Todd Boehly and his plans for Chelsea lack a clear blueprint | THT Opinions

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve it.

Todd Boehly certainly has big ambitions for Chelsea and will want to outdo the Roman Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge. For now, he has got two aspects right — spending huge wads of cash on players and playing Russian roulette with managers.

Sacking Thomas Tuchel was never a popular decision and threatened to destabilise a side that needed a facelift. Graham Potter certainly had huge shoes to fill. But managing a team such as Chelsea proved to be a bridge too far for the Englishman.

The 47-year-old’s reign in London lasted just short of seven months. And a run of just 12 wins in 31 games across all competitions certainly failed to inspire confidence. With a top-four finish looking increasingly unlikely, Potter’s head was always going to be on the chopping block. But pulling the plug on him mere months after pulling all stops to land his services was unexpected.

Chelsea, at this moment in time, appear to be in the midst of a simulation of football manager. A lot is happening at the club without much progress being apparent. The buck, however, does not start or stop with Boehly. We take a look at some of the issues plaguing the American’s reign at Chelsea football club.

Lack of a winning culture

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve it
Roman Abramovich brought a winning mentality into the Chelsea squad. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

Todd Boehly is not new to owning sports teams. He owns a stake in the Major League Baseball outfit Los Angeles Dodgers and Women’s NBA side Los Angeles Sparks. The American businessman also acquired a 27% stake in the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021.

Success on the field has been modest to be fair. The Dodgers won the World Series in 2020, while the Sparks won the WNBA title in 2016. The Lakers failed to build on their NBA title in 2020 and are today miles off from challenging for the Championship.

The Dodgers are easily the best performers among Boehly’s sports acquisitions. They regularly dominate the National League West, but the inability to add more world crowns to the tally is certainly a sore spot.

Boehly’s interest in Chelsea is not new, and he failed with an attempt to purchase the club back in 2019. He ultimately got what he wanted three years on and has, to his credit, bankrolled transfers that even dwarf Roman Abramovich’s commitment to the club.

But the lack of a vision and structure is quite apparent both on and off the field. The mass cull of employees behind the scenes, especially in leadership roles, following Boehly’s acquisition have certainly led to a lack of continuity when it comes to decision-making.

The American way of doing things also might not translate to Chelsea as expected. Outsourcing medical work to a private physiotherapy company or calling for all-stars games in the Premier League reflects a poor understanding of the culture he is trying to buy into.

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve itt.
John Henry has made all the right moves since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images)

Speaking in his opening months as Chelsea owner, Boehly admitted to being clueless about football, and it shows. The fact that he continues to be personally involved in several avenues adds to the aura that the club is being run as an autocracy rather than as an organisation.

Whether it be FSG at Liverpool or KSG at Arsenal, among others, all American conglomerates have made mistakes in the past. However, to their credit, they have learnt from their experiences and are more in tune with the culture of their respective clubs.

More so, FSG have prior experience in rebuilding teams such as the Boston Red Sox, while KSG have won the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, a team in Boehly’s backyard and are steadily turning the Denver Nuggets into NBA Championship contenders. Perhaps ironically, the star player on Boehly’s LA Lakers side, Lebron James is a minority stakeholder in Liverpool and not Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel recently spoke of how the club has changed since Boehly took over. Surely there is more to it than meets the eye.

Transfer strategy and squad building

While Chelsea spent money under Roman Abramovich, it was not just thrown around carelessly. Todd Boehly has more or less provided the club with an empty chequebook since taking over and does not appear to be averse to paying over the odds to land players.

While watching your club sign players makes for great viewing for fans, the lack of a plan calls into question the long-term sustainability of the club’s finances. The club has spent over $600 million in securing players over the last two windows and have also broken the English record to sign World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez.

The Chelsea squad did need an overhaul. But the oversaturation of new signings could betray the balance in the roster. Signing several players for the sake of it is never a solution and often tends to blow up in one’s face.

Tottenham found that the hard way following Gareth Bale’s exit, and Liverpool, too, struggled to get it right post-Luis Suarez’s departure. The latter in time got their act together and have shown a remarkable resolve to wait until the right player is available for a transfer.

Chelsea will not need to do something so extreme but will be well-advised to have a clear strategy. Despite signing some big names and promising talents, the Blues are still short of a top-class striker and perhaps two more defenders. It is perhaps damning that the club has spent bucket loads and has far from plugged their inadequacies.

The likes of Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly have been far from stellar. And it remains to be seen if they have a future at the club. Chelsea could struggle to recoup what they paid for the duo as the former is not the player he once was, while the latter is in his twilight years.

Chelsea also appear to have picked up a reactionary streak given their approach for Frenkie de Jong and Mykhailo Mudryk. They missed out on the former and had to pay a king’s ransom to land the latter. One could question if Chelsea would have gone big for Enzo Fernandez had he failed to impress at the World Cup.

Mudryk has so far been a bust, while another big-money signing Wesley Fofana continues to struggle with injuries. Fernandez is yet to stand out while the less said about Marc Cucurella the better. Are Chelsea better today than they were at the end of 2021/22? We are not so sure. The Chelsea squad is certainly bloated. And with Romelu Lukaku returning, decisions will need to be made in the summer.

Poor understanding of the finances

Chelsea’s massive outlay in the transfer market is not without its risks. The club have thrown money at several top players and landed them on long-term deals. While amortisation does help the club bend UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, the approach could come back to bite them should the players fail to perform. It certainly did not help Juventus, who were docked 15 points earlier this campaign. 

That will not just reduce their impact on the team but also make it difficult for the Blues to recoup any fee if they want to move the players on. Six of Chelsea’s top 10 earners at this point in time were signed under Boehly’s oversight and represent another area that requires attention. Given that Chelsea’s wage bill in 2021/22 was over $400 million, one can only imagine what it is now. Handing eight-and-a-half-year deals to Mudryk and Fernandez does not do the club any favours should they flop either. 

Chelsea are currently in grave danger of missing out on next season’s UEFA Champions League. Should that happen, the club will forfeit the $87 million they typically earn from playing in Europe’s top competition. This could bring into play any potential clauses the club has in their sponsorship deals.

More so, the shirt sponsorship deal with telecommunications company Three expires at the end of the campaign. The organisation were less than supportive of the club following the UK government’s decision to impose sanctions on Roman Abramovich. With Champions League football also unlikely to be on the table, it could seriously hamper Chelsea’s chances of securing top dollar from a new shirt sponsor heading into the 2023/24 season.

More so, failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League will also see Chelsea breach FFP regulations. Surely that should see the club hit the brakes on their lavish spending come next summer.

Chelsea also paid around $26.5 million in compensation to Brighton to land Potter to Stamford Bridge and around $16 million in compensation to Thomas Tuchel. They also have to settle the former’s contract following his recent dismissal. Surely there is no endless pit of money at Cobham.

More so, Stamford Bridge is only the eighth-biggest stadium in the Premier League in terms of capacity. The likes of Arsenal and Tottenham have built new stadiums in recent years, while the Anfield redevelopment has also helped Liverpool bring in more revenue. Chelsea, for their part, have not kept up and could fall further behind in terms of matchday collections once Liverpool’s new stand is completed ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve it.
Sacking Thomas Tuchel has seen Chelsea spend a small fortune and get nowhere. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Unlike American sports, where there is no threat of relegation, European football provides teams with the opportunity to rise to the top of the pyramid provided sound investment is made. But it can also go the other way around.

Chelsea will do well to heed the experiences of Leeds United in the early 2000s and to a lesser degree, Everton recently. Both clubs spent freely but were unable to back it up with success on the field. Chelsea will do well to avoid that trap, especially given Boehly’s lack of knowledge regarding the European game if some gossip columns are to be believed.

A summer clearout should help the Blues recoup some fees. But Mount has just a year to go on his current deal, while Kante could walk on a free. Chelsea have been quite generous when it comes to paying for transfers under Boehly. But the American could soon discover that other clubs might not share the same approach when it comes to signing Blues stars.

An unclear identity

Despite Chelsea’s splurges under Abramovich, they often maintained their core with players such as Frank Lampard and John Terry among others. These academy graduates not only knew what it felt like to wear the Blue shirt, but also helped incoming players connect with the traditions and culture.

The same cannot be said of the current side. Only one player from last night’s starting XI against Liverpool was a Cobham graduate, Reece James. The Englishman will face competition for his spot from Malo Gusto next season. And one can argue that the latter is not arriving at the Bridge to play second fiddle.

Mason Mount appeared set to dominate the Chelsea midfield for years to come but has fallen from grace this season. His contract extension is far from resolved. And unless Chelsea are willing to yield to his demands, he could be off to Liverpool or elsewhere.

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve it.
Chelsea lack players who get what it takes to wear the Blue jersey. (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Other Cobham graduates like Conor Gallagher and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s futures at the club are also far from secure, while Trevoh Chalobah will have fallen down the pecking order following the arrivals of Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Benoit Badiashile. Reece James is attracting interest from Real Madrid, while Armando Broja is far from assured of a key role, especially if Chelsea signs another striker next summer.

It is not always necessary for only local players to understand the club as N’Golo Kante, Thiago Silva, and Cesar Azpilicueta have all bled Blue. But then, none of the three veterans are getting any younger and could soon be on their way from the club.

With a new manager also set to arrive, it begs the question of what vision and culture the club will want to implement in the years to come. A reboot might not be a bad idea, but will it be in line with the club’s ethos is the question? Chelsea will do well to avoid turning into a ship that lacks a captain to steer it.

The manager merry-go-round

Chelsea’s decision to sack Thomas Tuchel earlier in the campaign has been outdone by their sacking of Graham Potter last week. The fact that they went through the trouble to bring in the latter only to not even have him see out the campaign speaks volumes of the planning in the background.

Thankfully for the Blues, several top managers are currently available in the market should they decide to take the plunge. Luis Enrique, Julian Nagelsmann, Zinedine Zidane, Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino are all unemployed and could be considered for the role.

Moving for Nagelsmann makes the most sense given that he has already worked with Christopher Vivell at RB Leipzig and could reignite the connection at the Bridge. However, the German is not a free agent and is on contract at Bayern until 2026 despite his sacking. Chelsea will need to negotiate with the German giants, who ironically have employed Tuchel to replace the 35-year-old.

Todd Boehly wants Chelsea to succeed but does not appear to have a plan to achieve it.
Graham Potter was always on borrowed time at Chelsea. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Whoever is eventually entrusted with the keys to the Bridge will need to be on a similar wavelength with Boehly and Co. Right now, the club lacks a long-term vision, and the new manager must bring just that. Signing on the wrong person will only continue this loop of rebuilding without taking the club any further.

Liverpool put Jurgen Klopp in the seat back in 2015, and the owner took a backseat to allow the German to get the job done. That has, to their credit, worked wonders. Will Chelsea be willing to do the same? Boehly likes his moment under the sun. But it might be time for him to take a step back and let the informed decision-makers run the club.

The fans

Chelsea fans appear to be fine with who is in charge as long as money is thrown at signings. Over the last two decades, the club has enjoyed much success built on the back of throwing money at the problem and replacing managers on a whim. To their credit, it has largely worked. But it also creates a lack of understanding of employing a long-term vision at the club.

The fans will be privy to it should they not embrace the setbacks as much as the success. Turning on managers when results go against them is easy. And given Boehly’s reactionary style of leadership, it could force his hand into making hasty decisions that can upset the Applecart. Patience is a virtue that Chelsea fans will do well to inculcate.

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