How 'embarrassing' Chelsea can stop the farce: Keep Todd Boehly away, appoint a manager ASAP & play to your strengths!
Todd Boehly was right in his dressing room takedown of his expensively assembled squad following the meek defeat to Brighton: Chelsea are indeed embarrassing.
A year on from the chaos of the sanctions imposed on the club and Roman Abramovich's subsequent sale of his beloved asset, few would have predicted that Chelsea would be in an even more grim situation under Boehly and co-owner Behdad Eghbali.
Despite the £600 million ($747m) they have spent across two transfer windows, Chelsea are in 11th place in the Premier League and out of the Champions League with a whimper. They have lost each of interim manager Frank Lampard's four games to date - their worst run since November 1993.
The end of the season cannot come soon enough.
GOAL breaks down what needs to happen for the Blues to prevent this deep malaise seeping into the next campaign...
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Keep Boehly out of the dressing room
Boehly's aforementioned dressing room tirade and the subsequent fallout has done Chelsea absolutely no favours.
It was no secret that the American and co-owner Behdad Eghbali went to see the players following the hugely disappointing defeat to Brighton on Saturday. In fact, it's said they do so after most matches. But it's concerning that what was said behind closed doors so quickly became public.
Labelling the situation "embarrassing" is one thing, but a leak revealing that one player was singled out and berated for their performance is not a good look. It signals severe fractures behind closed doors, with people willing to privately undercut each other while publicly pledging to help reverse this disastrous season.
It's hardly surprising that that an unnamed new signing has been left disillusioned by the whole affair.
Whether or not Boehly is right in his assessment, such a hands-on approach is rarely likely to go down well in a dressing room full of established stars and egos - even if they are on his payroll. Boehly must acknowledge the fact that he is still new to the world of football and new to the players; their respect must be earned too.
Abramovich was a master of hands-off ruthlessness, lurking in the shadows until he was absolutely required to act (in his eyes, at least). Boehly needs to learn that, in this difficult period, his presence and attempted motivation could be more of a hindrance than a help - something Arsene Wenger will attest to.
Boehly must tone it down
By the same token, Boehly really needs to maintain his cool in the stands when he is at Stamford Bridge to watch the game.
While supporters will have no problem with his passion, the co-owner struggles to hide his emotions when things aren't going his side's way - often seen with his head in his hands as a costly purchase struggles or even playing games on his phone when things get a bit dull.
However, matters got out of hand after the Brighton game when he was caught on camera arguing with one particularly upset off fan who had clearly had enough.
The optics of confronting a disgruntled supporter aren't good, and it's rarely a discussion that will end in a handshake and doff of the cap. This is an instance where it's best to keep your mouth shut and your head down.
The same can be said of when he is approached by the media in public. His very brave 3-0 prediction before the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid was always likely to backfire.
Appoint a manager NOW
Lampard could be forgiven for losing his first game back in the Chelsea dugout, the 1-0 defeat at Wolves, after he had had barely 24 hours to work with the players. However, three games and three defeats later with just one goal scored, alarm bells should be ringing for the Chelsea hierarchy following the questionable decision to appoint him on an interim basis.
It has been reported that the coach has avoided tactical training sessions, instead focusing on attempting to rouse each individual and inspire some belief in his players. While that approach is perhaps understandable, it has been reflected in the performances under Lampard's stewardship so far - especially when things start going wrong, as they so often have.
Chelsea are so, so susceptible to completely losing their composure and tactical structure when the going gets tough, and Lampard does not have a demonstrable track record of overcoming that kind of mental block.
The Blues' season is now effectively over; they will not qualify for the Champions League and stand very little chance of securing European football of any form for next season.
However, they can still salvage some respect and stand themselves in good stead for pre-season and the new campaign if they act now and appoint one of their leading managerial targets. More talks are planned with Julian Nagelsmann and Mauricio Pochettino, although Luis Enrique is not at the forefront of the hierarchy's thinking.
Notably, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag would have loved more time with his team before being hired ahead of this season, as the Red Devils were putrid out of the gates before he could impress his vision on his players.
Striking swiftly would give the new Blues coach a good chunk of time to get to grips with the squad, whip them into shape and implement their ideas before devising a transfer strategy at the end of the season. It could avoid a poor start to 2023-24.
If that is deemed impossible, the ownership could at least provide some stability by settling on their next manager; the process has been drawn out behind the scenes and has surely become something of a distraction.
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Play to your strengths
This is a line that has been repeated time and time again in recent weeks: Chelsea must stick to a back three.
While they have shown promise in brief periods of Lampard's tenure in a back-four shape, there is no question that this set of players are accustomed to - and perhaps best suited to - a back three.
It's undoubtedly a tactical set-up that brings the best out of their outstanding player, Reece James, and their best recent performances - against Liverpool under Bruno Saltor, before Ben Chilwell's red card against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, and in the first half of the second leg on Wednesday night - have all come in a formation featuring three centre-backs.
Despite the vaguely encouraging first-half display, the line-up deployed by Lampard in the second leg was questionable, as their best chances fell to N'Golo Kante while the majority of their attacking players warmed the bench.
With nothing to play for, Lampard must stick to a back three for the Premier League run-in and work out the best personnel to fulfil the individual roles.
Trim down the squad immediately
Indeed, personnel now becomes one of the key priorities for whoever is in charge between now and the end of the season, alongside co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart.
Chelsea's bloated squad has been a well-publicised hindrance this season as the club's owners spent big across the two transfer windows and too few were shown the exit. There could be serious financial implications on the horizon if the club doesn't act as soon as possible to hack away some deadwood and trim the wage bill.
Ex-manager Graham Potter failed to juggle the 31-strong group in training, and veteran centre-back Thiago Silva - who has seen it all in his glittering career - was scathing of the situation following the Blues' European exit to Los Blancos.
"We had to increase the size of the changing room because it didn’t fit the size of the squad," he said. "There is always going to be someone upset because not everyone can play. The manager can only pick 11 from a squad of 30-something – that’s tough. Some can’t make the squad, we signed eight in January, we need to stop and put a strategy in place otherwise next season we could make the same mistakes."
With nothing to play for, the Blues are now in a position where they should act ruthlessly with those members of the squad who have no intention of remaining at the club beyond the summer, as well as those who should be considered surplus to requirements.
There is a long list of names who could be exiled for the remaining month of the campaign and sold in the summer if the club really want to start building for the 2023-24 season in earnest, while Joao Felix and Denis Zakaria have not done enough to see their loan moves made permanent.