Ruthlessness. The one word that comes to mind when you think of the club’s pursuit of trophies in the last 15 years.

quote-the-goal-is-to-win-it-s-not-about-making-money-i-have-many-much-less-risky-ways-of-making-roman-abramovich-60-44-21 Source – AZ Quotes

Chelsea has constructed a reputation and business model of pursuing ‘winning’ above anything else. When Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, he immediately installed a brutal intention to win, and win immediately, supported by the subsequent splurge of spending on players capable of bringing that ‘winning’ mentality to Stamford Bridge. Contrasting to the Real Madrid ‘Galacticos’ assignment of signing superstars to not only boost their fear-factor on the field but off the field also, whilst Chelsea’s off-the-field presence undoubtedly grew, there was only one reason for implementing this approach, to win at all costs.

The Roman spending machine worked efficiently for the past 15 years, with 15 trophies and a winning mentality successfully installed within the West London Club. In recent times, many fans/pundits have suggested that the spending has slowed at Chelsea, with the likes of Manchester City taking on the mantle of being the league’s big spenders. When these rumours first began to circulate a few years back, cue the 2015/16 season and Chelsea had spent under £100 million on transfers for the first time since the 2011/12 season. Maybe they were right? In response to this, however, Chelsea went on to spend around £130 million in 2016/17 season, a club-record approx of £260 million in 2017/18, and more recently £210 million this 18/19 season, including a club record fee of £72 million on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

We must nevertheless take into the fact of how the market has changed. Players are more expensive than other, clubs are now pulling in astronomical numbers from their various deals with sponsorships/tv deals etc. Whilst Chelsea’s recent transfer window spends have represented higher numbers than in previous years, the number of players coming in has seemingly decreased (just the three this season in Jorginho, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Christian Pulisic of whom joins in the summer.)

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I decided to do a poll on my Twitter account @maccasport to gage a general fan view on this particular culture shift. As you can see below, with a respectable survey size of 1,111 people, opinion was closely split. In the end, the win over Tottenham, and three precious points in the Premier League top 4 race meant more to them than winning another trophy in the Carabao Cup. How would this poll represent a potential culture shift within SW6 and its fanbase?

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Fans are fundamental to a football club’s success. Without supporters, football clubs would be incapable of running as efficiently as they do. Fans are an adequate representation of a clubs mission and outlook, primarily due to the fact they remain loyal to the club, no matter the manager, players, owner in place at one time. The majority supporters of a club are also predominantly honest, and realistic in their requirements/hopes of their clubs success. In the past 15 years, Chelsea fans, alongside the staff have grown accustomed to success. A trophy has typically been lifted by the blue side of London every 12 months, much to the jubilance of Chelsea fans. It’s almost become second nature, and an expectancy, you can see this expectancy from the crowd at home games at the Bridge, especially if the game is 0-0 or the team is losing.

Abramovich and Chelsea created that culture, the fans came along with it. Chelsea fans now expect success and trophies, just as much as those running the club. However, represented in this poll is the notion that maybe many are willing to sacrifice immediate silverware, for the long-term goal of getting back into the Champions League consistently, whilst maintaining a long-term vision of football under one manager. I believe that if I did this poll 1-2 years ago, the results would paint a completely different picture (Hint: The first option would storm to the win for me.)

When Maurizio Sarri was appointed this summer, after Abramovich’s pursuit of the Italian for numerous months, he was appointed to primarily bring a new style of football to Stamford Bridge. This new style was a possession-based attacking style, one Roman has craved for a number of years now. Unlike other managerial appointments, winning a trophy was not the only criteria of success attached to Sarri’s hiring, instead, it was a shift of culture, a playing culture. Of course, Sarri and his side would be expected to challenge for trophies as the case in previous seasons, but a sense of patience and perspective fell from the boardroom, that this was a long-term appointment, with a plan in place. Perhaps the first, since Jose Mourinho walked in the door in 2004.

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Sarri had a fantastic start to his reign as Chelsea manager, with a plausible unbeaten run to bring confidence around the club he was the right man in charge. In recent times, however, due to big losses against Tottenham, Bournemouth, and Manchester City, culminated with Sarri’s stubbornness and reluctance to change his tactics/rotate his players, many assumed the Italian would join the long list of managerial casualties in the Roman era. Many well-respected sources and journalists had Sarri being sacked in the past week or two. Despite a cup-final loss against Manchester City, in a game Sarri’s Chelsea played very well in, Sarri is still in the job and followed up the apparent vote of confidence with a comfortable 2-0 win over bitter London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Sarri has shown an ability to change, and somewhat sacrifice his immediate beliefs and methods in order to maximize short and potential long-term success. The question is, are Chelsea doing the same thing? Many believe in previous times, Sarri would have been sacked by now and an interim (Cue Guus Hiddink) would have swiftly arrived. Nonetheless,  here we are with a manager coming out the other side of a turbulent time, for now. The club has shown numerous signs of change in the past 8-9 months; adequately backing the manager in the transfer window, portraying patience regarding results, and even advocating the playing of youth within the first team.

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There’s no doubt that potential signs of change are circulating around SW6. Is the club now planning for long-term success, rather than continuing the adoption of a short-term ruthless pursuit of success? Many fans have called for it, pundits believe its time to do so, is the club listening? With plenty of twists and turns no doubt in the immediate future, many will be watching the decisions of those higher up in the club very carefully.

Written by Dan McCarthy – @maccasport

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