Chelsea long-term project being hindered by new owners’ quick fixes

In charge: Todd Boehly  (PA)
In charge: Todd Boehly (PA)

In the midst of Chelsea's plummeting form, a head rolled this week, when the club's interim sporting director stepped down.

That was, of course, chairman Todd Boehly, who took on the position in the summer following the departures of Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech.

There were good intentions behind Boehly's decision, but if head coach Graham Potter is out of his depth, as many fans claim, what did that make the American, a billionaire who had never worked in football before his consortium bought the club in the summer?

As Potter's side prepare for tomorrow's crunch derby at Fulham, supporters are growing increasingly restless at performances and chanted the name of former coach Thomas Tuchel during Sunday's FA Cup defeat by Manchester City.

Potter is not blameless for the slump and some of Chelsea's displays, including in the recent 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, have been alarmingly insipid. He has been out-thought tactically in several matches and is struggling to coax top form from most of his players.

In criticism of Potter, however, it should not be forgotten that he walked into chaos when he succeed Tuchel in September, which has only been exacerbated by a series of poor decisions from the club's new ownership.

Supporters also pined for Roman Abramovich at the Etihad, and Boehly and co-owner Behdad Eghbali deserve a share of the blame for the club's form.

Chelsea spent over £270million in the summer before sacking Tuchel, one of the only people with a football head who was involved in the spate of deals. They have got little change from their signings and Potter inherited a wildly-imbalanced squad, including a number of players signed specifically for his predecessor.

The club has since revamped the recruitment department with a string of appointments, but it remains to be seen if Boehly will continue to be the most influential voice in transfers, and the strategy of lurching from one big signing to the next appears to be continuing apace this month. They have already signed £35m defender Benoit Badiashile on a seven-and-a-half year deal, striker David Datro Fofana for £8m and £18m midfielder Andrey Santos, while Joao Felix is set to join on loan from Atletico Madrid this week.

Given the struggles of their summer recruits, there is reason to remain sceptical about the club's January business, too.

Other departments are also in the process of being revamped during the ongoing rebuild, notably the medical team, which is particularly unhelpful, given the Blues are experiencing an unprecedented injury crisis, with 11 players currently sidelined.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

There have been murmurings of discontent from players about the interim medical set-up, with Reece James's personal physio appearing to question the handling of the right-back after he suffered a setback on his first start following a knee injury.

There should be a degree of sympathy for Boehly and his Clearlake consortium, who inherited from Abramovich a club behind the curve in a number of areas, including in recruitment and data, with an imbalanced first-team squad and several messy contract situations.

The sense of chaos, though, has been compounded by their scattergun recruitment strategy, while the timing of Tuchel's sacking — immediately after the summer transfer window had closed — remains a particularly ill-thought-out decision.

Boehly's aim is to revamp the club from top to bottom with a long-term view, but too many of his decisions have felt like further patch jobs and quick fixes, including the impending arrival of playmaker Felix.

For much of this season, Chelsea have been a hollowed-out club, without the structure and vision to allow a project coach like Potter to excel.

The coach has stepped into this mayhem from one of the most stable and well-run clubs in the country, Brighton, so it is understandable if he needs time to adapt.

For some fans, the job is simply too big for Potter, although, in his defence, no manager should be judged on a platform which has been so wildly unstable.