Pre-season parsimony is proving costly for Chelsea
Out of form Chelsea are paying the price for pre-season preparations made with one eye on the impending Financial Fair Play Regulations. The club sanctioned the departures of Deco, Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Juliano Beletti and Joe Cole which might have significantly reduced the wage bill but also robbed the squad of some much needed experience and strength in depth.
Roman Abramovich’s stated desire has always been for Chelsea to eventually break even and the lavish spending sprees which Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho once embarked upon appear to be a thing of the past.
Only two players, Yossi Benayoun and Ramires, arrived in the summer and this new found austerity has had a decidedly detrimental effect on a team who are currently without a win in five Premier League games.
Sir Alex Ferguson pinpointed the pre-season departures as having precipitated Chelsea’s unexpected recent slump,
“Ballack’s contract came to an end. Belletti’s contract came to an end. They have been replacing these players with younger ones such as Sturridge and McEachran. So maybe that’s why their results have been erratic. Their plan was always to start introducing younger players and I think that’s a good thing but it can backfire if you get injuries,” he said.
Ferguson has kept peripheral players such as John O’Shea and Wes Brown on the books at Old Trafford for years because he knows that their experience will prove invaluable in the event of an injury crisis. The Manchester United manager is too astute to start releasing his more mature players on the off chance that someone will emerge from the academy to replace them.
Football is a meritocracy and manager’s will almost always pick the best players available to them. Chelsea did not have to sell any of their existing players to faciliatate the introduction of a 20 year old John Terry into the first team. The emergence of the precocious centre half ultimately allowed the club to release Frank Lebeouf but not until after Terry had established himself as a first team regular.
Had Josh McEachran proved himself to be a more proficient player than either Ballack or Deco his manager would have had no hesitation in selecting him ahead of his more experienced midfielders. While the 17 year old might be an outstanding prospect Ancelotti is obviously not convinced that he is ready for the rigours of regular first team football.
Attempting to accelerate the progression of players like McEachran by culling the squad of several of its veterans has not proved a successful strategy. It has left Chelsea struggling to cope in the aftermath of injuries to key personnel including Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Terry.
Ballack might no longer have been a guaranteed starter but his services would have proved invaluable in the absence of Lampard. Carvalho could not resist the lure of Mourinho’s Real Madrid but Ancelotti clearly erred in allowing one of the world’s most outstanding defenders to leave and making no effort to find a replacement.
Despite a defensive injury crisis Jeffrey Bruma, a centre back, has yet to make a single Premier League start for Chelsea this season. Instead Ancelotti has preferred to entrust Paulo Ferreira at the heart of his defence, a role the full back looks far from comfortable in. If anything the absence of Carvalho has potentially damaged Bruma’s development by highlighting just how little faith the manager currently has in him.
A meaningless final Champion’s League group game away to Marseille should have provided the perfect opportunity for Ancelotti to blood some of his aspiring youngsters. It is telling that only McEachran was entrusted with a starting role while Gael Kukuta, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma and Daniel Sturridge were all consigned to the substitutes bench. A morale boosting win was the order of the day and the Chelsea manager clearly didn’t feel that his young players were capable of providing it.
It is rare for teenagers to break into a Premier League side and prodigious players such as Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere are the exceptions which prove the rule. Ancelotti does not appear to be in possession of any youngsters of this calibre and the vacuum which the pre season departures created in the squad has yet to be satisfactorily filled.
Chelsea’s attempt to balance the books and expedite the introduction of the younger players has adversely effected the fortunes of their first team. The injury crisis may be coming to an end but what was starting to look like an unasaillable lead at the top of the table has already been eroded.
The injury problems appear to be easing but with 12 points dropped in the build up to the festive period Chelsea could yet come to rue the decision to play Scrooge.
Picture: Gett ImagesTagged in: Carlo Ancelotti, chelsea, Financial Fair Play, football, roman abramovich, transfer
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