It is hard to picture Chelsea as saviours in English football. In fact, supporters of rival clubs are openly gloating over their current plight, the dismantling of a robotic club programmed for winning trophies and few friends.
The 19 years under Roman Abramovich’s ownership are considered ruthless and as far removed as possible from the beautiful game. The Russian’s era is coming to an end with an enforced $4.25 billion sale that is seen as the final days of a dark empire.
For the people in charge at Manchester City and Liverpool it is a gift from Heaven. One less heavyweight boxer fighting for the world title can only be a good thing for the rest of the field, right? Not if you want the Premier League to retain any kind of serious level of competition, it’s not.
English football needs a strong Chelsea, and a strong Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham. But right now the only genuine level of threat to the duopoly of Man City and Liverpool comes from within the turmoil at Stamford Bridge. They alone possess the squad and manager capable of preventing a two-team carve up of the top honours.
When Abramovich and his murky Russian money burst onto the scene in July 2003 it felt like a refreshing summer breeze, however smelly it seems now. In five of the previous six seasons, Manchester United and Arsenal had shared the top two spots in the table in the way Celtic and Rangers toss the title between them in Scotland.
Season 2002-03 finished with Manchester United as champions, Arsenal second and Newcastle United nine points behind them in third. There were some closer contests, but the Premier League trophy was pretty much being ferried between Salford and north London.
Chelsea finished second in Abramovich’s first year in charge. Miles off Arsenal’s immortal ‘Invincibles’ team which was unbeaten, but a warning had been sounded. Abramovich’s new money was shaking things up. Chelsea won the Premier League three times before the decade was out.
Manchester City would soon join the elite group via a rush of cash from their new wealthy owners from Abu Dhabi and between 2010 and 2016 there were four different champions of England.
Abramovich, for all the suspicion in the background about the origins of his vast investments, put a sledgehammer through the sealed walls behind which Manchester United and Arsenal ruled.
History is now repeating itself with Manchester City and Liverpool emerging as a new axis of power. One of them will win the league this season, making it five straight years that one or the other has been crowned champions.
Liverpool’s bid for an unprecedented Quadruple of trophies underlines the strength in depth at Anfield, that they are here to stay.
It’s beginning to look a bit like north of The Border again. And only Chelsea have enough momentum to nip this mushrooming coalition in the bud.
The recent success of winning the Champions League and the Club World Cup, coupled with a manager in Thomas Tuchel who has proved he can turn around teams in no time, is of huge significance. Within three months of taking over from the languishing Frank Lampard, the German won the European Cup and secured a top-four finish. He re-energised Chelsea.
Manchester United have not won the Premier League since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and look like lost souls at present. A new manager arrives this summer but Erik ten Hag will face the same old battles as his predecessors under the controlling Glazer family, trying to revive a mummified giant.
Arsenal will forever lack the financial prowess until there is regime change at the top. Tottenham too have never spent enough on individual players to consistently challenge for the league title.
Which leaves us resting our hopes on Chelsea’s takeover and the heir-apparent to Abramovich, Todd Boehly.
The America tycoon and part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team has vowed to plough £1.75 billion into the club over the next 10 years. That won’t be reserved solely for first-team transfers but it represents a sizeable sum per annum nonetheless. Even if it is only £100m every season, that’s a Jack Grealish purchase every year until 2032.
Chelsea will never be bankrolled by Boehly and his consortium to anywhere near the levels enjoyed under Abramovich.
But while delighted opposition supporters dance on the grave of the old Chelsea there is a sense that football needs them to be punching at the highest weight to keep the English game from going stale.
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