By 90Min
January 17, 2018

It's a pretty painful week to be a Chelsea fan. Having sat through 270 minutes of goalless football in our last three outings, waking up to the news that we're being linked with West Ham's Andy Carroll - a player so used to spending time on the treatment table he should really have picked up a medical degree by now - really is the lurid icing on a particularly bitter tasting cake.

There we sit, scrolling through Twitter as the names of dazzling footballers whizz by: an Aubameyang here, a Malcom there - going positively anywhere but Chelsea. Alexis Sánchez dancing bewitchingly before us, just out of reach as a cackling José Mourinho prepares to whisk him off to Old Trafford - another battle won against his new nemesis, Antonio Conte.

The grim reality of it is, Carroll seems about the best we can do at the moment - and it's the board who are to blame for this fall in stature.


Marina Granovskaia - one of the club's directors tasked with overseeing the Blues' wheelings and dealings - appears to have far more say over signings than Conte himself. Admittedly, her track record - financially speaking - is excellent, having assured the club's profitability with a number of high profile sales, i.e. Oscar's £60m move to Shanghai SIPG.

However, a number of key decisions - Nemanja Matić to United, anyone? -  have demonstrated exactly why transfers should be a manager's prerogative - not those whose match day is spent dining in the director's box. Conte's exasperation with the Blues' transfer dealings is palpable and it would be highly unsurprising if he were to throw in the towel at the end of the season.

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Carroll, who could be (extremely) charitably (and inaccurately) described as the poor man's Zlatan Ibrahimović, is a battering ram that simply doesn't fit Chelsea's style of play. Of course, the England international can be effective when hauled off the bench to create some chaos in the box, but his injury history alone proves he can be nothing more than an impact substitution for the Blues.

The acquisition of Ross Barkley is a similarly troubling move. While he is unquestionably a bargain at £15m, his arrival surely signals the departure of yet another youth academy starlet - Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who's chances of forcing his way back into a crowded Chelsea midfield upon his return from Crystal Palace are dispiritingly poor.

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It seems that gone are the halcyon days when the club's rapidly rising stature ensured that we were among the first of Europe's elite to be mentioned when a top class player came on the market. The summer transfer window highlighted this issue - as player after player spurned the chance to join the Premier League champions in favour of more attractive propositions.

If Chelsea miss out of Champions League football next season - a possibility seeming more realistic by the day - then the once intoxicating lure of Stamford Bridge could become a thing of the past. As Liverpool and Spurs beguile the world with their host of attacking stars, we could be forced to wrestle over the scraps for years to come.

This slide from Europe's elite is of course not inevitable, but a lot needs to change for the Blues to steer from the course of destruction. First and foremost, Conte needs to be given financial backing to sign player's he feels compliments his style of football, rather than being forced to smile weakly when presented with the footballing equivalent of ill-advised Secret Santa gifts.

Secondly, it doesn't take a genius to realise that the infuriating policy of loaning out our finest young talents before eventually selling them is going nowhere. It's farcical to see Chelsea crying out for a new striker when one of the hottest of England's young talents - Tammy Abraham - is wasting his boundless energy and youthful tenacity on relegation candidates Swansea City.

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This logic extends to more senior players, as has been brutally evidenced by the stunning performances of formerly overlooked Blues Mohamed Salah and Kevin de Bruyne in the Premier League this season. 

One would hope that such a glaring display of Chelsea's transfer failings would spark some kind of reaction from the board, who have continually let top talent slip away.

Of course, the signing of Carroll may not come to pass, and even if it does - his acquisition alone doesn't doom Chelsea. What it does do is aptly expose the effect of a failing transfer system, and provides a worrying picture for the future should it not be suitably remedied. Change is unquestionably needed, and time will tell whether the board will figure this out.

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