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How Roman Abramovich’s impossible ideal means he can never be happy as Chelsea owner



Frank Lampard’s dismissal was justified on a number of levels but it also showed that fleeting satisfaction is the best the oligarch can hope for due to his impatience

Now the first specks of dust have settled at the end of another tumultuous week at Chelsea, it is more transparent than ever that Roman Abramovich continues to pursue an impossible ideal.

The owner wants silverware and cutting-edge attacking football from a team consisting of academy graduates and big-money signings. And he wants it right now.

Speaking at his introductory press conference yesterday, Thomas Tuchel rolled off the demands and desires, making it all sound far easier than it will be for him to execute.

“In the end, the club makes this very clear, Chelsea is about results,” he said. “For us as managers, we try to develop and improve players, to increase their value through strong performances. I am very realistic and I am at a club where the DNA it is to win and go for trophies

“Success is also to make everyone in the stadium happy, everyone should be excited to come to Stamford Bridge, people should be excited to watch our team and people should feel that the team plays with a special energy and atmosphere. These are the soft points of success but in the end, we don’t need to talk a lot because Chelsea play for trophies and titles.”

The fundamental issue remains Abramovich’s impatience, the pay-offs to sacked head coaches soaring well past the £100million mark following Frank Lampard’s sacking on Monday morning.

Tuchel is clearly an elite operator and he iterated that there was no hesitation when offered this job at “one of the biggest clubs in the world, in the most competitive league in the world” but it is worth pondering for a moment if tier one coaches will eventually begin to think twice before committing when turnover is so high.

Did he consider the hiring and firing approach when negotiations were taking place last week?

“Yes and no but I’m absolutely grateful I can work on this level,” he added. “If you sign for Chelsea you sign for the hunger of titles, you sign for being absolutely competitive in every competition you play. I’m totally aware of that.

“It is like you said but it does not scare me. We have big ambitions. I myself have the biggest ambitions.I’m absolutely aware that at some point everybody expects results but honestly, I’m doing that of myself.”

It is notable that the deal agreed with the 47-year-old runs for only 18-months with an extension option built in, hardly enough time to implement a culture, identity or vision – the buzzwords around Europe’s best clubs in 2021.

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But what is the exact identity Abramovich desires, aside from silverware and pretty football? Almost 18 years into his ownership there is no feeling of what (no sniggering at back) The Chelsea Way is meant to be, predominantly as a result of the chopping and changing on the sidelines.

Several of Tuchel’s predecessors had coaching identities – Sarriball, Mourinho’s defensive rigidity – but there have been big swings in approach between appointments and that has meant that incoming head coaches have inherited players that do not necessarily fit their desired systems.

It does not help that Abramovich seldom speaks publicly. Perhaps the only reference point for his footballing nirvana is Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, even though it was Real Madrid facing Manchester United that first piqued his interest in the game, but that does not feel a 100% accurate comparison either.

Everything that can be written about the owner’s impatience has long been typed but there must be an acceptance that the landscape is very different compared to 15 years ago, perhaps even a decade.

The era of Chelsea flexing the biggest financial muscle has passed, despite last summer’s eye-watering investment, while Liverpool and even Manchester City have underlined why a club-wide, long-term strategy appears the way forward – for now, at least, in an industry where best practice is always changing.

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It should also be added that Abramovich’s absence from Stamford Bridge for political reasons will not have had much impact on his decision-making process. The past five days have merely underlined his ruthless approach where winning silverware offers fleeting satisfaction but long-lasting happiness remains out of reach.

As usual the supporters have been largely forgotten. Some of the reaction to Lampard’s dismissal has been a touch pious but the feeling of frustration is understandable and questions over whether Abramovich respects the wishes of those who in ordinary times pay obscene amounts of money to watch their team are fair

On the flip side this is ultimately a squad that should be performing far better and in comparison to his predecessors the former midfielder got a little more time to prove his ability. The reality is he could not, things were continuing to go south and it is not like he was unaware of his boss’s ruthless approach.

Lampard’s departure, regardless of when and how, was always going to be emotional. Seeing a club’s record goalscorer lifting a trophy as manager would be the ultimate dream for any supporter and not having the opportunity to witness that is understandably upsetting for some.

That adds another layer of complexity to the job Tuchel faces. It’s not like he has enough to contend with already.


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