Technical data

Chelsea transfer strategy: Influence of Tuchel, Boehly on the pitch and data-driven

Chelsea fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of signings so far in this summer transfer window. But no one who has paid attention to the sweeping changes at Stamford Bridge over the past six weeks can claim to be surprised that the process of overhauling and strengthening Thomas Tuchel’s squad is proving slow and anything but seamless.

Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital officially completed their acquisition of Chelsea for £2.5billion on May 30, three weeks after Athleticism first reported that Erling Haaland’s move to Manchester City was functionally a “done deal”. Liverpool had agreed personal terms with Benfica striker Darwin Nunez on June 9 and it was almost two weeks later that Chelsea’s new owners confirmed the departure of Marina Granovskaia, the club’s chief football executive throughout along the second half of the Roman Abramovich era.

Recruitment in modern football is a never-ending business. Elite clubs spend months and sometimes even years devising and refining their transfer strategies, as well as researching and courting their main targets. The vast majority of these transfer steps go unreported and a large part come to nothing. The market landscape is constantly changing, with old objectives no longer considered and new ones suddenly emerging. But it’s also absolutely essential to have even a chance to gain a significant advantage over equally wealthy rivals and to make key deals early in a window.

Given the timing of the change of ownership and subsequent management overhaul, Chelsea have never had a chance to be as proactive and decisive in this transfer window as City and Liverpool have been. They were still doomed to catch up, which is why many agents and others close to the club have indicated they expect Granovskaia to stay and help navigate this window even if she disregards plans. long-term new owners.

But the impression formed by many who contacted her about potential deals in the first weeks after the takeover was that she was already sidelined, with Boehly opting to work on the deals himself. phones and speak directly to agents and managers of rival clubs. The change was made official with Chelsea announcing on June 22 that the American “will operate as interim sporting director until the club appoints a full-time replacement”. They added that Granovskaia had agreed to ‘stay available’ for the rest of the transfer window but she is unlikely to be consulted.

Boehly has taken on a dual role at the top of Chelsea which has no clear parallel at any of Europe’s other elite clubs and, although he is very experienced and successful in the area of ​​business negotiation, he is learning on the job in this concerning Europe. football transfer market. The obvious risk is that agents and executives try to exploit this relative lack of experience to an extent that they would not have tried with Granovskaia.

In this context, AthleticismLast month’s revelation that Boehly met Jorge Mendes in Portugal to discuss, among other things, Cristiano Ronaldo’s future, has sparked both concern and excitement. Signing a 37-year-old with gargantuan salaries and global name recognition, who has been successful individually on the pitch without improving his last two teams, would be more appealing to Boehly than Tuchel.


Signing a player like Ronaldo, who wants to leave United if the right offer arrives, would suit Boehly more than Tuchel (Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

The rationale for Boehly’s hands-on approach is that, while not a perfect or permanent solution, it does at least provide a more streamlined decision-making structure more easily aligned with the direction of the new owner rather than the ‘ancient. There are, for example, strong suggestions that Granovskaia and deceased technical and performance adviser Petr Cech had significant reservations about granting Romelu Lukaku the desired loan return to Inter Milan.

Things don’t work that way at the Los Angeles Dodgers, bought by Guggenheim Baseball Management for $2.15bn (£1.78bn) in May 2012. The ownership dynamic is very different to begin with: Chelsea co-owner Mark Walter is the majority owner of the Dodgers, while Boehly is Chelsea’s co-owner and functional “operator” in partnership with Clearlake Capital, the American private equity firm that owns 62% of the club.

Guggenheim’s ownership philosophy from day one with the Dodgers was to hire and empower baseball’s top talent in all departments and support them with aggressive and sustained spending. In 2014, they awarded Andrew Friedman, one of the sport’s most highly regarded executives, of the Tampa Bay Rays to be their President of Baseball Operations. He is the man most widely credited with the team’s string of sustained success – punctuated by a World Series triumph in 2020 – and role model franchise status over the following eight years.

The extent of Boehly’s contribution to the Dodgers’ sporting rise is harder to quantify, but Clearlake felt confident enough in his craftsmanship to partner with him in Chelsea’s winning bid, and he indicated every moment he wanted to walk a similar path. Persuading a top sporting director to take over in the middle of a transfer window seems an unlikely prospect, but when it finally does, expect him to fit the ‘best in class’ record.

In the meantime, Chelsea can still rely on their extensive scouting network, managed by longtime international scouting chief Scott McLachlan. Tuchel, however, leads the conversations with Boehly and Clearlake over the club’s summer transfer targets to a degree that few head coaches or managers have ever done in Abramovich’s 19 years of ownership.

Whether this is a positive or negative development depends on your perspective.

This is the first opportunity Tuchel has had to reshape this Chelsea team more in line with his footballing principles. His decision to start and then stick to 3-4-2-1 for much of the first 18 months of his tenure at Stamford Bridge was pragmatic, taken in recognition of the team’s profile and in particular for the purpose. to maximize Thiago. The qualities of Silva and Jorginho while minimizing their weaknesses.

Now there are growing indications that Tuchel is looking for new signings who will ease the transition to a different system – and more specifically, that he wants to play four.

This change would create more opportunities to deploy true wide attackers, and Athleticism Chelsea’s pursuit of Raphinha has been said to stem directly from Tuchel’s desire to have an aggressive winger at his disposal. It’s even possible the 4-4-2 could be used, with Raheem Sterling deployed more centrally if Boehly manages to secure a deal to sign him from City.

Sterling, City of Manchester

Tuchel plans to play Sterling in a central role if a deal can be reached with City (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The risk of making Tuchel – or any coach – such a big part of the transfer strategy is that he is not a recruitment expert either. He has worked under sporting directors throughout his coaching career, although there have been signs at previous clubs of a desire to have greater influence over signings. A key flashpoint in the breakdown of his relationship with Sven Mislintat at Borussia Dortmund involved a difference of opinion in an aborted move for Atletico Madrid midfielder Oliver Torres, as he clashed with Leonardo at Paris Saint-Germain after the Brazilian gave him midfielder Danilo Pereira rather than the central defensive addition he requested.

But any fans concerned about Boehly following Tuchel’s transfer target guidelines could take comfort in knowing that the names coming from the Chelsea head coach are not based on purely subjective judgements. Sources said Athleticism that he’s using data from an analytics firm he’s worked with since his Dortmund days to inform his recommendations, and that Raphinha in particular has been targeted after his creative moves scored particularly well against other older forwards 25 and under.

Data is also at the heart of Boehly and Clearlake’s long-term thinking. Chelsea has already posted a job offer for a senior data scientist, and Athleticism reported last month that the new owners hoped to recruit six to eight new people with an analytical pedigree.

Even the best transfer process offers no guarantee of success. Chelsea moved decisively and impressively to secure a £60million deal with Leeds United for Raphinha last week but could still fall short due to the player’s reluctance to give up his dream of playing for Barcelona. There’s plenty to suggest that Boehly leaves nothing to chance or message unanswered in his attempts to give Tuchel significant squad reinforcements before he assembles his first-team squad in Los Angeles on July 9 for training. pre-season, or as soon as possible afterwards. .

The reality, however, is that the Chelsea transfer deal won’t really reflect the ideas and values ​​of the new owners in this window.

Boehly and Clearlake are doing what they feel they need to do right now in order to perform much-needed team surgery with time against them, with Tuchel stepping forward to play a bigger role than he likely will in future ones. Windows.

Fans may be advised to bear this in mind for the time being and assess any activity undertaken this summer accordingly.

(Top photo: Ivan Yordanov/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)