Stamford Bridge is using a smart transfer plan, and teams like Manchester United should pay attention.
We don’t know yet if Chelsea’s choice to focus on promising players instead of experienced ones will lead to success. However, one part of their strategy in signing players under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital’s ownership deserves recognition.
Manchester United can gain valuable lessons from the decisiveness shown. Erik ten Hag has often mentioned his goal of enhancing the club’s culture since he became the manager at Old Trafford. However, this sounds familiar to what Frank Lampard expressed when he took over as Chelsea’s interim manager last April. Lampard, known for his commitment during his playing days, was surprised by the decline in training standards. Chelsea, with a squad that had too many unhappy players, had to take action.
Last summer, a fresh start was needed. Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley, the co-sporting directors, took charge of the cleanup and weren’t hesitant to let go of many experienced players.
The decision to sell Mason Mount, who hasn’t made a mark at United yet, showed Chelsea’s determination. They were practical about it. Some players had high salaries, others were past their prime, and some were unhappy and needed a change. Chelsea responded by selling several players, including Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kalidou Koulibaly, Édouard Mendy, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mateo Kovacic, Kai Havertz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and César Azpilicueta. N’Golo Kanté left on a free transfer, and Hakim Ziyech, Kepa Arrizabalaga, and Romelu Lukaku went on loan.
So, how do those decisions appear now? Chelsea faced criticism for letting go of experienced players, but do they have any regrets? Perhaps only Kovacic, who has mostly been a substitute for Manchester City, and Havertz, who has had inconsistent performances for Arsenal, have moved on to more significant opportunities.
Chelsea aimed to trim their wage bill and build for the future, and now they don’t need to second-guess. Mauricio Pochettino has inherited a young and promising squad that he can shape into his vision. Despite being 10th and having inconsistent results, Chelsea’s true story isn’t fully captured by the standings. Pochettino is optimistic about his team’s performances. While some may question the approach of acquiring young talent, it’s inaccurate to say Chelsea lacks a plan. They do have a plan, and they believe it will be successful.
The difference in situations between Ten Hag and Pochettino is clear. United has secured hard-fought victories and sits five points ahead of Chelsea before their Wednesday night match. However, Ten Hag is the manager facing pressure. It’s not Pochettino who has to dismiss reports of disagreements in the dressing room.
Thinking back to last summer, Ten Hag showed his authority by parting ways with Cristiano Ronaldo the previous season. However, it has been more challenging to move out other players who don’t quite fit. With uncertainty coming from the top of the club, the balance of power has changed.
In the past, a player’s time at United would end when Sir Alex Ferguson decided. Last summer, though, United couldn’t sell Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay, even though they were out of favor and had interest from West Ham. Anthony Martial, who has consistently disappointed, is still with the team on a significant salary. Jadon Sancho has been excluded after a clash with Ten Hag. There are too many players not contributing. The question remains: why is Victor Lindelöf still part of the club?
The situation doesn’t contribute positively to the team spirit. It also adds challenges for United in planning for the future. As Sir Jim Ratcliffe awaits the opportunity to buy a stake in the club, he might want to consider observing how Chelsea approached their rebuilding process.