When AVB became Chelsea manager he was apparently given a job to revamp our squad. He was told to get rid of player power and in essence break up the machine that Jose created. He was young and perhaps a little unlucky/naïve. It is reported he told Drogba that he wanted to sell him but the owner didn’t want him to. He had players like Anelka and Alex training with the kids and allegedly even banned from using the car park.
As with last season the players gave up on him. They downed tools, Roberto Di Matteo took over and the rest as they say is glorious history. Contrast that with what is happening this season. Two of the stalwarts of the club have left without ceremony and we have also lost Oscar.
Both Branna and Oscar managed 11 appearances in the league and 11 substitute appearances in total. The departing Mikel played not one single minute this season. There has not been much mourning at the departure of Oscar and much conjecture as to what level of legend status the other should be offered.
For me both Mikel and Brana are legendary performers in the blue. At polar opposites in terms of playing style they both always gave 100%. They never let their heads drop even when things were not always going their way. Ironically the defender scored many more goals than the midfielder. The thing about Brana’s goal were their importance including a winning goal in a European final, only matched by three other legends. As we know their was a rocking horse sh*t scarcity to Mikel’s goals.
For me Oscar’s lack of commitment was his downfall and going to China at such a young age proves that to be the case. No one can criticise ignoring such riches but these guys on the whole earn more than they probably need and so us mere mortals can not understand such decisions.
We have barely seen John Terry through initially injury and suspension yet there has not been a murmur among our support. They can see that Luiz, Azpi and Cahill have stepped up and have frankly been ridiculously good in recent weeks. The thing is the discipline of their performances has been outstanding, there has been no chink in the armour. No one can possibly say that JT needs to be brought back in.
We have also brought back Ake and Kenedy from loans. The latter’s appearance against Brentford meant he could not go out on loan again. I have wondered why he has not been the natural deputy for Alonso but suspect his defensive qualities count against him. The return of Ake also gives up options along the back four. He has looked very good and we are seeing more important minutes for both RLC and Chalobah.
Slowly and you would have to say quietly the squad is being completely overhauled. No fuss just hard work and making the best use of the squad available to him
Conte has just got on with it. He is introducing youth where he can. He has been helped by the absence of European football and the muted expectations at the beginning of the season.
It is amazing what is happening at the club. It will be very interesting to see who is in the starting eleven at the beginning of next season. I suspect that Diego will be gone and possibly Hazard and Courtois. It does seem bizarre to be making such a statement with us currently clear at the top of the league but I think most of us would not be surprised to see Diego go.
The rumours regarding Thibault will not go away. His partner and child have apparently moved back to Madrid which does not bode well. As with Eden I suspect its my natural glass half full attitude but I think if we win the league and he has been pivotal I think it may be his way of saying sorry for last season and leaving with a clear conscience.
If however this does happen with the £50 million from Oscar this does give us a huge transfer fund as well as the right person to build again. We have several talented loanees coming back and with Conte’s apparent willingness to embrace the youth this will also re shape the squad.
I read that the board recognise that in hindsight Jose’s title winning side did need the rejuvenation he requested. There is a great feeling at the club at the moment and hopefully with us back in Europe, the funds will be available to bring in what the manager wants. He arrived late in the summer and we were knocked back by several clubs when we were trying to buy a centre half. We did however bring in Kante, Alonso and Batshuayi all of whom have worked out. You may think that is a trifle kind on the Batman but I like him and believe he will work out.
So Forza Conte and viva la revolution.
Author of “Palpable Discord. A Year of drama and dissent at Chelsea” Published by Gate 17