Chelsea are a ‘mess’ and there are no moderate solutions to the mire they find themselves in, Ian Ladyman has told It’s All Kicking Off.
Ladyman believes the only way to fix Chelsea would be to tear everything apart and start from scratch – but admits that’s not a viable solution.
It leaves Chelsea searching for answers to a crisis that leaves them 11th in the Premier League despite having spent £400m this season with a top manager in the dugout. A 4-2 home defeat by Wolves is the latest blow.
Chris Sutton argues that the only answer is to ‘keep faith’ in Mauricio Pochettino, who worked wonders with a transformative project at Tottenham, but he and Ladyman clash over whether any progress had been made.
Ladyman said: ‘Riath Al-Samarrai, who was there covering the game for Mail Sport, described Chelsea as a howling mess, which I think is appropriate.
Chelsea are in a ‘mess’ with no easy answers, Ian Ladyman has claimed on It’s All Kicking Off
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‘I look at Chelsea and I begin to wonder whether there actually are any answers in terms of changing the manager, etc. They are a club without an answer, I think, at the moment.’
Sutton replied: ‘But how can things change? And what can that catalyst be for change? Is it the manager? Is it the players? The owner’s not going to sack himself, is he?
‘So it’s whether they are prepared to stick with Pochettino and whether he’s getting a good enough tune out of the players.
‘If we’re going to be fair, if you want to compare it to last season, there have been minor improvements.’
Ladyman said: ‘I don’t think there have. What are they? What are their improvements?’
Sutton said: ‘Well, they’ve scored as many goals already this season as they did last season. They’re more than likely to beat last season’s points tally. They’re in a Carabao Cup final.
‘Will people’s perception change if they win the Carabao Cup? Will you say different to that?’
Ladyman said: ‘No, but last season’s point tally was massively influenced by the fact that they re-hired Frank Lampard, who couldn’t win a single game or get a single point. So I’m not sure that Pochettino’s point tally is any better than it would have been if Potter had stayed.
‘But we don’t need to go back over the Potter thing. I know what I think about that and I won’t change.’
Chelsea slumped to 11th in the Premier League table after their 4-2 home defeat by Wolves
Ladyman (above) believes that the Premier League club have not progressed at all and that winning the Carabao Cup would not impact supporters’ overall assessment of the season
Chelsea have struggled at both ends of the pitch and have now conceded four goals for two games in a row.
They have exactly the same number of points as this time last season and are in a worse position, having slipped into the bottom half of the Premier League.
Progression to the Carabao Cup semi-final – courtesy of thumping Middlesbrough 6-1 in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final – has sweetened things slightly.
However, similar frustrations from last campaign are returning, and the prospect of missing out on Europe is very real if things go awry against Liverpool at Wembley.
Sutton said: ‘They have made progress. You can’t deny that.’
Ladyman hit back: ‘I am denying it. Progress relative to the money they’ve spent – no. In my mind, they haven’t made any progress. They’re a howling mess, as Riath says.
‘Because normally you can say, ok, right, so the answer is a new coach or the answer is change that player or change that player.
‘But given what we know about Chelsea, I think we understand that they’re pushed quite tight against the Financial Fair Play ceiling. So where’s the wiggle room for buying new players? In order to buy new players, you’ve got to get players out. That’s going to be difficult. Those players will have to be sold at a loss. A lot of them are on long contracts.
‘So when I say that it’s a club without answers, normally you look at a club and you can see straight away what the problem is. Look at Manchester United, and you think they need an experienced centre-forward and they need another centre-half and they need a couple of players who will bring them some mental resilience and fortitude.
‘And if you change that in that Manchester United team, you’d see improvement straight away. I don’t know what you do at Chelsea apart from ripping the whole thing up and starting again, which you can’t do.
Sutton (above) believes that keeping faith in Pochettino is the only answer for the Blues
Sutton also struggles to see who else would do a better job at Chelsea than Pochettino
‘So that’s when I say there’s no answers. That’s what I mean.’
Sutton said: ‘Well, they do have an answer. And the answer is to have faith in Pochettino and to have faith in the process and to be patient. I don’t honestly think that they have another alternative at this moment in time.
‘And if you look at what Pochettino did at Tottenham – and everybody was banging this drum when he first got the job at Chelsea – it took time and patience. And that’s the problem nowadays, and it goes back to Chelsea, and I think Pochettino referred to that himself in his presser after the game yesterday about the history, not matching the history or whatever he said, words to that effect.
‘Who at this moment in time could go in and do a better job than Pochettino? Who could they hire?’
Pochettino has won 14 of his 31 games in charges of the Blues but has lost 11.
A small section of fans sang for Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. He is available after being sacked by Roma last month, although Ladyman doesn’t think giving him a third term at Chelsea would be a good idea.
He said: ‘The only history they’re matching at the moment is last season. But I’m not sitting here saying they should get rid of Pochettino. What I’m saying to you is that even if they wanted to, I don’t know where they’d go, I don’t know what they’d do, and I don’t know whether the fans are singing for Mourinho.
‘You think Jose Mourinho and the way that he likes to play is matched up to that squad? I don’t think so.’
Sutton said: ‘How many fans? I mean, what were these 15-year-old fans?’
Ladyman said: ‘That’s what I’m saying when I talk about there being no answers. I don’t know what they are. I don’t know what they are or what they’re trying to be.
‘I know what Manchester United are trying to be. I know what Tottenham are trying to be. I know what Newcastle are trying to be. I don’t really look at Chelsea and understand yet what they’re trying to be.
Todd Boehly’s perception of the season would change if Chelsea reap the financial benefits of reaching Europe via the Carabao Cup, Ladyman argued on this week’s episode of the podcast
‘Now you asked me a question, does it change if they win the Carabao Cup? A trophy is a trophy, and I’m not gonna sit here with someone who’s constantly defending the League Cup and telling people how it must be looked after and how we still need to have the two-legged semi-finals – and then say it doesn’t matter if a team wins it. So I’m not gonna say that.
‘But in terms of the general outlook of where they are, I’m not sure it changes much, but it would get them into Europe because a Conference League place hangs on the winners of the Carabao Cup.
‘Does it change the perception? Amongst Chelsea fans, no, I don’t think it does. I don’t think it does because they need to be competitive.’
Ladyman: ‘[For Todd Boehly] Yes, because it’ll get them into Europe, and that’s financially important.
‘Sami Mokbel, our chief football reporter, was on the podcast last week, and he said that Pochettino is heading for difficult conversations with the owners in the summer, and much of that will be dependent on whether they are in Europe or not.
‘And so, the Carabao Cup [final], which they play against Liverpool at the back end of this month, is of more importance to Chelsea than it normally would be.’