The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge deteriorated during Saturday’s home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion..
Disgruntled fans venting their frustrations against football club chairmen and owners is nothing new, though it is less common than jeers directed at managers, teams, and individual players. But an owner going back, as Todd Boehly of Chelsea appeared to do after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion, is a departure even in the chequered recent history of Stamford Bridge goings-on. Even Ken Bates usually vented his rage in his show notes.
Under Roman Abramovich, the directors’ box at Stamford Bridge was always a haven of calm, with an occasional flicker of emotion across the Russian’s usually impassive features as exciting as it got during the early years of his ownership. And with his investment’s long-term success, he had few complaints.
Fans in the West Stand above the owner’s box were pictured leaning over the parapet above Boehly’s seat to express their frustrations during and after Saturday’s game, and he is clearly remonstrating with them.
To be fair, given his consortium’s near-£5 billion investment, the American is likely to be as dissatisfied with the team’s performance as the fans are..
The long-term plan he envisioned when paying £21 million to bring Graham Potter and his staff from Saturday’s victors in autumn last year is in ruins, a fact that must have sting even more as Brighton outplayed his expensively assembled squad with a team built on a relatively small budget and with the Premier League’s second-lowest wage bill.
The transfer values of the eight players involved must have set some sort of record when interim head coach Frank Lampard made a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful quadruple substitution in the second half: the four hauled off – Raheem Sterling, Enzo Fernández, Christian Pulisic, and Wesley Fofana – alone cost £281.5 million.
Any suggestion that Boehly has grown tired of an investment that has turned very sour very quickly is clearly far off the mark. He overpaid for the club, but his focus was clearly on future TV deals and the possible return of a European Super League in some form.
What now, assuming Boehly is in it for the long haul? Is there a roof over the directors’ box? He could always fire Lampard, who has a 100% losing record in his second spell, albeit after only three games. But it’s probably best to wait until Tuesday’s home second leg against Real Madrid and hope for a miracle that the former club hero has been re-hired.
Brighton are having their best season in history, but they still want more.
Of course, Boehly probably aspired to something similar when he lured Potter away from Brighton in the autumn, paving the way for them to hire De Zerbi. Chelsea requires that approach right now.
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