Todd Bowley has made many mistakes, but everything can still be fixed.
The Chelsea season has been a colossal failure. The change in ownership over the summer marked the end of Roman Abramovich's era, during which the club had established long-standing standards, a clear strategy, and solutions to problems understood by everyone at Stamford Bridge. With the arrival of Todd Bowley, everything fell apart. By some miracle, the Londoners made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but they lost all their domestic tournaments and are unlikely to finish the season higher than eighth place. For the first time in many years, the club will miss out on European competitions.
Even without looking at the results, it is clear that the club is in a state of chaos. Chelsea started the season with Thomas Tuchel and will finish with Frank Lampard, having managed to buy out Graham Potter from Brighton and then fire him. Bowley acted like a typical money-driven manager who had little understanding of the subject matter, loading the team with expensive newcomers and assuming that the total value of the squad guaranteed success. Experience has shown that sacks of money don't step onto the field.
The club's problems continue beyond the pitch or in the technical area. Along with Abramovich, critical executives like Marina Granovskaya have left, who ensured the success, stability, and status of one of Europe's giants. Summing up, Chelsea fans are left with a sad and unpromising picture. Let's highlight three main problems and determine how the club can return to normal.
Problem: Total Uncertainty
Solution: Appoint a permanent manager as soon as possible
If you put yourself in the shoes of a football player, it's easy to understand why it took Frank Lampard, an interim manager, six matches to earn his first points. The coach and the players know that the legendary Chelsea and England national team player is warming the coach's seat. Lampard is already discussing his future job prospects in press conferences and doesn't even consider the possibility of staying. With such results, it's not surprising.
The situation is roughly the same for the players: how they perform in the season's final stages is unlikely to affect their prospects. What's the point of exerting yourself when there are no chances for medals, qualification for European competitions (and the corresponding salary bonuses), and you can't even imagine what the club will look like in a few months?
Frank will likely see out his short-term contract, but the sooner Chelsea announces his successor, the better for everyone. The club can plan the preseason and transfer work considering the future coach's preferences, the new specialist can familiarize himself with the workplace, and the players will understand that every successful action on the field earns them respect in the eyes of the new boss.
Many top-class options are available on the market, and Bowley has plenty to choose from. Immediately after Potter's dismissal, tabloids started sending Julian Nagelsmann, Luis Enrique, and Mauricio Pochettino to Stamford Bridge – the Argentine coach has been frequently mentioned as Lampard's most likely replacement in recent weeks.
Pochettino didn't succeed at PSG, but during his years at Tottenham, he earned a reputation as a top-notch specialist capable of getting the maximum out of the squad. The Argentine is familiar with the Premier League and London, so adaptation should be fine.
Problem: Low Scoring Efficiency
Solution: Refresh the attacking line-up
"Chelsea" has scored only 36 goals in 36 Premier League matches. Only three teams have scored fewer goals in the league: "Wolverhampton" with 30 goals, "Southampton" with 31 goals, and "Everton" with 32 goals. Two are struggling in the relegation zone, and one has already been relegated. The Blues have tried numerous options, but neither moving Kai Havertz to the center of the attack nor loaning Joao Felix from "Atletico" have yielded results.
It's worth moving the German back to his natural position and allowing him to focus on his direct responsibilities. At the same time, the Portuguese would be better off returning to Madrid to improve his relationship with Diego Simeone. Romelu Lukaku will return to London from "Inter" in the summer, but the Belgian striker has been a shadow of himself in his second season.
In a couple of days, the forward will turn 30, so such a striker is unlikely to be suitable for the long-term perspective of a young, developing team. Another high-profile striker in the squad is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The 33-year-old Gabonese unexpectedly started in the match against "Arsenal" but was substituted at halftime. Forty-five minutes were enough to understand that the striker is comfortable with his hefty salary but lacks regular playing practice.
Partly, the Blues have already addressed the issue - 25-year-old Christopher Nkunku from "Leipzig" will join the team in the summer. The striker has been shining in the Bundesliga and Champions League for several seasons, with every transfer window sparking rumors of an imminent move to a higher level. During the current season, the clubs agreed on the transfer, so at least one top-class forward will be added to Chelsea.
Timo Werner followed the same path a couple of years ago, and it's not hard to remember how his career at Stamford Bridge ended. Relying on one player is not advisable, so the Londoners must enter the market for at least one additional forward. An ideal candidate is Victor Osimhen, who recently helped "Napoli" win their first Scudetto in three decades.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is the main obstacle to the Nigerian's transfer. The official has already stated that he will not let the striker go anywhere this summer, but he says the same thing every time clubs with deep pockets come for any of the team's leaders. The second nuance is the player's desire to play in the Champions League.
Problem: Bloated squad
Solution: Get rid of dead weight
Bouli indulged so much in shopping that there wasn't enough space for newcomers in the old dressing room. The first team of Chelsea consists of thirty players, and the 2022/2023 season should teach Todd the apparent lesson - in football, quantity rarely translates into quality.
The effect was predictable: too many players don't feel happy due to their rare appearances on the field. They are unwilling to exert themselves in training, knowing their chances of game practice are critically low. Managing such a massive squad is impossible: you either develop optimal interactions between players and their immediate substitutes or try to give each player time. But this is not youth football; the main thing is victory, not participation.
Another incentive is the financial fair play restrictions, which will squeeze Chelsea even harder without Champions League revenue. The club has spent over €600 million throughout two transfer windows, so Chelsea must earn decently from sales to comply with all the regulations. The American owner has found sporting directors during the season - Paul Winstanley and Lawrence Stewart are set for a busy offseason.
Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are likely to be among the candidates for departure, considering their contractual situation and lack of playing time. Selling these players is unlikely to earn the club more than €100 million, so they will also have to part with more valuable assets.
Next on the list are Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mason Mount, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Mateo Kovacic. Chelsea would prefer to keep these four, but Mount and Kovacic's contracts expire in the summer of 2024, and Kepa and Koulibaly earn disproportionately for their on-field contributions. Since Denis Zakaria and Joao Felix will almost certainly return to their respective clubs, the number of departures could reach double digits.