There is much uncertainty at the moment at Chelsea. Plans for a new stadium have been shelved, Antonio Conte’s future is in limbo, and to top matters off, their owner isn’t allowed in the country.
Facing a first-ever group stage appearance in the Europa League, just a year after winning the title, there seems to be a gloom around Stamford Bridge, despite their FA Cup win in what was more than likely Conte’s last game.
And it’s not just at the top of the club. Chelsea’s academy talent is much heralded, and with Jody Morris going to Derby to assist Frank Lampard, they have now lost a man that played such a big role in developing these players.
The notion of stability has become a bit of a cliché, but in this hectic period, Chelsea could do with a stabiliser in the dugout to ensure that there is no slump in on the pitch matters. Laurent Blanc has proved he has the capabilities to be just that man.
Laurent Blanc was never really a fully respected figure while in Paris. This seems baffling considering he had already won the treble in France with Bordeaux, and winning 11 trophies in three years at PSG, not to mention what an outstanding player he was.
It was well documented at the time that Blanc wasn’t PSG’s first choice by any stretch. But in his three years, he successfully managed a team full of huge egos, with difficult mercurial characters like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Serge Aurier to keep in check, also reaching the Champions League quarter-finals in all three years
Appearing as a statesmanlike figure, Blanc offers an alternative to the turbo-charged extrovert personalities of Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho. He also possesses the tactical nous to get Chelsea playing attractive attacking, and most importantly to their supporters, winning football to Stamford Bridge.
Too much too soon
Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli team have rightly been heralded for the exhilarating brand of football, with his side passing and moving with such panache and laser-like knowledge of where they and their teammates should be.
Sarri had his players drilled to within an inch of their lives. That is how this kind of innovative attacking football comes to fruition, it’s the same with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Reuters/CIRO DE LUCA
But as Guardiola’s first season at City showed, even with fantastic players, this style of football takes a lot of time to develop. It needs hours of work on the training field with players that are absolutely committed to what they are trying to achieve.
Sarri, like Conte, is also known for using a core of very few players. His training is exhausting mentally and physically.
With a World Cup eating into preseason, and the uncertainty off the pitch, this is not the summer for revolution. And with a dressing room notorious for mutiny, Sarri represents a gamble not worth taking in this situation.
That’s not to say the Italian won’t be worth gambling on in the future, but with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis not budging on a release package, it is not worth pursuing this summer.
Taking Chelsea into a new era
Another cliché fast growing momentum is that of Chelsea needing to give their wonderfully gifted academy graduates a chance in their first team. But it’s true. With Roman Abramovich reining-in funding, using the players they have invested so much time in developing is a no-brainer.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah could have contributed more than Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley did this season and could have saved Chelsea £55 million in the process.
Perhaps then, this money could have been used to secure one of Conte’s top targets like Alex Sandro, rather than settling on bringing in Emerson Palmieri.
In that position, Chelsea also have an extremely gifted academy player called Juan Castillo, who despite being just 18, has proved himself to be one of the most gifted players Chelsea’s esteemed academy have had in recent years.
Even at a club run on a philosophy of signing superstars for big money like PSG, Laurent Blanc was able to bring Adrien Rabiot through to the first team squad, as well as giving debuts to the likes of Kingsley Coman, Presnel Kimpembe, and Christopher Nkunku.
Blanc could be the perfect man to lead a transition at Chelsea. With the days of splurging big money on the very best players probably behind them, using a model of bringing through young professionals and improving existing players with good coaching is the way forward.
Most Chelsea fans value winning at all costs over everything, but a shift towards a more possession-based style of football, with a lot more attacking intent than the 3-5-1-1 deployed in the difficult last few months of Conte’s reign could be a welcome change, beckoning in a new era at the club.
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