Football is unpredictable.
It shifts rapidly, and gives us twists and turns when we least expect it. Some clubs rise to prominence in the blink of an eye before falling right back down; others dominate for decades and decades with seemingly no end to their success.
Perhaps one of the biggest twists that football has provided in recent years is the sudden downfall of one of the biggest clubs in not just England, but the entire world: Chelsea FC.
The West London-based club is virtually unrecognizable from the one that just 2 years ago lifted a second-ever Champions League trophy. A lot has happened since that famous night in Porto.
Following the completion of the 21/22 season that saw Chelsea finish in a respectable 3rd place, Roman Abramovich’s 20-year reign as club owner came to an unfortunate end.
Todd Boehly and his associates began their ownership reign, which came with many promises of success for the upcoming season.
As it turns out, they were all empty promises. After signing 19 new players, costing the club a combined total of over $760m, the club performed so badly that the club had four head coaches take charge across the 22/23 season.
Despite seeing relative success in the UCL, having won 4 of their 6 group stage games and reaching the quarterfinals, it was still a season to forget. Chelsea finished in an embarrassing 12th place, only winning 11 of 38 games.
So what’s next for the Blues?
One name: Mauricio Pochettino.
The Argentine manager was officially appointed as new Chelsea boss on July 1.
One of his first objectives as manager was to continue trimming down a severely congested first-team squad. Since the transfer window has opened, the club has already done plenty of business, having sold the likes of Kai Havertz, Mateo Kovacic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Meanwhile, players like N’Golo Kante and captain Cesar Azpilicueta left for free.
Arriving in the month of June were forwards Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson.
Since Poch’s first day in the charge, Chelsea have seen many more key departures, including Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and João Félix (end of loan).
The club has been making headlines for all this business, which has had many scratching their heads. The reason primarily lies within Financial Fair Play territory, as well as the general need to raise more funds.
Although many big names have left the club, the overall business has seen Chelsea maintain a net positive throughout this window. Overall, there has been over $278m in profit, while only $122m has been spent on 3 new signings.
And it’s not over yet. After Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Newcastle in their USA preseason tour, Pochettino spoke, saying that the club must be prepared for tough decisions in order to continue creating an ideal, competitive squad.
Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech are rumored to be the next players to leave.
From the looks of it, Boehly’s vision has been clear; to bring Chelsea back to their glory days.
Bringing in a manager of Pochettino’s caliber was a statement, and the club is looking to capitalize on the positive feeling in the team and within the fanbase at the moment.
Although initial promises from the new ownership were left completely unanswered, the mood has shifted a bit this summer. Chelsea are making moves, and difficult decisions have to be made for a big club to be successful.
One of their key targets for most of the summer has been Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but the Seagulls aren’t willing to let him go that easily. A $100m bid for the Ecuadorian international was rejected today.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Chelsea have been somewhat linked to Kylian Mbappe for some weeks now. Just the sheer fact that there has been any talk of signing such a player is testament to their unchanging status as a top club.
Although it’s highly unlikely that they will ever get their hands on the PSG striker, fans can be content knowing that their beloved Blues are shooting for the stars and going after top-tier talent.
In the meantime, it seems like the focus on unleashing the sheer amounts of potential that this current Chelsea squad has.
As of July 27, the average age of the squad is 23.3, with only 4 players 30 or older. These players are Lukaku (30), Ziyech (30), Bettinelli (31) and Thiago Silva (38).
Reece James, arguably the best and most complete right back in the world, will be looked at as someone to help lead the team forward, despite only being 23. He was part of the 2021 lineup that won the Champions League, and despite his recent struggles with injury, he is among Chelsea’s most important figures.
Few veteran players are left in this squad after the recent transfer purge, so naturally, more experienced names like Raheem Sterling (28) will also be looked up to by the rest of the team to set an example.
Meanwhile, Thiago Silva is easily the prime example of experience, being 7 years older than the second-oldest player in the squad, and who was also there for the UCL victory.
Eyes will especially be on players like Mykhaylo Mudryk (22) and Enzo Fernandez (22), who only just arrived last January and have yet to realize their full potential as future Chelsea superstars.
The former will definitely have more pressure on his shoulders, but after scoring a wonderful goal against Brighton less than a week ago, the Ukrainian winger may already have some of that pressure relieved.
New signing Nicolas Jackson, who arrived from Villarreal, is only 22 but broke onto the scene last season, scoring 12 goals across 34 appearances for the Spanish side. He’s impressed thus far for Chelsea in preseason, quickly drawing comparisons to club legend Didier Drogba.
25-year-old Nkunku has also gotten off up and running in his first minutes for Chelsea, scoring twice in three games so far. Plus he tore it up for RB Leipzig in his 4 years at the club, easily making him one of the more exciting signings across Europe.
Of course, there are a number of youth products to be excited about if you’re a Chelsea fan. Levi Colwill, Ian Maatsen (who scored twice vs. Wrexham), Lewis Hall and Cesare Casadei are all getting minutes under their belt in the USA.
Speaking of youth products, Conor Gallagher will be one to watch this coming season. Although it seemed like he was on the way out of the club, Pochettino has come out to say that he is counting on the 23-year-old for the 23/24 season.
Chelsea may not see an immediate rise back to the level they should be at, but it’s no doubt that the vision for the future is starting to get less foggy.
While it isn’t the route that most fans would have probably preferred, they can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that management has decided to shake things up a bit.
The era of Roman Abramovich is over, and his exit came with the departures of many long-serving club personnel across nearly every department. Major changes like this make a huge impact, so it’s no wonder Chelsea suffered the way they did last season.
As unusual as it is, it makes sense that a new ownership group that isn’t entirely familiar with the game of football would struggle at first. Boehly and Co. made questionable decisions that directly affected the results on the pitch.
From sacking Tuchel 5 days after the transfer window closed to instilling heavy trust into an inexperienced Graham Potter, eventually leaving Frank Lampard to pick up his scraps and attempt to do the impossible against Real Madrid; it’s no question that much of the blame should be handed to Boehly.
But, like all things in life, patience is required. Back in May, it was reported that Boehly would be stepping down from day-to-day responsibilities at the club. Smart decision that seems as though it’s working.
Simply put, this rebuild is entirely necessary.
With the new Premier League season just 2 weeks away, Chelsea still have time to refine their promising squad in order to prove to the world that last season was just a fluke.