In his “Mutiny at the Bridge” Soccernet’s Norman Hubbard notices a rising mood at Chelsea that I pondered last October in “The Extra Variable”:
… the other issue is as old as football itself; the simple wish to play. There is a dilemma that confronts players at elite clubs; however well remunerated, sitting on the bench is a poor substitute for first-team football. Abramovich can fund the most extravagant of salaries, but not the intangibles; the memories, the sense of belonging and purpose, the thrill of making a decisive contribution. In short, the experience of being a footballer.
His point is that the goal of having a squad 2-deep with world class players at every position may not be sustainable. Already, Jarosik, (Carlton) Cole, Duff, Gudjohnson, and Crespo have opted out. Wright-Phillips may soon follow. Gallas was getting plenty of time but seemed to get his fill of something. Even Mourinho has made noises about going with a leaner “regular” squad this season. To be sure, the draw of making a lot of money playing for a team likely to be on top of the EPL and vying for Champion’s League title is powerful as seen by the Shevchenko and Ballack signings, but there is a potential tradeoff that figures in over the long run — loss of playing time.
On a different Chelsea note, Arsenal’s 25 million pound price tag for Ashley Cole proved a bit much for even Roman Abramovich. The deal might still happen, but as FSC’s Bobby McMahon noted, figures in that range are hard to fathom for a left back, especially when paying such a sum to a direct competitor. With very accomplished strikers like Van Nistelrooy going for 10 million, Arsenal could buy three players of world class quality if Chelsea forked over such a huge fee. As good as Cole is, his incremental impact on Chelsea would seem far below what the impact of 3 very good players for Arsenal might be.