Roman Abramovich continues to hinder Chelsea's progress by refusing to address problems in the midfield.
Last summer, the well-funded Chelsea decided to save money. They allowed Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, and Deco to head elsewhere. To replace them, they signed gangly midfielder Ramires.
Replacing three midfielders with one doesn't add up. The math gets more confusing when you factor in the attacking abilities of Cole, Deco and Ballack were not replaced at all, as Ramires is much more defensive in the midfield.
Chelsea decided to rely on Frank Lampard, a fine choice considering Lampard has been nominated for FIFA player of the year six times and owns the most caps in club history. Aside from that, their central attacking midfield options consisted of, well, no one. Unfortunately, the levee finally broke last season when Lampard missed four months with injury and Chelsea didn’t bring home any silverware.
While it's difficult to criticize a team who finished second in the Premier League, especially with their top midfielder missing four months, what difference would a fit Michael Ballack have made during that time*? He was the perfect replacement to Lampard in previous seasons and was a vital part of Chelsea's double in 2010. It's reasonable to suggest that Chelsea could have stalled Manchester United's quest for title 19 should they taken proper care of the midfield last summer.
(*Yes, Ballack was hurt last season too, but he would have had much less playing time with Chelsea and been able to sustain his fitness)
Naturally, it makes sense that Chelsea would then bolster the midfield, shoring up their lone weakness. But they didn’t. Though as we’ve seen in the past, billionaire owner Roman Abramovic rarely makes the logical move.
Just consider the Abramovich-driven moves over the years. While possessing one of the top strikers on the planet, Didier Drogba, he brought in Andriy Shevchenko, Nikolas Anelka and Fernando Torres. Is he trying to make the moody Drogba completely bipolar?
So, while their competitors bolster their squads -- United signing Ashley Young, City signing Sergio Aguero and on the verge of Samir Nasri, Liverpool netting Stewart Downing -- Chelsea appear, at best, to get older. They failed to add anyone to the midfield despite the fact that Lampard must now be considered an injury concern and his midfield partner Michael Essien is currently nursing a knee injury that may keep him out until early 2012.
Instead, Abramovich put on a vintage performance by hiring Andre Villas-Boas, a manager who has never tasted Champions League football, and bringing in Romelu Lukaku, an 18 year-old striker.
Abramovich brought Chelsea to international prominence but his moves since the rise to the top have hindered the team’s chances at consistent championships. With more of the same this summer, it doesn’t appear likely that Chelsea will be holding any trophies above their heads anytime soon.
Unless, of course, Samuel Eto'o decides he doesn't like Russia in January.