Chelsea have been incredibly busy both on and off the football pitch over the last couple of seasons - how has the change in ownership from Roman Abramovich to Todd Boehly gone down from within the fan base?
Matthew Debono: Under Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were an extremely successful club. When the club was taken over by the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership, Chelsea were the Champions of the World. It was all about winning at all costs. The club suffered in the Premier League and struggled for many years to compete at the top since the last triumph in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte, however, in Europe and in the cups, Chelsea were always there or thereabouts. It’s a new-look side and a new strategy under the new owners. A fresh, young squad with a few experienced heads, including 39-year-old Thiago Silva.
Their intention is to win in the long-term. When that will be, nobody knows. The hope is sooner rather than later. But unlike the Chelsea of old, a new word has had to be brought in which is still getting used to: patience. Although, as reaffirmed by Mauricio Pochettino and the mindset of the fans, Chelsea is here to win now, that realistically won’t happen immediately. The owners have made their mistakes amongst the chaotic 18 months, but they have done a lot right. It’s a brand new structure and approach. It’s new terrority.
Fans will bear their frustration until things settle and Chelsea are back to winning because, ultimately, that’s what the fanbase is used to. You can call it spoilt, even entitled, but that’s what Chelsea have been used to - winning and doing it every single year on the world’s biggest stages. As Chelsea are constantly reminded too, over £1 billion has been spent, although that has been offset by many outgoings, and when you spend that amount, including breaking the British transfer record twice in the space of around eight months, you are expected to win, right? Chelsea fans aren’t a patient bunch. That will be heard with boos, should the team not be putting in performances worthy of what the club is about, but that’s because they care.
The owners haven’t fully earned the trust of the supporter base just yet. That will come with time, but more importantly results. The quicker it gets better on the pitch, the more support the owners will get. It’s as simple as that.
It was yet another busy summer within the transfer market for Chelsea - what have you made of the latest batch of signings and which signing in particular could prove to be the most impactful this season?
MD: It was a hectic summer and a largely positive one for Chelsea given where the squad was at, at the end of last season back in May. Some mistakes, which divide opinion, have been made including the handling of some players, some of whom remain at the club. But the signing of Christopher Nkunku, who is sadly injured and likely to be out until December, will prove to be a shrewd acquisition. His performances in pre-season offered Chelsea a glimpse of what they’ve got on their hands and his absence has been a major blow to how Mauricio Pochettino’s side operate.
Lesley Ugochukwu has been a positive surprise since his arrival. Although he was signed in January, Malo Gusto’s summer arrival could also prove to be key given concerns over captain Reece James’ availability too. For the most part, the players Chelsea have brought to the club during the summer have been positive moves.
Mauricio Pochettino was a name linked with a long list of clubs since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 - is there confidence within the fan base that he is the right man to lead the club forward?
MD: Chelsea are going through a period of transition that isn’t what the fanbase are used to. Chelsea are a club who have constantly won or reached major finals (or latter stages) year in year out. It’s been a difficult 18 months by the club’s standards. Mauricio Pochrttino has a difficult job on his hands. It’s a brand new group, but as long as the effort is there each week and signs of progression are being made, there is no reason not to. Patience isn’t a word Chelsea are used to, but now there is no other choice than to be.
Whether the new strategy will work or not is another thing, but that will unfold in the coming years as to what the answer is to that. Pochettino was the best man for the job when an appointment was made. Now Chelsea have to trust and give him time to work his magic in the hope of creating long-term success.
Is Chelsea’s slow start to the season (1 win, 2 draws, and 2 losses) simply a case of plenty of new players settling in or is there more to it?
MD: It’s been a slow start, but that’s down to one major area - the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. In every single game this season, if Chelsea took their chances then they would’ve won the game. It’s cliche, but it’s the story that has summed Chelsea up in recent seasons. Chelsea have already missed 12 big chances this season from their opening five games - the most in the Premier League.
Obviously players need to settle into a new system and the high and constant number of injuries isn’t helping Mauricio Pochettino with his team selection. However, that’s no excuse as Chelsea have been creating enough to win games. They should have much more than five points they currently have on the board.
Aston Villa and Chelsea took an equal share of the points last campaign - with both sides looking to finish within the top 6 this season, what sort of match are you expecting this weekend at Stamford Bridge
MD: It was a disappointing defensive performance from Aston Villa in midweek against Legia Warsaw. They’ll be wanting to bounce back and put that firmly behind them. Unai Emery made several changes while his managerial counterpart Mauricio Pochettino had a whole week with his squad to prepare.
Chelsea will get many chances on Sunday and the longer Aston Villa can frustrate them, the more chance they’ve got of coming away with one or more points from the capital just like Liverpool and Nottingham Forest did. If Chelsea are able to convert their chances, which they will no doubt create, it could be a comfortable - the first in a long while - for them. Beating a side in the top half has been a rarity in recent times too for Chelsea.
What sort of starting lineup should we expect to see from Chelsea on Sunday?
MD: Mauricio Pochettino has been fairly consistent over who he has selected from this season, albeit injury dependent. With Moises Caicedo’s availability still yet to be confirmed, Conor Gallagher, Enzo Fernandez and Lesley Ugochukwu could all be seen from the start. Nicolas Jackson will no doubt lead the line, with Raheem Sterling a certain starter. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod between Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke and Ben Chilwell, who has been filling in down the left-hand side this season prior to Bournemouth. Thiago Silva and Axel Disasi will likely continue in defence, with Levi Colwill and Malo Gusto. Robert Sanchez will be in-between the sticks.
Chelsea have a strong record against Aston Villa, but recent history suggests we could be in for a close match - what is your score prediction for Sunday’s match?
MD: Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa