Racing Post logo
Search icon
Menu icon
Menu icon
  • MoreChevron down

Jonathan Harding: New Blues are a far cry from Roman times

Chelsea and the £1 billion gamble

The arrival of record signing Enzo Fernandez has failed to change Chelsea's fortunes
The arrival of record signing Enzo Fernandez has failed to change Chelsea's fortunesCredit: Mika Volkmann

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were characterised by ruthless decisions off the pitch and high-profile signings. It was an era of remarkable success, a far cry from the club we are now witnessing floundering at the start of the season.

To understand their poor start, it is worth comparing the approach under Abramovich to the one taken by the new ownership group under Todd Boehly. One similarity is that managers have always lived a bit of a charmed life at Chelsea and that remains true.

Just ask Graham Potter. He was chosen to lead an exciting new squad in September 2022 but was relieved of his duties the following April with the team stuck in the bottom half of the table. It was far from the start the new owners had envisaged.

Another thing that has remained the same since the glory days is that Chelsea are still more than willing to splash the cash. In the first window under the new management, the club made a few statement signings, namely Raheem Sterling and Wesley Fofana.

Yet results continued to slide off the pitch and the club doubled down the following January when snapping up some of Europe's best young talent on lengthy contracts.

Enzo Fernandez, one of the few to make a decent impression, was brought in for £107 million, while Mykhaylo Mudryk joined from Shakhtar Donetsk for a staggering £62m.

After finishing 12th, the spending spree continued this summer in an attempt to give new manager Mauricio Pochettino the best chance of turning the ship around. In little more than a year, Chelsea forked out £1 billion, largely on promising young players.

This is where we encounter the crucial difference between this Chelsea and the one we associate with regularly competing for titles. The emphasis has switched from signing established players for short-term success to investing heavily in the future.

That is fine when inexperienced players are integrated into an established team with a distinct way of playing, as we have seen at Manchester City, but that is not what has happened here. 

Of course, there is every chance Chelsea will reap the rewards if their latest signings develop as they hope, but they may also be stuck with average players on long deals.

Some patience will be required but the early signs suggest this gamble by the owners on a new way of doing things has not paid off. Pochettino has clearly not been helped by injuries but that does not excuse recent performances. They have managed only five goals in the league and three of those came against promoted Luton. 

It would be wrong to place the blame solely on striker Nicolas Jackson, who has the rare distinction of being the first player in the division banned for being cautioned five times this season. He has been wasteful in front of goal but he is one of several young players lobbed in at the deep end without a clear blueprint of how they ought to play.

A bad situation could quickly get worse with games against Arsenal, Tottenham, City and Newcastle in October and November. During that time, Pochettino will be under huge pressure to start grinding out results but that is not easy with an unsettled side.

The new owners have invested huge amounts of money and seem to have a vision for how Chelsea ought to be run. That has not yet translated into results on the pitch and the question will be how long the club can afford to keep sliding down the table.

Click for more free bets and betting offers from the Racing Post

Published on 29 September 2023inOpinion

Last updated 14:45, 29 September 2023