It’s hard to perceive now, but just 4 years ago, the Chelsea squad was one of the oldest squads in the Barclays Premiership. The 09-10 season may have yielded myriad success for the blues, but the backbone of Carlo Ancelotti’s league and cup double winning side largely consisted of players who were the wrong side of 30. Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Dider Drogba and co all brought plenty of experience to the side, but also noticeably elevated the average age of the squad. In fact, during the 09-10 season, 5 of their top 6 goal scorers were over the age of 30. But why did Chelsea have such an ageing squad? The answer is simple really – Security.
Chelsea have been through a total of 10 managerial changes in 10 years of stewardship under Roman Abramovic, and during that time, no Chelsea academy graduate has cemented a place in the starting eleven. With Abramovic’s controversial hire-fire strategy giving managers little to no time to properly settle and develop their squads, most of the coaches opted to stick with the experience and financial firepower of the club rather than invest the little time they had in trying to successfully promote youngsters from the youth team. The pressure to win silverware imposed by Abramovic made it difficult for managers to truly enforce any sort of individuality that they may have wished for into the team.
Despite the surprising failure of one of Chelsea’s main up and coming talents, Kevin De Bryune, the blues still managed to recoup all of the money they initially parted with to sign him, and then some. Signed for roughly £8 million back in 2011 from Genk, German side Wolfsburg parted with over £15 million in 2014 to have him bolster their ranks, meaning that De Bryune alone heralded Chelsea with a near £10 million pre-tax profit despite featuring less than 10 times for them competitively. This is a prime example of how Chelsea’s new direction will turn out to be a major success.
So with financial fair play rules ready to punish the ludicrous spenders of the footballing world, it seems as if Chelsea have changed their transfer policies somewhat. The previous need to purchase players for the immediate future is no more. The days when Chelsea were forced into panic buying mediocre players to make up the numbers are behind them.
The reappointment of Jose Mourinho has now lead many to believe that Abramovic is now looking to the long term and will no longer pursue every trophy available to them, but instead forge a team with a strong winning mentality that can play together for the foreseeable future. The last couple of years has seen the blues rifle the world for some of its greatest young talents with long term in mind. The blues incredible financial backing has meant that they have been able to purchase the stars of tomorrow behind everyone’s back whilst they unveiled a number of players in their peaks to the media. Under Mourinho, the Chelsea board have a manager proven to be able to assemble teams that will stay strong for many years. It’s because of this that it now seems that next year could be the year in which Chelsea will start to utilise their tremendous plethora of starlets at their disposal. Of course, Chelsea already now have a strong, youthful core and have the privilege of being able to name some of the Barclays Premierships brightest talents in their current squad. Eden Hazard, for example has shown this season just how much difference a manager can make to a player. Last year, the young Belgian showed glimpses of his talent in short bursts with no consistency. At times, he was outstanding; he would glide past 2 players with ease before unleashing a perfectly waited pass that splits the defence and put a teammate through on goal. But at other times, he was sloppy, selfish and generally looked far from the finished article. He would disappear for long periods during important games and would rarely track back to help Ashley Cole. Flash forward to 2013-14, and he looks a different player. He now finally has the end product in his game, whether it is in the form of a pass or a shot. His work rates when attacking and defending seem to have improved and he now looks more of a team player than ever.
In truth, it is frightening how well prepared Chelsea seem to be. Chelsea now have a reserve squad arguably stronger than that of Barcelona’s B side and RM Castilla in Spain – 2 sides that are often hailed as the best youth setups on the planet. And under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship, the team will only grow.
The influx of young talent does not stop at the first team however, as next season Hazard, Oscar and co will be joined by 28 Chelsea players, all fighting it out to make the squad after returning from loan deals across Europe. The likes of Courtois, Chabaloah, Piazon, Atsu and Lukaku are too good to be plying their trade at teams temporarily and will most likely have plenty of possible suitors come July should Chelsea deem them surplus to requirements. These players all carry considerably large price tags, and should Chelsea agree to allow any of their prospects leave, it will be for a significant profit.
And given the inevitability of a large backlash from the clubs supporters should Mourinho get the axe anytime in the future; it seems that he is now in a position of security where he can start to properly assemble his team using the wealth of resources that have been seemingly built up for him since his initial departure way back in 2007.