Past failings continue to stall Chelsea progression

They say the table doesn’t lie and even if it can be misleading, few will be fooled into thinking that Chelsea are the strongest side in the Premier League at the moment.

It seems preposterous to think that a club that have shelled out close to £600m on almost 70 different players since 2003 are lacking in terms of first team and squad quality but that is the reality facing Chelsea fans as they ponder how and if their team can overturn a nine point deficit between themselves and league leaders Manchester City.

Add further millions to the kitty for managerial recruitment and compensation payments, plus untold sums on their largely fruitless academy and it is no wonder that there is limited opposition to Roman Abramovich’s overlord reign at Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the Chelsea policy is to put into perspective where they were and where they are. Just over five years ago Jose Mourinho’s men swept all before them en route to a second successive title and were undoubtedly the prominent powerhouse of English football.

The obituaries were being written for the rest as the Blues swept all before them winning 21 of their first 23 league games of 2005/06 with a team packed with players in their pomp. Now, barring Petr Cech and Juan Mata and more disputably Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, the current crop seem devoid of the top class personnel playing at their peak which is needed to challenge for the top honours. This amounts to the most expensively assembled downgrading in football history.

In Andre Villas-Boas Chelsea now have the right man at the right age to lead the club through a transitionary period to re-establish themselves at the top. However, the notion that they should require a transitionary period given the resource they have sifted through only further highlights the chronic mismanagement at all levels which has proven so self-debilitating to the cause.

Aside from Mata and Raul Meireles the rest of AVB’s summer signings were made with more than half an eye on the future and his acceptance to leave out the established order of John Terry, Lampard and Didier Drogba suggests the Portuguese coach is indeed preparing for a cultural shift in west London.

When the ex-Porto boss was recruited into the very hot Chelsea hot-seat in the summer, it was expected the squad would undergo seismic change but that never materialised. The main protagonists largely remained in place but given their deficiencies this season a more extensive reshaping could soon be on the agenda.

Of the old guard, Jose Bosingwa, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and Drogba are almost certainly likely to be dispatched next summer along with players like John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou who are ordering a tipple from the last chance saloon.

But once again, the practicalities of being able to construct a squad to challenge are being hamstrung by the failings of previous confused and ill-thought out transfer dealings.

Chelsea have regularly invested in players in their prime for premium sums. Drogba, Anelka and Malouda to name but three of many were signings made knowing there would be little or no re-sale value and this will prove to be the case as and when these players become surplus to requirements.

And when they do so they will find themselves in very esteemed company. Chelsea outlaid huge sums to procure Messrs. Veron, Crespo, Shevchenko, Deco, Belletti, Ballack and Cole, but received not a penny when these lauded world performers were moved on after indifferent contributions.

Such losses epitomise the reckless nature of Chelsea’s transfer ethos which has not only resulted in them reclining as a team, but also makes a mockery of the suggestions brashly made by Peter Kenyon that they would be self-sufficient three years ago.

Kenyon’s visions came and went without coming close to coming off, and given the way Chelsea do business it was hardly surprising. For such a shrewd businessman, it has taken Mr Abramovich an awful lot of time and money to understand the vagaries of what makes a successful football team and club.

The cash-happy approach to buying players has to be replaced by a more cerebral thinking whereby Chelsea recruit players which best fit into a plan, rather than fitting the best players being shoehorned into a plan of sorts.

The responsibility to now right the wrongs of many men does not lie with Andre Villas-Boas, instead, it still lies with Roman Abramovich to run the club along with thought and application along the lines of one of his many succesful businesses, and not like the weekend pursuit owning succesful businesses allows.

Follow John Baines on twitter @bainesyDiego10


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