Deja vu for Chelsea as veteran players are ditched
Is Chelsea failing its best players? Florent Malouda revealed by Twitter that he would be training with the Chelsea under 21s at least until the winter transfer window opens after he failed to secure a move away from Stamford Bridge.
This was on the same day that he was not selected in Chelsea’s Champions League squad for the upcoming season.
It is a very sad way to end a Blues career that saw such success on the field since his move from Lyon in 2007.
Having made 230 appearances and scored 45 times in a mostly steady and at times spectacular career in West London, Malouda’s treatment followed a recent trend of freezing out loyal servants.
Nearly a year ago, under the ill-fated reign of Andre Villas-Boas, Nicholas Anelka and Alex were banished from the first team, as their roles diminished and murmurings of a desire to depart made their relationship with Villas Boas irreconcilable.
Anelka’s journeyman career was most consistent at Chelsea, having claimed the Premier League Golden Boot in 2008/09, and winning a stack of trophies while establishing himself as an excellent partner for Didier Drogba.
Brazilian powerhouse Alex has since joined the nouveau riche at Paris Saint-Germain, reunited with former boss Carlo Ancelotti in a new and exciting project at a club with burgeoning talent and ambition.
The Brazil international’s reliability at the heart of defence and his famous thunderbolt free kicks had endeared him to the Stamford Bridge faithful after 135 appearances.
Yes, Anelka, Alex and Malouda all had some intention to leave, but these were no ordinary players. Anelka, Malouda and Drogba once formed one of the most powerful and prolific strikeforce in world football, evidenced by Chelsea’s record Premier League goal haul of 103 in a season in 2009/2010.
Alex did his part in helping the defence concede just 32 goals the same season, as the Blues secured a first ever League and FA Cup double.
It would be inconceivable to think club legends John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech could be treated in the same manner, but then again Didier Drogba’s departure did not seem completely voluntary, considering Chelsea’s unwillingness to offer a deal beyond 12 months.
Ashley Cole’s current negotiations are being protracted over the contract’s duration, as the former Arsenal man is seeking a deal longer than the one-year extension reportedly offered.
Chelsea’s success on the field has always been characterised by the presence of their indomitable spine consisting of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba.
They have always been typified by their power and dynamism and a level of mental fortitude that is almost unmatched.
These qualities as a team are largely credited to the fact that modern Chelsea have always been a very experienced unit with a number of seasoned campaigners.
The value of an experienced core group cannot be overlooked, especially at the upper echelons of European football, where often a little bit of composure and a wise head or two can make the difference at the elite level.
In a summer of major changes where youth has been favoured in another Roman Abramovich cash-splash, there were bound to be a few casualties.
However, Chelsea would be wise to carefully reassess their transfer policy, as these departures may have the same ramifications as a similar recent series.
At the conclusion of the 2009/2010 season, in which Chelsea had completed the double and re-established itself as the kings of England, Carlos Ancelotti parted ways with Michael Ballack, Deco, Joe Cole, Juliano Belleti and Ricardo Carvalho. Those are some big, big names.
While some were peripheral figures and coming to the end of their careers, their experience and the depth they provided was more than valuable.
The signings of Yuri Zhirkov and Ramires were nowhere near adequate replacements. Success blinded Ancelotti to the fact that this was an ageing team on its last legs, and a massive gamble was taken by culling such an experienced group of players.
What ensued was chaos, as injuries in the following season to Terry, Lampard and Drogba ensured a trophyless season and an air of vulnerability about the club that hadn’t been seen in the Abramovich era. It cost Ancelotti his job.
Similarly, last season’s incredible FA Cup and UEFA Champions League triumphs had been off the back of vintage performances from stalwarts Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba (surprise, surprise) in a season that will never be forgotten for Blues fans.
However, these successes have once again triggered a mass exodus which will not necessarily be beneficial.
Didier Drogba, Salamon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa have all contributed significantly during their time at Stamford Bridge and departed early in the transfer window.
Considering how light Chelsea’s strikeforce is at the moment, with only Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres available, Drogba or Kalou staying would not have been a bad idea, and in fact not keeping at least one of them looks lamentable in hindsight.
As for Bosingwa, he is a player who will certainly not be missed defensively, although he saved his best performances for the biggest games when called upon at the back end of last season.
The perplexing loaning of Michael Essien to Real Madrid, which at 30 almost spells the end of his Chelsea career, along with Raul Meireles’s deadline day transfer to Fenerbahce, leaves Chelsea very thin in central midfield.
What is more bewildering is the fact that if youth was the mantra this season and the likes of Essien and Meireles were to depart, it seems nonsensical for young starlets such as Josh McEachran and Kevin De Bruyne to be loaned out themselves.
They could easily be given their chances in central midfield and provide much more depth than at present. Romelu Lukaku’s loan to West Brom is again bemusing considering he is itching to gain a first team place and with only Torres and Sturridge for competition, his time could have been now.
With large parallels to be drawn in regards to the transfer activity at the conclusion of the 09/10 and 11/12 seasons, in particular the specific shipping out of older and experienced players, there is reason to believe that there could be another barren season ahead for the European champions.
While Roberto Di Matteo has brought in a number of new recruits in a vastly different looking Chelsea, the team does look thin up front and in central midfield.
If injuries arise or things simply don’t click because the new signings cannot perform as expected, tough times may lie ahead for the Blues.
When the biggest of games come around against fellow heavyweights, and push invariably comes to shove, you want your very best and resilient players to be there on the pitch.
The summer rejuvenation that has been undergone at Stamford Bridge promises so much with the likes of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin, Oscar, Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta representing more than adequate replacements for the players that have left.
However, the bright start to the 2012/2013 season cannot hide the fact that the team needs to gel, especially when so many new players come together, and that stability and security in the form of seasoned, experienced campaigners can make the difference between winning or losing trophies.
A cultural change needs to be made: Manchester United must be commended for the way they have continued to give club legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes a role in the first team, with Rio Ferdinand beginning to enter that bracket.
Sir Alex Ferguson obviously recognises the value of experience, and that has also been a key ingredient in the Red Devils’ glorious history under Ferguson.
Chelsea could have kept Didier Drogba and continued to utilise his qualities as a warhorse, but with that remaining only a dream now, it is imperative Chelsea begin to give club stalwarts a role on or off the pitch, to play their part in the success of their club regardless of whether they play 90 minutess week in, week out.
Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole’s contract negotiations are still at crossroads, and Chelsea would be wise to acknowledge their contributions to Chelsea over the years, and continue to integrate them well into the future.