Friday, May 24, 2024

Oh, Chelsea….

Chelsea has issues with prosperity.

In an April glimpse of more positive results to come, Chelsea decisively blasted Everton 6-0 only for the game to become more memorable for the sight of its young stars selfishly squabbling with each other over who would take a penalty kick. Worse yet, the dominating performance versus Everton was immediately followed by a humiliating 5-0 loss to rival Arsenal. Chelsea would not lose again after the Emirates misstep, however, winning six and drawing one to propel the club itself into position for a Europa League berth should Manchester City defeat Manchester United in the FA Cup this weekend.

The Chelsea project was showing short term results and promise for the future. Something was off, however, as Manager Mauricio Pochettino doubled down on his sad and sensitive refrain which had been part of this rollercoaster season. Unlike the animated narcissism of one-time manager Jose Mourinho, Pochettino’s manufactured drama had an ick factor which could make one cringe. Pochettino spoke of being unloved by Chelsea supporters and described feelings of loneliness and unhappiness in his position. He chose a quick getaway down the tunnel after Sunday’s season ending match, demurring from the traditional post-match acknowledgment of Chelsea supporters. Pochettino had made it clear in recent comments that it might be he, and not Chelsea’s ownership, who might trigger a divorce.

Just as Pochettino never really settled, the owners never seemed convinced Pochettino was the man to take the club forward despite the exhaustive search undertaken prior to his hire. Uncertainty was evident in the offering of only a two-year contract. Even that short-term agreement will not be fulfilled. The parties agreed to mutually part ways on Monday.

Chelsea will now hire its sixth manager in the two years since Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital purchased the club. Who the latest victim will be is anyone’s guess in a market where big clubs such as Bayern Munich are struggling to find agreeable candidates. Supposedly the German giant is poised to hire Vincent Kompany who just led Burnley to Premier League relegation. Manchester United purportedly has also been on the prowl for a suitable name to replace the still intact Manager Eric ten Hag. Pochettino, in fact, might be such a candidate for the Red Devils.

Chelsea has been linked with Roberto De Zerbi, the former Brighton manager who recently had his own mutual parting with ownership. De Zerbi’s struggle with respected owner Tony Bloom and the mediocre Seagulls season just concluded probably rule him out for the Blues. Former Chelsea managers Mourinho and Thomas Tuchel are available but would represent awkward appointments. Brentford’s Thomas Frank has been mentioned but seems too levelheaded to jump into the unsettled Chelsea madness. Younger managers such as Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna and Leicester’s Enzo Maresca are in the picture. Experience would be lacking with these latter two candidates, but a younger manager might be more willing to accept Chelsea’s management philosophy which now dictates limited manager input on roster decisions. Part owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali and sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley currently provide the confused direction on such decisions in Chelsea’s currently convoluted organization structure.

Almost despite itself, Chelsea under Pochettino’s coaching leadership finished the season strongly. A Europa berth had seemed an impossibility just a few months ago. Expensive player acquisitions seemed to be a waste of money. The team’s performances were chaotic and unproductive. That changed for the better in the season’s final weeks. Unhappiness and discord behind the scenes did not.

Pochettino now goes in search of a place he can call home after never quite feeling comfortable in his short recent stints at both Chelsea and Paris St. Germain. Chelsea, meanwhile, continues to search for the right man to lead its unorthodox project. 

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