility for financial and operational success/failure of Chelsea football club, nevertheless, individuals at key positions are evaluated based on their contributions and held accountable for their performances.

    1. chris280987 says

      Harry, I appreciate the comment and would like to address your query. First of all in regards to my professional background I would firstly state that I work for FoxSports in Sydney Australia and have been supporting Chelsea for the last 18 years. In regards to my comment about “Abramovich’s lack of respect”, my justification is as follows;

      First of all, as clearly stated in the article I mentioned that most Chelsea fans (myself included) adore Abramovich for his passion for the team and love for the club which is matched by his frequent attendance and monetary investment. Has he been spot on in regards to being successful and winning trophies for the club? ABSOLUTELY, YES.

      But Respect in my opinion is not justified by the trophies won by a team but by the conduct shown by the heirarchy and owner in regards to the handling of different situations. I will list some of these incidents so that you can clearly see where my point is (in regards to his lack of respect);

      + The dismissal of Jose Mourinho; A manager is hired to run the club in most of its facets, though in the Mourinho era, Abramovich’s continuous meddling in the team line ups and player purchases drove the adored manager out of the club which led to Mourniho getting sacked in a classless manner a few months into the season

      + The dismissal of Carlo Ancellotti, a year after completing Chelsea’s first over double, Ancelotti lost his job after no trophies in his 2nd year and as a result was sacked in the sheds at goodison park after the game. I dont know about you but to me that is not a great way to lose your job

      + The lack of respect shown to Roberto Di Matteo in regards to how he was sacked and furthermore the aftermath. RDM lost his job after he inspired an underrated undermanned team to Champions League glory. RDM lost his job after a few losses and was replaced with Benitez. His photos have been taken down in and around Stamford Bridge much to the dismay of a lot of the supporters. Why this was done, Im not sure. is this a classy move in your eyes? i dont know you so im not sure what your stance is on that

      +The lack of respect shown to the fans with the hiring of current manager Rafa Benitez who is hated by most Chelsea fans.

      + The lack of respect shown to the players through the last nine manager dismissals. We are very fortunate to have great players with a large sense of professionalism to be able to overcome the changes in management annually

      + The lack of respect shown to the Chelsea Pitch Owners in regards to taking the team away from Stamford Bridge to Battersea (yes it is better for the club, but the way he handled the situation with very minimal consultation with the CPO’s is classless)

      + Lack of Respect shown to Ray wilkins who was a legend of the club, was sacked at halftime during a youth game

      + The list goes on but ill start with them

      Again I completely agree that the manager needs to fall by the sword when results are negative, but not if he does not get the time to influence the team the way he wants. Any decent manager will tell you that it takes time to leave a proper impression at a football club and the players. A 12 month average tenure is simply not enough.

      Anyone that supports Chelsea or know anything about the club will say that it is very unique in how it is run. Even though all of the personnel are in place (Technical Director, CEO, Manager etc) it is Abramovich that ultimately controls what happens there. The ultimate lack of respect that he shows is towards the very people he has hired for at the end of the day he does not respect their opinions and will do what he likes regardless of what they say.

      This is my opinion and I hope that answers your question, if not please let me know and I’m happy to clarify further.

      1. Chris- as a Chelsea fan since 1968, I can claim with a dash of modesty that I am a true blue. In regards to your justification, one can measure success by various quantitative and qualitative means.

        If measure of success is not based on monetary rewards and prizes alone then justifications such as yours become subjective. Hence a thorough evaluation of assumptions behind those justification(s) is essential.

        As a director of strategic management, I evaluate commercial and public organizations performance and assist Board of Directors in achieving unique market positioning, while setting up structures that deliver highest operational efficiency to enable organizations to serve their respective customers/clients.

        When RA took over Chelsea football club, his strategic intent was to make Chelsea a global brand. Hence as part of his strategy Chelsea fc required having maximum exposure in media as well as Chelsea football team success on the field.

        Dismissal of JM was not merely down to RA & JM had disagreements. In general, Anglo Saxons media in particular USA_& British media are an important pillar of West security apparatus. British Media worked hard to push back RA “Russia” assault to make Chelsea fc a global brand, so media strategy was to create a wedge in between two elements of success within Chelsea hierarchy, a rift between JM and RA. To cut the story short British media made a mountain out of every mole and on daily basis with sensationalism and lies “lies like Chelsea kidnapped john Obi Mickle and he is held against his will in a London hotel which it was subsequently proved in a court of law that Man Utd conspired with Norwegian club to swindle from Chelsea Fc a cool 12 Million pounds” consistently and relentlessly poisoned the atmosphere to make the situation untenable. RA felt his strategy to make Chelsea Fc a global brand was under sever threat unless he departs with JM. Indeed JM on several occasions since then has reiterated that he was the one who put Chelsea fC on the map! By doing so, JM was indirectly saying to RA, that he was not the one who jeopardized RA’s strategy.

        I am not going to elaborate further because I am not here to prove I am right. However I thank you “Chris” for your courtesy and inputs.

  7. chris280987 says

    Harry,

    I appreciate your reply and seriously appreciate your job description, wow your quite an exceptional individual with quite a position in your company. Would love to delve into it further but you’ve explained your job quite thoroughly and believe me I am very very impressed.

    In regards to you being a Chelsea fan since 1968, again hats off to you I just wish I was alive back then so I could claim the same feat. We digress.

    I appreciate your examples of Jose Mourinho and JOM but from what I gathered from your initial query it was my comment of Abramovich’s “lack of respect” which you believe was untrue, and so I stayed on point and tried to justify my comment with examples of what I believe were occasions of “lack of respect” shown by Roman.

    You then come back with the Mourinho and Mikel story, and the fact that the British media is a tool to help demise Russian influence in the western world (a point I agree with), though from where I see it, it has nothing to do with your initial query and therefore leaves me confused on what your true point is?

    You asked me to justify Abramovich’s lack of respect and gave you a number of examples but your reply to my reply makes no sense. It would be great to hear your opinion. With all due respect all you explained was your job and what you did for work (which sounds amazing) as well as conspiracies in which you believe in. Where as my examples were fact.

    Talk soon, you TRUE BLUE LEGEND

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