Just quickly to start, in review of the Shakhtar Donetsk game on Wednesday and my previous article, it turned out the game wasn’t to be such an indication of our manager’s tactical nous/flexibility as I had anticipated. However we did learn to two things – the first being that di Matteo’s faith in the Mata/Oscar/Hazard combination appears resolute. Its flaws are clear and it still needs work, but, as long as all three are fit, it seems our manager will give them every opportunity to solve these flaws, regardless of opposition or occasion. The second thing we learned is how this new group of players thankfully seem to have inherited that same spirit and resilience we associate with the Mourinho era players. Late winners and dramatic comebacks are nothing new for Chelsea – to pull one off without John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole or Didier Drogba in the team, to me felt extremely reassuring.
Unfortunately though, we were found lacking this spirit against Liverpool Sunday afternoon, conceding a 70th minute equaliser to draw 1-1 in a game we really should’ve won. The result certainly isn’t the end of the world. I think Liverpool were set up well and worked hard enough to deserve a point. Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson both played very well to stop us creating chances from the flanks – they also did brilliantly to deny Oscar space in the middle of the pitch, with the Brazilian often having to come deep or wide to collect the ball.
The main positive from the game for me was the performance of Cesar Azpilicueta, who I think showed all of the intelligence, composure and athleticism of a right back who belongs at a top European club. I have high hopes for him. Even more so than two points lost however, the major blow for Chelsea was the injury suffered by John Terry at the end of the first half. Playing in his first game back after suspension, and only minutes after scoring his 50th goal for the club, John had to be stretchered off after Luis Suarez landed awkwardly on his knee. The last couple of weeks without Terry have showed in my opinion just how important he still is for Chelsea. If this injury means he’s out for any prolonged period, then that does some serious damage to our hopes of winning the league.
Anyway, a more important piece of news than the Liverpool result broke on Friday, which is that for the first time under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea FC Plc recorded a profit for the year ending 30th June. This also came along with the announcement that the club had taken in a record £255m revenue, the fifth highest amount for any club last year.
At first glance this was excellent news. Alright a public company making £1.4m profit isn’t a particularly exceptional achievement. For Chelsea however, whose previous best financial year under Abramovich was a £40m loss – you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a massive deal. With FFP regulations already being implemented as well, I think it’s understandable that we broadcasted the news so publically. Most likely in an attempt to show fans and UEFA that we’re taking the rules seriously and are fully capable of complying.
The announcement however, was not met without the challenges of a number of sceptics, and I have to confess now to being one of them. I’m not sceptical, as some were, over the convenience of the accounts ending in June and so not needing to include the purchase of Oscar and Eden Hazard. June is just where the financial year ends in football; it’s when every club sensibly closes their books.
What I am sceptical over is that we haven’t seemed to have published a complete set of results, rather having just cherry picked certain pieces of information to share and ignored certain others (wage inflation for example). I’m also quite cynical at this stage just what has actually prompted this sudden turnaround. No doubt sponsorship deals struck with Delta, Gazprom, Audi and Sauber will have helped, the shifting of Drogba, Anelka, Bosingwa, Kalou, Meireles and Essien off the wage bill should’ve also made some difference. The fact remains however, we aren’t going to make a profit on transfer dealings every year, we aren’t going to win the Champions League every year and reap those financial benefits and we obviously can’t move on big earners each year either and hope to remain competitive. For now at least I find it hard to see past this profit as anything but a one off.
There’s been a lot of ridicule made over UEFA’s FFP regulations, with it being apparent that those with money to spend will have numerous loopholes to exploit and ways round the limitations it imposes. If this is true then why all of sudden have we managed to change are ways so drastically. Are we genuinely worried about failing to meet FFP requirements? Are we simply enjoying the financial benefits of are Champions League win and destined to relapse into the red if we cannot retain the trophy? Or, has Roman Abramovich finally decided to stop pouring money into the club in a bid to boost its self-sufficiency, or through desire to finally see a financial return on his investments. Is it combination of all three?
Like I said, I’m sceptical over just how much this figure of £1.4m profit means in the long run. Obviously we hope it is a genuine sign of things to come, but I won’t start getting excited or making assumptions until firstly, we see the year’s full financial results lodged with Companies House next week and then until we see if we can achieve similar results next year. If we can, then that would be a piece of news far more worthy of celebration.