Groundhog Season

I don’t need a calendar these days – I can typically take one look at the current situation that Chelsea find themselves in and instantly know what time of year it is. Somehow turning a three team title race into a panicked scramble for top 4? Accusations of squad motivation coinciding with an uptick of individual errors? Calls for the managers head as we hand out points to any team fortunate enough to be paired against us? Despite all this, a cup final on the horizon that seems to hold all the power on whether the previous year is deemed as a success or not? Well, it must be May, right?

I want to be surprised that once again we have dusted off the ol’ trusted script and turned a season which started full of hope and excitement into one of dejection and concern. But, in reality, should we be surprised at all? Has anything really changed over the previous summers that would prevent this seeming inevitability from occurring? In truth, we should have seen this coming. The 21/22 summer represented almost every summer which had proceeded it, the first summer for a new manager to ‘make his mark’ on the squad, following by a marquee signing which divided opinion and a couple of squad signings which left little to be excited about. Yet, despite overwhelming concerns that the majority of issues in the squad hasn’t been addressed, Chelsea started the season like a runaway train and we all hopped on board for the ride, forgetting that we’d travelled this route many times before.

On the surface, you can easily find explanations as to why what has taken place over the following 6 months was out of our control. Incredibly ill-timed injuries to Chilwell, James, Lukaku, Kante and Kovacic put a grinding halt to our momentum. Competing for 7 trophies had the team regularly playing twice a week and of course, the small issue around Abramovic being sanctioned and forced to sell the club. These are all, to a certain degree, valid justifications for dips in form but to take them purely at face value would be slightly naïve to the real reasons behind Chelsea’s all too frequent drop off.

So who is to blame? For some it’s the manager, for some it’s the misfiring front line, for some it’s the board and for some it’s a sport wide conspiracy against the club (..honestly), but really is it down to one factor? The truth, as it often is, is that it’s down to a little bit of all of the above (with the exception of the conspiracies, of course).

I don’t want to spend too much time on Tuchel, as I believe the majority of the blame sits above him and took place prior to his arrival which I will delve into throughout this article, but I would be remised to absolve him entirely. Concerns over his in game management have become more prevalent and justified as the season has evolved with substitutions often coming late and failing to make an impact. In addition to this, having been previously heralded for his ability to rotate effectively, certain players, such as Chalobah and Lukaku, are struggling to get a look in despite those ahead of them failing to make a consistent impact. Under normal circumstances you’d look to pin the lack of player motivation and performance on the manager but this is and issue that so many of his predecessors have also been exceptionally vocal about before ultimately seeing the door. Tuchel, like those above him, has room to develop but I think it’s clear to all that what he has showcased so far is that he’s a manager of the highest calibre and is absolutely the right man to take us forward.

The Squad – Depth in quality, quantity or neither?

It is quite easily to look at this Chelsea squad and marvel at the strength in depth that they posses with quality all over the pitch. A quick look at the 25 man squad showcases a mixture of Ballon D’or nominees and experienced internationals with the most sought after young talents from across Europe and Cobham. It’s very easy to see why many deemed Chelsea genuine title contenders and even favourites going into this season. However, the depth only goes as far as names on a sheet of paper, the real issues begin when you start trying to combine those names into a coherent team that can provide you with the consistency and quality that is required to compete across a gruelling Premier League season.

Doing exactly that starts to highlight the underlying issues within the squad, this isn’t a squad of players with a cohesive, consistent approach to how they like to play. This is a squad full of players that represent different styles and approaches of previous Chelsea managers. At a high level you have a defence primarily forged by Antonio Conte’s pragmatic structure with specialist wing-backs and centre backs that are far more comfortable in a 3. In front of them, you have Sarri’s possession oriented and risk averse midfield and leading the team you have Lampard’s front line of high volume forwards with a reliance on quick transitions and balls in behind. It’s fundamentally because of this mismatch of styles that we find ourselves in situations where players appear to be playing out of position or in roles that quite evidently do not play to their strengths.

As highlighted by @OllyCFC on twitter, the squad composition includes input from 6 managers of varying tactical approaches

As Tuchel found at the start of this season, the overall quality of these players, combined with the malleable and adaptive Cobham graduates, means that a fully fit, well rested squad can still compete with the very best, especially in one off cup ties. The problem is that the cracks immediately start to show when player absences kick in, which they always will across a 60 game season. This is primarily down to the fact there are very few, if any, like-for-like replacements within this Chelsea side, especially not for key players.

The Goalkeeper

Arguably the one position that we don’t need to worry about. Mendy offers the composure and technical ability that is required from a modern goalkeeper whilst regularly producing world class saves. It may have taken us around £100m to get to this point, and we’ve still the most expensive back up keeper in world football but for the time being, we seemed to have eventually got this one right.

The Left Wing-backs

The first few months of this season were spent watching Ben Chilwell maraud down our left side, linking play quickly in the middle of the park, moving the ball forward at every opportunity and getting in the box at every opportunity. His energy and persistent threat, combined with Reece James doing the same on the right hand side allowed us to stretch teams and offer a threat down both flanks. His replacement Marcos Alonso, offers something completely different. Whilst still posing a goal threat and another aerial option, Alonso lacks the mobility to stay ever involved in the game and doesn’t possess the on-the-ball ability to link play and keep the ball moving forward. This isn’t to say that Alonso has performed badly this season, but what he provides the team is completely different to Chilwell and we’ve struggled to adapt to the Englishman’s absence.

The Right Wing-backs

You can somewhat copy and paste what I’ve written above when it comes to Azpilicueta replacing Reece James. It is never going to be easy to replace a player of James’ ability but the drop off in both mobility and on the ball threat when Azpilicueta plays is noticeable and has caused Tuchel to experiment with forwards like Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech and Pulisic all dropping into that role. This issue of course is even harder to take given that Chelsea had let Tino Livramento and Tariq Lamptey leave the club in the last 18 months, both of whom would have been perfect replacements. For a system that was so reliant on it’s wing-backs, to not have suitable replacements for either was only going to end one way.

The Centre Backs

Whilst it could be argued that the centre-back selection features players who perhaps require a 3 man system to succeed, this is perhaps the one position where going into this season we had ample, suitable cover. The emergence of Chalobah and Reece James as options on the right in addition to the existing cast of Silva and Christensen in the middle meant that there was never a real drop off in quality or suitability. The issue at centre-back primarily reared it’s head when Antonio Rudiger, arguably our most influential defender, had only Malang Sarr as his understudy. The Frenchman, who was due to go on loan to a relegation fighting Bundesliga side offers neither the tenacity or ability to drive at defences which the charismatic German has in abundance. Again, like at right-wing back, serious questions over long term strategic planning have to be asked as the club enter a position where it’s likely 4 of these options will leave the club this summer, forcing external recruitment whilst Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori, opportunistically sold, flourish at the highest level.

The Midfield

The midfield is arguably the biggest issue in the squad right now, not so much from a like-for-like replacement perspective but more down to the glaring absence of desperately needed profiles and a lack of compatibility with the current forward line. The absence of a disciplined, defensive minded 6, a role that we’ve lacked since the departure of Nemanja Matic in 2017, has contributed to our reliance on a 3 at-the-back system whilst also welding us to a possession oriented, risk adverse approach which in turn prevents us from making use of the abundance of natural 8s at the club. In addition to the lack of defensive discipline, quick and progressive distribution has been sorely lacking since Cesc Fabregas was replaced by the more metronomic and cautious Jorginho, this has been felt the most by our front line of forwards who thrive on balls in behind. Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus Cheek both offer the ability to progress play through their fantastic driving runs but end product across the entire midfield leaves plenty to be desired with an accumulative 6 goals and 17 assists across all competitions, excluding Jorginho’s penalties (for reference, Mason Mount has 12 goals and 15 assists individually.) It could be justifiably argued that N’golo Kante is irreplaceable and as such, it’s perhaps harsh to pinpoint the lack of an adequate replacement but there is not a single player in the Chelsea squad with a skillset even remotely comparable to the Frenchman which is absurd for such an important, yet injury prone player. All of these factors combined has left Tuchel with a midfield that is defensively suspect in transition and ineffective at linking us with his front line which leads me to..

The Forwards

I genuinely don’t know where to begin with this one. The Chelsea front line almost perfectly represents the chaos and opportunistic approach of Chelsea’s recruitment process over the past 5 years, and that’s before we even begin to look at those who have already left the club. As it currently stands, despite spending in the region of £300m on forwards, Chelsea’s best forward is the aforementioned Mason Mount, a midfielder from the academy. Despite this, Mount has become completely irreplaceable as the connection between our midfield and attack, showcasing the ability to pick up the ball in half-spaces, turn quickly and release others whilst also offering a goalthreat himself. However, like N’golo Kante, despite being such a pivotal part of Chelsea’s success, there is not a single player who can replicate the skillset offered by the energetic England international and certainly not with the same offensive output.

Onto the big recruitments, Romelu Lukaku, the only real signing of the Tuchel era, was purchased for just shy of £100m and has returned 10 goals in a season filled with outspoken discontent, injuries and long spells on the bench. However, the returning Belgian’s troubles were predicted by many due to a complete clash of styles between club and player which Lukaku himself controversially verbalised in his ill-advised interview with Sky Italia. Chelsea had found success the previous season with a high energy, high pressing front line which was a far cry from the system which saw Lukaku thrive in Italy under previous Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. As such, despite promising signs early on with a couple of spectacular goals, Lukaku’s presence tended to destabilise the Chelsea attack and saw the team frequently give up control of games and resort to using the former Inter Milan striker as nothing more than a Target Man doing his best Andy Carroll impression. As for the two Germans, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, their struggles have been widely evident. As two players who thrived in the quick transitions and space offered up in the Bundesliga, the latter regularly finds himself as a winger who is required to get involved in build up (with varying success…) and the former is often asked to play as a sole striker, spending large portions of the game chasing down defenders and patiently waiting for the often singular chance that is created for him by an exceptionally risk adverse set up behind him (again, with varying success).

Callum Hudson-Odoi has struggled to find consistency this season, although it should be no surprise that one of Chelsea’s most offensively productive spells was when the Cobham graduate got a consistent run of games. The only real winger in the squad, Callum arguably offers the most versatility in offense with his 1v1 ability and ability to progress and create through dribbling, passing and crossing. That versatility cannot be said for the final two recruits in Pulisic and Ziyech, two players who have failed to carve out a consistent role in the team and often look like square pegs in round holes, offering little more than the occasional moment but at a frequency which doesn’t justify continued involvement.

When you breakdown that list of players what you are left with is 7 players of wildly different skillsets that require wildly different set ups to thrive. This goes a long way to explain their inconsistencies as individuals but also forces Tuchel into huge tactical changes whenever we look to make any amendments to the front line. This is best evidenced in Chelsea’s 3-2 loss at Madrid where a dominant Chelsea side, set up perfectly to progress through to the Champions League Semi-Finals, were continually made weaker by substitutions, enforced through tiredness, which completely altered the Blues approach and effectiveness in the game.

Whilst I appreciate this looks like a scathing attack on the majority of the front line, the truth is that I’ve a large degree of sympathy with all of these players. There was an understandable excitement when all of these players were purchased due to their performances on the continent and the reputations they had deservedly carved for themselves. However, these players weren’t signed with any real plan of how to replicate and build upon the success they had experienced elsewhere. These aren’t bad players and didn’t become so overnight, we just quite simply do not have the ability to replicate the environment that allows them to thrive. As previously mentioned Timo Werner put up huge numbers in the Bundesliga playing in a quick transitioning, high chance volume Leipzig side alongside a focal point in Yussuf Poulsen but is now playing out wide with ball to feet and back to goal. Lukaku became one of the best strikers in world football playing alongside the dynamic Lautaro Martinez and having the freedom ability to occupy space on the right but is now being used as a back to goal backboard, watching players regularly opt to pass backwards than play him in. Even the best players will fail if you don’t set them up to succeed.

Conclusion and Solution

In summarisation, our recruitment has been heavily driven by opportunistic market signings and short lived managerial “projects”, leaving us with no clear style of play, ill-fitting specialists and a distinct lack of adequate replacements for key players. This essentially means that every single injury requires a complete shift in tactical approach, both offensively and defensively. It’s quite easy to see how a couple of key injuries derailed us to the extent that they did, let alone the amount we suffered heading into Christmas.

But is it all negative and are we doomed to watch this exact scenario play out year on year? Thankfully not. The imminent arrival of new ownership presents the perfect opportunity to right the wrongs that the previous administration were too proud to do. Failed vanity projects and the sunk-cost that has been continually pumped into ill-fitting players can be scrapped and a clear strategy and philosophy can be established and ingrained from the top down. Players such as Jorginho, Alonso, Azpilicueta and Barkley with imminently expiring contacts can be moved on to open up squad roles for more suitable, long term options. Players with more time left on their deals but are unlikely to suit our development, such as, but certainly not limited to, Pulisic (2024), Sarr (2025) and Kenedy (2024) can also be moved on to create both space and funds which can be reinvested back into the team. And finally, there’s some very tough decisions to be made on some expensive acquisitions, that’ll likely have to be sold at a loss, if they do not match the strategic vision on the club.

The positives is that many of the solutions appear to already be at the club. Conor Gallagher represents another high intensity midfielder in the mould of Mount who offers a realistic goalthreat both in goals and assists. Armando Broja presents a high pressing forward on an upwards trajectory with proven Premier League quality. Levi Colwill is a ready made solution to our self imposed void at LCB, offering the composure, distribution and defensive ability that could make him a mainstay in the Chelsea defence over the next decade and go a little way to right the wrongs of the Tomori and Guehi departures. There’s also genuine discussions that could be had over whether the likes of Billy Gilmour, Ethan Ampadu, Dujon Sterling, Ian Maatsen, to name by a few, could offer genuine suitable replacements at a fraction of the cost.

Once a strategic vision and philosophy is in place, external recruitment can also become far more targeted and productive. Highlighting missing profiles in the squad and recruiting smartly to fill those gaps will make the squad as a whole far more complete and cohesive, offering Tuchel the tactical flexibility and genuine strength in depth that we sorely lack as it currently stands which in turn will allow us to fairly assess both the manager and the players.

Whilst I’m loathed to credit them too much, we need only look above us in the table at City and Liverpool as examples of how we need to operate. Their philosophies, whilst linked to their managers, is deeply ingrained within the club as a whole. Every bit of recruitment makes logical sense within the overarching framework of their tactical set up, allowing seamless rotation on the pitch but also off of it too. The moment Klopp and Guardiola leave, the manager incoming will almost certainly match that of their predecessor and the vision and progression of the club as a whole remains undisturbed and forward moving. For example, you won’t see Manchester City looking at Antonio Conte as their next manager as it wouldn’t make logical sense and likely set them back years (we still have 5 of his players, for what it’s worth).

There’s plenty to be optimistic about however and this summer, under new ownership, represents our best chance to right the wrongs of previous seasons and hopefully next season I’ll need to buy that calendar after all.


Just how sensible have Chelsea been this silly season?

As we enter the final month of the 2021 summer transfer window, Chelsea are finally beginning to make some moves with the pursuit to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge looking increasingly more likely by the day. However, as silly season comes into full effect, just how sensible is Chelsea’s recent transfer activity?

As is the case with most high profile signings in contemporary football, the numbers involved are staggering. The widely reported €120m (give or take a few free unwanted players thrown in for good measure) would be a British transfer record, topping the recent £100m acquisition of Manchester City, Jack Grealish, by a mere £1-2m. Yet, at a point in time in which elite goal-scoring 9’s are at a premium, the signing of Lukaku, who put up 30 goals in 44 games as he spearheaded Inter Milan’s first title win in 11 years, was always going to be an expensive one.

With such a high transfer fee comes undeniable risk, at the age of 28, Chelsea is signing a striker in his prime with the returns on the investment being solely reliant on him being a blistering success in front of goal. Despite Chelsea being no strangers to expensive acquisitions, previous recent high profile signings of players like Werner and Havertz were made with the reassurances that whilst an immediate impact was expected, they were also signing players who would develop and contribute to the club over a long period of time with an asset value that could well increase. With Lukaku, there is no such safety net of retained value, Chelsea will need the Belgian to put up strong numbers for the majority of his contract to justify the expenditure. Additionally, the pressure will be on Chelsea’s young core to ensure their development continues at an exponential rate in order to maximise the peak of Lukaku’s powers.

A lot has been made of the lack of resell value, with comparisons being made to the acquisition of Didier Drogba, aged 26 for £24m, however, in truth, the most comparable signing of this profile is that of Fernando Torres in 2011. The Spaniard, despite rumours of injuries already taking hold, was signed for a record-breaking fee at the age of 27 with the hopes that he could push Carlo Ancelotti’s side to the next level. Despite a few unforgettable moments, El Nino’s time at the club was largely underwhelming, with the club struggling to move the player on when it became apparent to all parties that the desired outcome was likely never going to be achieved. This not only cost the club a lot of money but also restricted opportunities to implement alternative solutions, including a newly acquired Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht. Such an experience will have undoubtedly played a part in the club’s cautiousness to pursue a transfer of this profile up until now, an entire decade later.

In isolation, Lukaku the player is rightly a reason to be excited. A versatile, determined and effective leader of the attack, Lukaku will likely provide the clinical instinct and mentality that an all too frequent toothless Chelsea attack has lacked. However, what in a single moment in time is a very exciting prospect perhaps masks a much more worrying underlying narrative of how the club have got to this point. It’s hard to find a player who represents the ugly side of Chelsea’s mismanagement of assets more than Lukaku himself. Signed as a promising talent in the Summer 2011 window, Lukaku’s time at the Blues was largely spent on loan as he struggled to secure a spot ahead of the aforementioned Torres, in addition to the likes of Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Loic Remy before departing the club permanently in 2014 to Everton. 

The club were interested in bringing the Belgian back to Stamford Bridge in 2017 however the board, largely unconvinced by the reported transfer and agent fees, ultimately lost out to Manchester United and instead focused their attention to Alvaro Morata (although the less said about that, the better). In fact, it appears to have taken Lukaku finally playing under Antonio Conte, the exact manager they didn’t provide Lukaku to in 2017, to convince the club to part with even more money than they would have had to pay 4 years earlier. 

Whilst admittedly, it’s easy to call out these mistakes with the power of hindsight, there’s still plenty of signs to suggest that the club are arguably making the same mistakes this summer, partly to fund this deal. Before the excitement surrounding the opening of Roman’s wallet, the feeling around the club was one of frustration as a large number of highly promising Chelsea youngsters departed for a host of reasons, primarily centred around a lack of belief in first-team opportunities. Despite the inclusion of various clauses that may one day see those players return to the club, there should be no greater example for persevering with suspected elite talent as you never know, it might just save you £100m one day.

The sale of such assets has largely been inevitable when combined with the fact that the club is unable to shift a large number of ageing players with depreciating value, both on the pitch and financially. This pre-season specifically acting as a worrying representation of the ghosts of transfer windows past as the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta took to the field as the club struggle to find suitors. The positive for fans is that such transfers weren’t repeated last summer and show no sign of taking place this summer either (despite a brief flirt with Adama Traore), yet the presence of so many players, combined with a look at the talent that has departed, should act as a startling reminder of the damage that can be done if the club doesn’t correctly manage their assets. Ultimately, continued selling of your 19 to 23-year-old Lukaku’s will ultimately prevent you from signing your 28-year-old Lukaku’s eventually.

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Chelsea, as European champions, are on the brink of adding one of the best strikers in world football to their squad. A board that has been frequently guilty of failing to strengthen from a position of power, appear to have learned from previous lessons and wish to take the club to the next level. In Tuchel, we have a manager that deserves to be backed and whilst it’s undoubtedly a risk, if the club insists on releasing Tammy Abraham this summer then it’s hard to argue that the club hasn’t gone all-in on the best option available. It just so happens that Lukaku might not only be Chelsea’s most expensive signing, but also their most expensive lesson.

Every Portuguese Chelsea Signing Ranked From Worst to Best

There is a plethora of talent from Portugal that has played in England and most predominately the premier league. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Nani are just a small account of Portuguese nationals that have proved their worth and showcased their talent in the Premier League. We have signed 14 Portuguese players over the years and I have judged and ranked these players in terms of their time at Chelsea and not success related to other clubs they may have played for.

14 = Eduardo

In the summer of 2016, Eduardo Carvalho was signed on a one-year deal. The experienced goalkeeper was brought in to slot in as the 3rd choice behind Courtois and Begovic. Eduardo played a grand total of 0 senior matches for Chelsea and therefore did not receive a Premier League winners’ medal due to lack of games. During his 3 year stay at Chelsea, Eduardo only went out on loan once to Vitesse in the Eredvisie. On 1st July 2019, Eduardo finally parted ways with Chelsea with even some diehard Chelsea supporters having absolutely no idea who the man was. He joined Braga in his home nation of Portugal and only featured 9 more times before announcing his retirement from professional football.

13 = Filipe Oliveira

The relatively unknown teenager ‘Filipe Oliveira’ was signed to Chelsea for a relatively large sum of £500,000 in 2002. Featuring for just one minute in his debut against Manchester United and only accumulating 77 minutes of playing time throughout his whole career at Chelsea, Oliveira fell victim to the Chelsea loan cycle where he would be trapped for 4 years. A loan to Preston North End and Marítimo followed and a mutual agreement for him to be released occurred. A player who could play in virtually any position on the pitch, it was a true shame that Filipe Oliveira never achieved anything of substance as he failed to register a single goal for the whole time he was at Chelsea. Oliveira eventually signed for Marítimo and immediately began to play first team football again.

12 = Fábio Paím

When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United in the early stages of his career, he uttered the words to the media “If you think I’m good, just wait until you see Fábio Paím”. Fame and especially fortune got to the young talents head and the player contracted to Sporting would join Chelsea on a short term loan deal in 2008. Lasting little over 4 months in West London, Paím’s loan spell was over and he had little to show for this stint. According to many websites, Paím featured for the Chelsea reserves but there is not much proof of this even happening. By December rolled around, the 20 year old was shipped back to Portugal and his career entered turmoil. Various loan spells and short term deals at low level clubs meant the supposed wonderkid would never reach anywhere near that standard ever in his career. Fábio Paím is now 33 years old and his footballing journey ended in 2018 with the reserves of Leixoes B.11 = Nuno Morais

The defensive midfielder was signed from the Penafiel Youth setup in 2004 after a successful trial period. Nuno’s career went down a similar path to that of Filipe Oliveira, as they would only be given minimal minutes in the league and would sometimes feature as a rarity in cup competitions. The main highlight of Nuno’s time at Chelsea would have to be a 90 minute performance against the mighty Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup. 2 years later in 2006, Nuno joined Oliveira on loan in Marítimo. Returning from the loan in 2007, Morais was still not getting the minutes he desired and was consequently granted a move to Cyprus powerhouse Apoel FC on a free transfer.

10 = Ricardo Quaresma

The eloquent skillful player we have all come to know in Quaresma was not what we got in 2009. A ridiculous decision in 2009 saw us signing Quaresma from Inter Milan on a short term loan deal, just a season after he was awarded with the notorious ‘Bidone d’oro’ which translates to the ‘Golden Bin’… This was an award given out to the most dissapointing player in the Serie A for the 07/08 season. Quaresma only ended up playing 5 games for Chelsea in all competitions (4 appearances in the Premier League and 1 appearance in the FA Cup). During his one and only FA Cup appearance, Quaresma provided his only assist in a Chelsea shirt to Alex against Coventry.

9 = Fabio Ferreira

Ferreira was a part of Sporting CP’s youth academy and when he was 16, he had allegedly trained with Chelsea illegally. The 2005 training session hosted by Chelsea included the 16-year-old Ferreira and Sporting CP made a formal complaint to FIFA regarding the issue. Nothing ended up happening about the complaint and the right sided attacker joined Chelsea for free the next year after the incident. Ferreira played 12 times for our reserves, netting himself 8 goals. Despite the opposition, Fabio Ferreira looked like quite the prospect as 0.66 goals per game as a right winger was quite an impressive number. Still just a teen when he was in the reserves, Ferreira was sent out on loan to Oldham Athletic on a one month deal that was later extended to two months. Fabio only made one appearance for the Latics and was sent back to the Bridge following a disappointing two-month stint. This loan spell sent alarm bells
ringing at Chelsea about if his performances in the reserves were a fluke and Chelsea decided to release Ferreira in the summer of 2009. He went for a trial at league two side Gillingham and was turned away, this lead the once promising talent all the way back to his home nation and into the Portuguese 3rd division with Esmoriz.

8 = Maniche

A 28-year-old central midfielder by the name of Maniche was loaned from Dynamo Moscow in January 2006 to the Blues. The Portuguese connection to Mourinho was a driving factor related to this transfer and the midfielder in his late 20’s was brought in quite questionably due to the strength already present in the rock-solid midfield. Despite being part of the 05/06 Premier League winning squad, Maniche had a nightmare start to his Chelsea career and that foreshadowed the rest of his time in West London. His first league start came against West Ham United in April of 2006 and he made his mark immediately in the league by smashing a wayward shot from 6 yards out against the crossbar in the opening minutes of the London derby. Missing an open goal was not the most of his worries, as in the 17th minute Maniche was shown a straight red card, no doubt leaving Mourinho in a blistering fit of rage. Battling with the likes of Frank Lampard and Makelele for a starting spot, Maniche only played 8 league games during his tenure at the Bridge and Chelsea denied the offer to sign him for £5m after the loan period was up and Maniche returned to Dynamo Moscow.

7 = Hilario

Hilario was another Portuguese goalkeeper that was signed, but this time it was under his former Porto boss Jose Mourinho. In the summer of 2006, Hilario was signed to be the 3rd choice goalie under Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini. Due to injuries sustained to both goalkeeper’s in front of him against Reading (Petr Cech’s injury that lead to him wearing a protective helmet for the rest of his career), Hilario was handed a starting spot in the Chelsea line-up. His competitive debut for Chelsea came in a 1-0 win against Barcelona of all teams at Stamford Bridge. Hilario made 18 appearances that season and kept a clean sheet in 8 of those matches. After Cech recovered and was back to full fitness, Hilario would only find himself in the starting line-up if it was truly needed and spent a lot of his time on the bench from here on out. In June 2011, 35-year-old Hilario was granted a one-year contract extension. Hilario miraculously survived so long at the club that when his contract was finally due to run out, Mourinho returned for his second tenure at the club and somehow Hilario signed yet another contract extension. On 23rd May 2014, 38-year-old Hilario was finally released from Chelsea. 8 years at the club, only left him with 39 senior games played. Just 2 years later, Hilario was back at Chelsea, this time enjoying the role of assisting goalkeeping coach. When Lampard took over, he kept Hilario as part of the staff and Thomas Tuchel has followed the trend and decided to also keep Hilario at Stamford Bridge.

6 = Tiago

Tiago arrived at the club with a hefty price tag of £15m, Mourinho continued his outrageous spending spree that was the 04/05 summer transfer window, and this marked his sixth signing of that year. Tiago only spent one season at the club but was a regular starter during his time in West London. 51 appearances in one season for the central midfielder saw his Chelsea career flash by as the next season the arrival of Michael Essien thawed his chances of being in the starting line-up. Tiago amassed 7 goal involvements in the 04/05 season in the league and was a key part of what led Chelsea to one of the greatest Premier League title wins ever. Only losing 1 game the whole of the 04/05 Premier League season saw Tiago leave the Bridge with a 97%-win percentage in the league. In August 2005, Tiago joined Lyon and was a part of their league winning side of the 05/06 season. Short and sweet is the perfect way to explain Tiago’s successful Chelsea tenure.

5 = Raul Meireles

Due to an injury sustained by Michael Essien -that would side-line him for a long stretch of time- Raul Meireles was signed on a 4-year deal from Liverpool for a fee of around £12million. The Premier League experience that Meireles possessed would come in handy as we waited for Essien to return to full fitness. Occupying the number 16 shirt, Meireles chipped in with numerous important goals in big matches. He would score his first league goal against Manchester City in December 2011, scraping us to a 2-1 win. One of his best performances in the blue came against Leicester in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. In the thumping 5-2 win at Stamford Bridge, Meireles contributed 2 assists and scored a goal himself to carry us forward and eventually win the competition. Of course, his most memorable moment in a Chelsea shirt was on an April night against Benfica. That legendary counterattack that eventually led to Meireles scoring an absolute screamer in front of the Shed End in the last minute to help us continue in the Champions League. Although he missed the Champions League final through suspension (just like John Terry and Ivanovic), he would receive a winner’s medal after the best moment in Chelsea history. Meireles’ ability to score clutch goals and step up in the biggest of occasions truly encapsulated his stint at Chelsea. Every team needs a player to show up in the big moments and Meireles turned out to be that player in that infamous 2011-12 season. Although he only spent a year and a bit at Stamford Bridge, he will always be remembered by the Chelsea faithful for his important goals and contributions throughout that time.

4 = Deco

Luiz Felipe Scolari (through his connections with the Portuguese national team) signed the former Porto and Barcelona midfielder for £8million in the summer of 2008. Surprisingly, this signing happened 4 years after this exact transfer was almost set-in stone with even Deco announcing on a radio station that he would be signing for Chelsea under Jose Mourinho. Unlike Maniche, Deco had a blinding start to his Chelsea career, with a 30-yard screamer to help the side to a 4-0 whitewash of Portsmouth. A free kick stunner against Wigan accumulated in Deco being awarded the coveted player of the month award for the month of August. All was going well until the start of February 2009. Scolari was sacked after 7 months in charge and a few poor performances found Deco left out of the starting 11. In the June of that same year, Deco announced “I do not want to say”. Frequent radio appearances and controversial quotes left Deco unfavourable to be picked anytime soon in the starting 11. It was Carlo Ancelotti who completely changed the mindset of the midfielder in his early 30’s. Injuries hindered Deco becoming an even better player at Chelsea but despite the reoccurring injuries, he was an integral part in Chelsea winning the double in 09/10. Deco and the club itself came to an agreement to let Deco move to Brazilian club Fluminense on a free transfer. In an interview with the Sun, Deco said, “I want to go back to Brazil” and “I want to be near to my kids”. I believe that if Deco had stayed longer in West London that he would be higher on this list but due to the short extent of his career at Chelsea he is ranked 4th.

3 = Jose Bosingwa

Luiz Felipe Scolari yet again decided to splash the cash on another player he was familiar with, this time being a Champions League winner in Jose Bosingwa. The experienced right back, who was still only entering his prime, was brought in for a fee of around £18 million. Bosingwa signed a three-year deal and was signed at the same time as fellow countryman Deco. He also made his debut alongside Deco in the 4-0 win against Portsmouth. A few months after signing, Bosingwa was involved in a collision with Benayoun where Bosingwa intentionally kicked him with his studs up directly into his back. Controversy and injury ruled Bosingwa out for a long stretch of time and consequently meant he would not be able to compete at the 2010 World Cup. One of Bosingwa’s greatest moments in a Chelsea shirt was the great performance he put in against Barcelona in the semi-final of the 11/12 Champions League campaign. Bosingwa replaced Gary Cahill after a matter of minutes and had to slot in at centre back. Some people claim that the defensive performance displayed that night was the “biggest bus ever parked” and Bosingwa dealt with the Barcelona team rifling with talent such as Messi, Iniesta and Fabregas seamlessly. Another impressive defensive performance occurred in the Final against Bayern Munich in their own backyard also. Bosingwa played in his natural position of right back in this game and kept Franck Ribery quiet on the left flank. 120 minutes of solid defending and Chelsea were rewarded with the greatest achievement in all of football, a Champions League trophy. Strangely, Bosingwa would leave the club for free as Chelsea told him he could leave when his contract was up. There was never really a reason as to why Bosingwa was given permission to leave and why he was not given another contract as a reward for his excellent service in two monumental games. Bosingwa will never been forgotten for his impressive performances against two of the biggest clubs in world football and just like Meireles, he performed when his team needed him most.

2 = Paulo Ferreira

In the summer of 2004, Mourinho decided to bring the 25-year-old who he had managed at Porto to Champions League triumph, over to West London. The fee of around £13million was a record at the time for a right back in English football and Mourinho thought that Ferreira was the man to help him achieve success in England as they had in Portugal. In his first season at the club, Ferreira was introduced to the starting 11 where he would join the likes of John Terry and William Gallas in the greatest defence in Premier League history. His 29 appearances helped Chelsea to only concede 15 goals all season. Not the kind of attacking full back we are used to seeing in football nowadays, Ferreira only scored 2 goals over his entire Chelsea career and assisted 7 times. Never exactly the standout player, Mourinho credited Ferreira as “a player who will never be man of the match but will always score 7/10 for his individual display”. Ferreira only managed to feature in two matches in the legendary 11/12 Champions League campaign and was an unused substitute in the final against Bayern Munich. The summer of 2013 spelt the end of Ferreira’s time at Stamford Bridge as the club and himself agreed to let the contract run out. In the last few years of his time at the club, Ferreira was rarely featured in the starting line-up and was used as a senior player for the dressing room. However, this does not distract us from the plethora of silverware Ferreira accumulated over his 9 seasons at the Bridge. 3 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League, 3 FA Cups and 2 League Cups. Ferreira will be deemed as an important servant in Chelsea’s history as he was there throughout many great times at the club and always put in a great performance when he was granted the opportunity. The sheer amount of time he spent at the club grants him a high place on this list as he continuously gave his all when needed and truly loved the club. Ferreira retired after a standing ovation at Stamford Bridge on 19th May 2013 and will be remembered for generations to come.

1 = Ricardo Carvalho

Carvalho was another Portuguese national brought in by Jose Mourinho alongside Paulo Ferreira. The fee of around £20million was fully justified by his prior performances in the Champions League winning campaign in 03/04 and was rated as one of the best centre backs at Euro 2004. His first season was immaculate by all standards and adjusted greatly to the ways of the Premier League. Carvalho was an integral part of the legendary 04/05 Premier League team and his partnership with Englishman John Terry will forever be known as one of the greatest centre back pairing in Premier League history. In 2007, Carvalho was rewarded with a 5-year contract which was fully justified with his outstanding performances that helped Chelsea achieve two Premier League titles in two years. Regardless of Mourinho leaving in the 07/08 season, his stellar performances continued to reign supreme as he was a main factor in Chelsea getting to the Champions League final, that we eventually lost on penalties. He was awarded Chelsea’s Player’s Player of the year for his incredible work during that season. Injury and a suspected move to Inter Milan to reunite with Mourinho nearly halted his Chelsea career. However, the defender (now in his 30’s) decided to stay at Chelsea under new boss Carlo Ancelotti. Carvalho’s career was given an extra spark due to the new management as he made an impeccable start by contributing with a goal in the Community Shield against Manchester United. Chelsea went on to win this game on penalties and it added to the abundance of silverware already in his collection. More injuries later in that season unfortunately spelt the end of his time at Chelsea as he went on to win his third Premier League title in the year we won the double. In his 6 year stay at Chelsea, Carvalho played 210 matches in all competitions and achieved a staggering 2.20 points per game over this period. To add to his 3 Premier League trophies, Carvalho also won 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and a Community Shield. The combination of raw strength and spectacular technical ability meant Carvalho was destined for success in the Premier League and he certainly exceeded expectations. Hard hitting with a tremendous footballing IQ, Carvalho always wore his heart on his sleeve and gave his all for the team. Whenever Carvalho was playing, you knew not to expect many opposition goals and he kept numerous legends of the Premier League quiet in front of goal. Carvalho is an unsung hero of the club as his ridiculous number of trophies and winners’ medals is not nearly spoken about enough. A classic centre back that was tough as nails alongside the great John Terry led to Chelsea only conceding 15 goals in 38 games. Whether he was alongside Terry or not, you could always expect a tough night for strikers when they came up against Ricardo Carvalho.

Written by Frankie.

Big Squad? Sure. Best Squad? No Chance.

Before 8pm last night, Chelsea Twitter was in a great mood. We were one of the favourites to win the League, Jamie Carragher and Jurgen Klopp said Chelsea had the best squad in the Premier League, and fans were getting excited as we were on a 17 match unbeaten run.

There was only one man who disagreed with that and constantly said it throughout press conferences that we couldn’t be compared to Liverpool and Manchester City, and that man was Frank Lampard (and myself who said in the Everton preview that Chelsea fans were getting too complacent, and a few others, but you get the point). And he was absolutely spot on; as Chelsea lost to Everton 1-0, and all of a sudden we now have to challenge for top four. The Chelsea manager kept on repeating himself how you can only win titles with consistency, and last night showed we’re not there, yet.

There are a few reasons we’re not consistent enough at the moment, and they all make sense with context. The main reason though is despite what people are saying, we simply do not have that strong of a squad compared to the big boys. We definitely have a big squad, but that doesn’t really matter. At The Chelsea Spot, we always say quality over quantity, and that’s something we do not have at the moment in the Chelsea squad.

Our B Team

I think Chelsea’s lacklusture performance against Krasnodar sums it up, but I’ll go into detail with it. For this, I’m going to assume our best lineup is this one (although that is never really a thing): Mendy, Chilwell, Zouma, Silva, James, Kante, Mount, Havertz, Ziyech, Werner, Pulisic. You can have your own opinion on your best lineup, but this is just the model I’m going to use to show exacly what I mean.

After Mendy we have Kepa. The worst goalkeeper in Premier League history. That’s not a great start is it? Willy Caballero – he’s average, old, and not really up to the high standard. After all, he’s older than Petr Cech who’s our technical director (although he is playing tomorrow vs Spurs with the development squad). So, if Mendy gets injured or has to leave to go to AFCON, we’re in trouble big time.

Ben Chilwell has been brilliant so far this season, but he’s a player who will have a few bad games in the season and will make mistakes as he’s still young. Normally you’d have a player who could come in for him when he’s struggling to do a job – nope, not in our case. Chilly-B has Emerson and Marcos Alonso behind him, both players who the club want to leave but they can’t afford to lose both at the same time. Emerson is actually decent on the ball, but has the defensive positioning of a donkey, and Marcos Alonso hasn’t played a single minute for Chelsea after his row with Frank Lampard at the game against West Brom. Lampard definitely doesn’t trust them both, and playing Azpilicueta would probably make more sense, but Frank has been opposed this season to using inverted fullbacks. It’s against the style of play, and also Dave is playing a lot of the time on the right hand side when James is resting. If Chilwell gets injured, we’re pretty much screwed.

Our centre backs – they’ve been a breath of fresh air this season. Zouma has been scoring from corners like it’s nothing, is winning every header in in his own box, and next to Silva they are building a great partnership. Thiago has changed our team completely, adding so much composure on the ball, experience and has shown so many good moments of defending (although, his worst game was probably last night vs Everton). Behind the Brazilian centre-back we have Fikayo Tomori, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Tomori’s situation at Chelsea is just bizarre, that’s for another article. So, if Silva gets injured, we’re back to the same defence as last season, which was extremely leaky. Rudiger always has a mistake in him and Christensen has looked good this season, however when it comes to being physical that’s certainly not his strong point. So, if Silva can’t play, we could be back to the dodgy defence from last year.

James has definitely been our best and most consistent player this season, and the improvement from last season has been exceptional. After him we do we have Azpilicueta who can certainly do a job, so I won’t complain too much about our RB situation, but again Dave is nothing like Reece and is a lot more negative (football playing wise) so Hakim would struggle not having a constant overlap. Henry Lawrence is probably our next best option at RB, and as much as he’s my favourite academy player, he could be leaving in January on loan and probably isn’t ready to play every single week in the Premier League.

To the average Premier League fan, they will think we are stacked in midfield. But are we actually in the style of play we are pushing towards? I think it is very clear that Frank Lampard wants to play with the 4-3-3, with two number 8’s. Kante isn’t even a number 6 naturally! So we don’t even have a defensive-midfielder at the club, and behind N’Golo we have Jorginho who cannot defend for his life, and Billy Gilmour who yes can certainly do a job there, but isn’t your ideal 6. For the box to box type of midfielders, we have Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Mateo Kovacic has played there a lot more this season but he still isn’t naturally an 8 and doesn’t offer the goal threat required in the 8, so your next two players who can play there are Gilmour and Tino Anjorin. Don’t get me wrong, both exceptional players and can do a good job for us this season, but both have been linked with loan moves away this January and if one of Kai/Mason were to be injured, we will be lacking experienced and ideal replacements.

Our attack to be fair, we’re quite stacked in. We have three clear wingers, and three strikers, one of which can certainly play out wide (although Frank thought Tammy would also be able to do a job at LW yesterday…). Yet, somehow we still struggled in attack against Everton! All three of our wingers are out at the moment, but we’re hoping that these are just short term injuries. Our backup to Pulisic and Ziyech out wide includes Hudson-Odoi and Werner, which is brilliant, and up front Timo Werner has Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud on his neck, who are again both top strikers. So despite us having to play Havertz and Timo last night out wide and it not working at all, in a few weeks time we should be back to normal.

Very young & inexperienced squad

That’s enough about the squad depth, hopefully that shows you that we do have numbers, but in a lot of areas we are lacking proper quality. Look at yesterday’s bench vs City’s bench, and you’ll see the difference.

Another reason that we don’t have the best squad is due to this team being very inexperienced and young, as expected before coming into this season. Most pundits and fans wouldn’t have put us as clear title challengers, so what has changed? I think most of us would have said comfortably top four, and to close the gap between us and the top two. That still seems very reasonable.

About half of these players have only played one season in the Premier League, and the other half are new to this team. Our most experienced players are Kante and Silva, while Silva has never played in the pace or the intensity of the English League before. Ben Chilwell and Zouma are our next players with more experience in the top flight of English football, but even then they are both still young guys who have a lot to improve on in their game. As brilliantly as they did last season, we saw it took time for the likes of Mount, James, Abraham and Tomori to get used to the League, and that’s only going to be the same with the likes of Havertz, Werner and Ziyech. On top of that, a lot of these guys have never played with each other before, so it’ll also take time for them to get used to each other’s movements.

Many sources have reported that Frank Lampard’s project is going to be a three year plan, and that’s when you’ll see the likes of Rice come in, and other young experienced players at the top level, like Gimenez/Alaba/Haaland. Imagine in 5 years time, when Chilwell, James, Mount, Havertz, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Werner will all be in their prime. Lampard would have also learnt from inevitable mistakes on the way, and we could be an absolute force in Europe. I’m not saying we should give Lampard 5 years to win a trophy, but I’m just showing you what the future will look like if we give these players time. Klopp needed time and investment, Guardiola needed time and investment – that’s called building for the future and as part of the process. Lampard needs time and investment, and I’m sure he’ll get both.

To summarise: can Chelsea win the league this season? Possibly. Can you expect Chelsea to win the league this season? NO. Frank needs time. The players need to time to get used to the league. The players need time to get used to playing with each other. It’s all part of the process.

Do you agree with me? Make sure to let me know on our social media platforms!

Written by Paree