Sonia Bompastor's Chelsea in-tray as Champions League target set and transfer challenge clear

Sonia Bompastor will replace Emma Hayes as Chelsea boss
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Valerio Pennicino - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

There are few managers in the women’s game who loom quite as large as Emma Hayes.

The departing Chelsea boss has helped transform the Blues into a domestic superpower, winning 14 major honours during her time at Kingsmeadow. She is, then, a very tough act to follow but her replacement, former Lyon head coach Sonia Bompastor, should give Chelsea fans plenty of cause for optimism.

Hayes leaves the Blues in impressive shape. They have just clinched a fifth consecutive Women’s Super League (WSL) title and boast one of the finest squads on the continent, while Bompastor arrives in south-west London with bags of European pedigree.

Still, with the WSL growing more competitive by the year, there is plenty for the Frenchwoman to do if she is to pick up where Hayes left off. And has rounded up six of the most pressing matters in her in-tray ahead of her first season in charge of the Blues.

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The kids are alright

One of the many feathers in Hayes’ cap at Chelsea was her ability to nurture youth. Lauren James was just 19 years old when she returned to her childhood club after spells at Arsenal and Manchester United but, under Hayes’ stewardship, she has grown into one of the most exciting talents in the women’s game.

20-year-old academy graduate Aggie Beever-Jones also excelled last term, registering 13 goals and three assists in just 10 starts in all competitions and even winning her first senior England call-up in the Spring.

“This is what you win in life,” Hayes said of the young striker after her brace against Liverpool back in May. “When you’re me and you come to Chelsea and you dream of having your own players and your own academy that you can look back fondly.

"Aggie Beever-Jones. Don’t forget that name. She’s going to be a legend not just for Chelsea but for England. She’s going to be a top player and for me, that’s as good as a trophy.”

Niamh Charles, Erin Cuthbert and Jess Carter have all developed from promising young prospects into first-team regulars on Hayes’ watch, while 20-year-old Japan international Maika Hamano was also integrated into the Blues’ senior set-up last season.

While the club have never been afraid to spend big in the transfer market, Bompastor will also be expected to look within Chelsea’s own ranks for up-and-coming talent. That she was academy director at Lyon for eight years prior to taking charge of the first team certainly bodes well in that regard, with youngsters such as Alice Sombath and Liana Joseph having flourished under her management.

Tackling the transfer market

During Hayes’ tenure, Chelsea were the masters of shrewd recruitment, enlisting a mix of promising young talent and established big names. From Ji So-yun to Fran Kirby to Sam Kerr, the Blues have spent well over the past 12 years, with January signing Mayra Ramirez already impressing at Kingsmeadow after arriving from Levante for a British-record fee.

Hayes played a big part in recruitment at the club, often monitoring players for years before capturing their signature. The Blues will hope her successor also has a keen eye for talent, while also possessing the necessary player-management skills to keep Chelsea’s star-studded squad happy.

Again, Bompastor’s time at Lyon should serve her well here, with the 44-year-old having managed big names - such as Ada Hegerberg and Lindsey Horan - during her time in France

Bolstering the backroom staff

It has already been confirmed that Bompastor’s assistant coaches at Lyon - Camille Abily and Théo Rivrin - are set to join her at Kingsmeadow. But, with several members of Hayes’ backroom staff - including assistant coach Denise Reddy, goalkeeper coach Stuart Searle, head of performance Bart Caubergh, performance analyst Ferdia O’Hanrahan and opposition scout Cameron Meighan - joining the 47-year-old in the States, Bompastor will have to work to ensure the behind-the-scenes culture at the club remains conducive to delivering elite-level success.

Many of the departing staff members have been central to the Blues’ dominance over the past decade and Bompastor will need to have the right people around her if she is to build a similarly fearsome dynasty.

Driving the standards

During Hayes’ final press conference as Chelsea boss, she was asked to reflect on her contribution to the women’s game.

“I just wanted to create role models that I never had,” she said. “I just wanted to create a profession that wasn't possible…we've all been told 'no'. We've all been told it can't be done.

“We've all been told the boys come first, we've all been told it's a men's game…then there's a sell-out at Wembley, there's England winning the Euros, the first English team to do that.

“There is Arsenal selling stadium after stadium, game after game. I think women's football will explode. It's already exploded, but it's going to really explode in the next few years. And that was all that I wanted.”

Hayes has played an integral role in that explosion, often acting as the WSL’s moral compass and speaking with a refreshing frankness on an array of issues from menopause to motherhood. While it might not be part of the job description, the Chelsea job comes with the potential to advocate for positive change in the wider women’s game and this is something Bompastor might well have to adjust to when she officially takes charge on July 1.

Talking tactics

Hayes often employed a 4-2-3-1 formation at Chelsea, though her teams were tactically very versatile. This is good news for Bompastor, who tended to set her Lyon team up in a 4-3-3 formation, using two number eights ahead of a holding midfielder.

One of the Frenchwoman’s first orders of business will be deciding on her tactical philosophy at Chelsea and laying the groundwork for implementing that philosophy during pre-season.

Being able to adapt tactically will be key for the Blues if they are to continue to fight on four fronts in the seasons ahead.

Ending Champions League heartbreak

One of the few blots on Hayes’ Chelsea copybook was her failure to guide the Blues to Champions League glory.

Chelsea reached the final in 2021, losing 4-0 to Barcelona, with the Catalan giants knocking Hayes and co. out in the semi-finals of the competition in each of the last two seasons. While Bompastor is relatively new to first-team management, having only taken charge of Lyon in 2021, she did mastermind the French side’s Champions League final triumph over Barcelona in 2022.

She is also the first woman to win the competition as both a manager and a player and the Blues will be hoping she can bring some of that knowhow with her to south-west London.