CITYZENDuck: Chelsea have long been a club that grabs headlines. That may be even more true this season. New owner, transfer spending records, managerial change. What has it been like following the club through so many plot twists?
Dávid Pásztor: Indeed, there’s never a boring day at Chelsea, as we like to say, but the last 12-18 months have taken that to a whole new level. From winning the Champions League, to breaking club transfer records, to sanctions, to a forced change in ownership, to a surprise sacking, we’ve just about had it all, and then some.
Sometimes, all we wish for is a normal day.
That said, you take the good with the bad and enjoy the good times while you can. The future seems as unclear as it’s been in decades, and that’s scary but also exciting in a way.
CD: New man Graham Potter had gotten off to a decent enough start but the side have collected just one point from their last 4 Premier League matches. Can we attribute the recent slide to quality of opponent, pace of fixtures, or are there deeper concerns?
DP: It’s been a combination of all those, but there are some deeper concerns as well. Potter’s initial results took full advantage of lucky breaks from the opposition but as it often happens with luck, those have run out. Injuries have piled up, losing multiple key players. Tactics have been all over the place. Manchester United, Brighton, and Arsenal have exposed that facade and what’s been revealed underneath has not been pretty.
Concerns about the squad’s makeup and age-profile have been growing for years, but the club have lacked a coherent plan to address it beyond just throwing more money at the problem. The new owners have identified fixing this as one of their primary objectives, but so far all we’ve seen is more ad-hoc decision-making. Chelsea are in the process of hiring proper technical and sporting directors, and player recruitment experts (often chasing after candidates with City Football Group or Red Bull experience), but all of that will take time and patience and we’re not exactly used to giving or having either.
Recent results have also raised some questions about Graham Potter’s suitability for the job, and his ability to manage a team with greater than mid-table expectations, pressures, drama. And that’s perhaps an even greater concern, given his long contract and the new owners’ apparent trust in his managerial skills. Perhaps he will grow into it, assuming there’s time for that.
CD: The London Blues are 5-time winners of the League Cup but haven’t lifted the trophy since 2015. Certainly, Potter will be keen to get his hands on some silverware as soon as possible, but how important is this third-round tie for the club?
DP: Well we did make the final last season and in 2019 as well, losing on penalties both times but at least underlining our general intention to try to win every trophy. Or at least that’s what the singular focus used to be under Roman Abramovich.
Todd Boehly & Co seem to be operating on longer timelines, different financial realities and priorities, and more complicated metrics of success. We still don’t know how that will translate to what we see on the pitch and what sort of messages we’ll be sending as far as the club’s ambitions are concerned.
It used to be that whenever people talked about Chelsea lacking a footballing “identity” or style, we’d say that our ethos was, simply, winning. No more, no less. Only winning. Not sure how we would answer that question right now. And we’re not quite sure that even meshes with Graham Potter’s philosophy.
Then again, after the last 7-10 days, this game may be more important than most League Cup third round games in recent years.
CD: And finally, what are your predictions for the match at the Etihad on Wednesday evening?
DP: All that said, it’s still just the League Cup, so hopefully we see rotation and some fresh faces from the Academy. I’m personally not particularly worried if we don’t advance, so let’s just enjoy some football maybe and not get embarrassed.