Danny Drinkwater is unhappy with his minimal role at Chelsea, and Monaco may be interested in reclaiming Tiemoue Bakayoko. Unfortunately Chelsea do not have the people in place to make these and other personnel decisions.
Given the state of relations between the United Kingdom and Russia, plus the impact of the United States on the global natural gas market, Roman Abramovich should have more serious business to attend to than taking a “more hands on” approach to Chelsea’s transfer activity.
Simply for his own sake, let alone that of his club, he needs a technical director to handle matters such as Danny Drinkwater’s dissatisfaction and Monaco’s second look at Tiemoue Bakayoko. Or if not a technical director, he needs to give Chelsea a firm expectation of who will be managing next season.
Then again, maybe Abramovich is like the rest of us and uses football as an escape. But instead of watching and commenting, he buys, hires and fires to distract himself from geopolitics and commodity markets. Whatever his motivations, Abramovich needs to fill out his footballing staff.
The Guardian reports Chelsea are in danger of losing two midfielders this summer. Danny Drinkwater is coming to regret his move from Leicester. Having missed the first nine games of the Premier League season with an injury, he did not start until November 25.
Since then he has only had four more starts along with a few appearances off the bench. Five other times he stayed on the bench, and for three games he was not in the matchday squad.
The same article also notes Monaco may wish to buy back Tiemoue Bakayoko. Bakayoko has had much more playing time, but has hardly enjoyed his first year at Chelsea. For whatever reasons, Bakayoko’s performance is totally between his ears. He can have a strong game and pair well with N’Golo Kante.
Then after committing a single mistake, he crumbles and his performance ranges from invisible to actively detrimental to the Blues.
On paper, Chelsea are well-equipped in midfield. However, beyond N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas, the Blues are quite thin. Bakayoko has only played two minutes since the Watford fiasco on February 5.
Chelsea cannot sell either midfielder without having their replacement lined up, or perhaps already at the team. The Blues already enter every transfer window in a poor negotiating position given their history and the predicaments they always seem to create for themselves.
Making a sale that removes their nominal depth will make them look even more desperate, and therefore more ripe for manipulation and extortion.
At the same time, if Chelsea buy a new midfielder they will fully alienate whoever remains. These are the sort of man-management and squad-building decisions that require close communication between the technical director and the manager. Chelsea do not have the former, and are in a swirl of uncertainty for the latter.
Roman Abramovich may know how to make deals and write checks, but he does not know how to build or maintain a football squad. For all of his faults, Michael Emenalo at least had a plan and executed it. Antonio Conte has a plan and a vision, if anyone at Stamford Bridge cares to listen and help him execute it.
Chelsea have star players like Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois demanding either a new contract or a marquee transfer this summer. They have loanees like Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma ready to take their place as a first-team Blue. They have long-term leaders like Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill who cannot be neglected out of convenience and distraction.
Then there are the transfer targets like N’Golo Kante, Willian and Kenedy. Don’t forget the unhappy under-performing stars like Alvaro Morata. And they have players who they need to move along, like David Luiz, Pedro and any number of long-term loanees.
Now, in Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko, they have players who can fill any role from Premier League starter to domestic cup depth potentially looking for a way out. If the Blues are not careful they could enter August with a paper-thin squad.
These issues are too complicated, too interconnected and too personal for any non-professional like Roman Abramovich to handle. Each of them require the deft touch and years of experience that only a technical director and head coach – preferably working in tandem – can provide.
Mid-April is already too late to hire a new technical director to execute a successful summer window. If Abramovich hires one now, the best that person could do is support the manager implicitly. But Chelsea do not even know who their manager will be in a few months. And even if they do have their manager in Antonio Conte, they have not empowered him in these areas.
The Blues do not have the people in place to address these concerns, let alone head them off. If the club had a vision for transfers and player development, and integrated that vision with the coach’s strategy, these issues may never have come up. Now that they have, they are addressing them in the two worst ways possible: without any leaders, or with the absolute wrong one.
Chelsea owe their players a technical director and a stable coach. Roman Abramovich owes his club the same. He cannot do this job himself. If his hubris leads him to try, west London truly will have fallen.