By Kieran Lovelock
Have you ever seen someone take drastic steps to try and benefit themselves in the short term only to suffer as a consequence of their actions later on?
In 2003 Roman Abramovich entered the world of football and altered the way in which the transfer market and football managers operate forever, but is now ironically suffering because of it.
For by entering the game of football with a bottomless pit of money to spend on players Abramovich single handedly helped cement the “win now at all costs” culture that current consumes English football.
It used to be that managers were given time to prove their prudence in the transfer market and their ability to visualise a team and implement their plans. In the main this is because nobody ever used to be able to buy the league out right until Abramovich took over, but since Chelsea began to spend big to win quick then everyone felt forced to keep up and followed suit in turn putting managers under severe pressure.
With Abramovich using his money to implement the win at all costs policy at Chelsea he therefore made it impossible for young players to break through into his teams, this then in turn spread viciously throughout the rest of the Premiership. Managers can no longer afford to risk giving young players a run of 20 games to prove themselves because they simply have to win and win now and are therefore forced to go and buy seasoned professionals simply to keep their jobs.
However now, as he watched his aging Chelsea team get comprehensively thumped by Arsenal on Monday night, it is apparent that him and his club have become victims of their own free spending policy that has swamped the vast majority of the Premiership.
The truth is that, despite what the modern day football club chairman may think, the mark of a great club isn’t one that produces one great team like Chelsea did from 2004 until today. It is instead the ability to keep on producing great sides like Manchester United have done over the past two decades and to do this you need a strong manager who is given time to experiment with young players by his chairman- something Abramovich certainly isn’t.
What Sir Alex Ferguson has done as well as anyone in the history of the game during his marvelous tenure at Manchester United is that he has been able to carry on replacing superstars who are past their best by giving young players a chance to develop. When Eric Cantona retired David Beckham was able to step up to the plate alongside Paul Scholes, and when the likes of Scholes and Giggs started to slow down Cristiano Ronaldo was ready to replace them and it now appears that Nani is beginning to fill the boots of his Portugal teammate.
The reason for this of course is that Manchester United is that Ferguson has been allowed sufficient time to let these players gain experience before giving them more responsibility.
Abramovich however has not allowed his managers this luxury and this has been heavily exposed over the past four months with the absence of Frank Lampard. However ineffective he may have been for England Lampard is a special player. For anyone who consistently scores 20 goals a season, especially from midfield, is extraordinary and even Carlo Ancelotti admits to him being irreplaceable.
However Lampard is now 32 and as a box to box midfielder is surely past his best or close to it. Chelsea must have therefore made some sort of plan for his inevitable decline like Sir Alex Ferguson has done for his star players at United, but they haven’t and have suffered because of it this season and possibly will do for the foreseeable future.
If Lampard was at Manchester United he would not have been playing as much in recent years (much like Scholes and Giggs) simply because Ferguson and CEO David Gill would have recognised the need to look to the future and develop younger players in turn risking losing some games.
But this would never be allowed to happen at Chelsea as their owner has constantly demanded instant success and has refused any manager time to let a player develop at the possible expense of wins for the long term benefit of the club.
What is more is that Abramovich has now seemingly withdrawn his mega financial backing with his refusal to offer new contracts to players such as Michael Ballack and Joe Cole this past summer, as well as selling Ricardo Cavalho for a moderate fee to Real Madrid and refusing to fund the transfer for Fernando Torres. Chelsea fans always thought that their owner would bankroll them forever but this is no longer the case and with an aging squad and no youngsters of the ilk of Scholes, Neville and Giggs coming through one must ask what the future holds for Chelsea.
Peter Kenyon, who was Chief Executive at both Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, once stated that Chelsea would eventually take over Manchester United both on the pitch and off it and all the while the likes of Terry and Lampard were in their mid 20’s and Abramovich was paying any fee for any player it was hard to argue with him. Since Abramovich came in all Chelsea have done to reach the top is spend with little strategy involved and to this point it seemed to have worked.
However what the past three months have proven for Chelsea, with the game at the Emirates epitomizing it as much as any, is that spending money is all well and good, but players like Frank Lampard don’t last forever and if you don’t allow a manager time to shape a team for the future at the possible expense of dropping points then eventually your ability to dominate will diminish with the age of your players.