Stamford Chidge & Jonathan Kydd are joined by Chelsea authors Mark Meehan and Mark Worrall to look back at Chelsea’s 2003-04 season.
On July 1st 2003, Chelsea and English football changed for ever. Roman Abramovich bought debt ridden Chelsea for £60m and then embarked on the biggest spending spree ever seen; £111m on 11 players including Glen Johnson; Wayne Bridge; Damien Duff; Geremi; Juan Sebastien Veron; Joe Cole; Adrian Mutu; Hernan Crespo and Claude Makalele. Surely this woudl mean a serious tilt at Chelsea’s first league title since 1955?
Claudio Ranieri remained manager and he must have felt like a kid in a sweet shop. The new look Chelsea started well with their first surprise defeat at home to Besiktas in the Champions’ League and a less surprising but routinely disappointing defeat away to Arsenal in October. Nevertheless, Chelsea were top of the league in October and November with some impressive wins against Newcastle and Man Utd in the league and a 4-0 drubbing away to Lazio in the Champions League.
However, December brought a couple of blips with the 2-1 defeat at home to Bolton and 4-2 defeat at Charlton which left Chelsea in 3rd at the end of the year. We had also been knocked out of the Carling Cup by Aston Villa who were third from bottom at the time.
This was not what Roman Abramovich expected having spent a fortune on players, even though Chelsea had accrued their biggest points total ever for that stage of the season. Rumours abounded that Abramovich, aided by new Chief Executive Peter Kenyon were on the look out for a new manager, not helped with Sven Goran Erikson spotted next to Abramovich in the director’s box. Maybe Ranieri had too many good players to choose from and as ever, could not resist the urge to tinker?
All this while the best performing players were all players who were at the Club before Abramovich arrived, with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Frank Lampard and John Terry all prominent.
So, all to play for in the second half of the season, but could Chelsea hunt down Arsenal, who, ominously had yet to be beaten in the season thus far.