Emma Hayes, the coaching mind behind the women’s Chelsea family, sat in her post-match press conference on Sunday, enjoying the feeling of winning like few other women. The first question asked what was going through her head. “I’m so happy,” she said, a sentence she’d repeat two more times. You can understand why: Chelsea just won the Women’s FA Cup with a thrilling extra-time victory over Manchester City, and that win came just a week after they came two times behind to beat Manchester United, which secured them in the Women’s Premier League. The title for the third season in a row.
Questions kept popping up, and her press conference was fun and emotional. She described the team as the best she’s ever coached, and she had no more fun watching the team rush to victory on Sunday.
It’s also been revealing and unfiltered, because it’s a fun time to take stock at Chelsea. The men’s team is in limbo, awaiting the sale of the club to a consortium led by Todd Boyle, part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the meantime, the women’s team has had an incredible success, but they need to maintain their investment to stay on top of the increasingly competitive field of the WSL, all while keeping the core team together.
Amidst all of Hayes’ answers came the crux of the whole thing: What happens next?
What is the impact of the new owners on the women of Chelsea?
As the final whistle blew on Sunday, Hayes pounded the Chelsea badge on her jacket. It was a subliminal message of thanks to the club’s hierarchy, director Marina Granovskaya and Chairman Bruce Buck.
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“It’s a big win for Marina and Bruce,” Hayes said. “I want to score that for the work they’ve done, not just for me but the team over a period of time. They embodied everything Chelsea is all about.”
The duo, under the investment of former owner Roman Abramovich, has seen Chelsea assemble a women’s World Championship winning team like no other. The team was still in its infancy in 2014 when midfielder Ji So-yeon joined, with her arrival ushering in the emergence of several superstars. The club has been constantly spending money to support the team: in 2015, Chelsea paid a then-British-record transfer fee of Fran Kirby, who became the club’s all-time leading scorer and a crucial fixture in its success. More recently, they’ve spent more: They hold the world record for a women’s player transfer fee (Pernell Harder, £250,000), as well as they hold the record for highest transfer fee paid among Women’s Football League clubs (Lauren James of Man United). , about £200,000).
The investment was smart and efficient, resulting in team depth that no other team from WSL can match so far. Combined with Hayes’ training methods and forward-thinking methods of training, Chelsea has emphasized that depth is one of his biggest assets. However, there were questions about whether that would continue after Abramovich put the club up for sale, after being sanctioned by the British government in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking in March, days after the Chelsea news broke, Hayes said she had “no doubt” about the importance of the Chelsea women’s team. The forgetfulness has caused tangible problems for the men’s squad, with Thomas Tuchel admitting it affected the club’s ability to retain defenders Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger – both of whom are leaving at the end of their contracts in June.
Buhli met with the men’s and women’s players separately at Cobham’s training base on Friday and introduced himself. The players were excited to meet the club’s new owner, but attention was on the current challenge of winning the FA Cup Final last weekend.
Who will leave Kingsmeadow?
When City boss Gareth Taylor described the players’ loss on a free transfer deal as “surgery”, it was not so dramatic. With transfers, short-term contracts and the most volatile of the women’s game, Chelsea’s ability to keep is one of their biggest assets. This summer is a prime example.
City face the prospect of losing superstars Lucy Bronze and Caroline Weir, whose contracts are set to expire. Meanwhile, midfielder Georgia Stanway joined Bayern Munich. Even Arsenal, the other team chasing the title in London, should focus on re-signing the club’s record scorer Vivian Miedema after being linked with a move to Barcelona.
Chelsea are not in the same boat.
Ji will be Chelsea’s biggest loss this summer as she is leaving the club after eight years, returning to her native South Korea. Defender Jonah Anderson and midfielder Drew Spence have also been confirmed to leave. Their departure will be felt, but it will be possible.
“We lost [captain] Three-month-old Magda Erickson, Pernell Harder Big Block Girls, AFC Big Block Girls, Melanie Leopols (pregnancy), Marin Mejildy,” Hayes said in preparation for the WSL title class earlier this month, the notable absence of the team over the course of the year. The season My question is how many big teams would have dealt with that and will still be around?
“We’re in a healthy place. I think we have an aging squad – we had to try to tackle that balance and competition as you go, that’s really tough. As a coach, that’s why I’m glad we’re in a position to compete because that’s the hardest thing to do, Believe me, when you go through a transition, the teams age.”
Is Hayes staying? Are you still hungry for success?
Hayes answered a question on Sunday about her motivation and impulsivity, and what might keep her going. The answer was inconsequential: Ask a coach about their job and they’ll point you to their successes, but just minutes after lifting the FA Cup, Hayes was talking about losing.
“I can’t stand to think about it, I don’t want to think about it,” she said. “The moment I feel any of the [the other teams] Get close to me I just want to get better.”
Chelsea have rarely lost over the past few seasons. Instead, their looks were deterministic and confident. Hayes answered questions about her future with similar energy. “I feel like [the media] She tells me that question every time we win. “It’s not like I came here, I don’t respect the question, but I think it should be about the three players leaving, not my future.”
It’s really not a story. Hayes remains, not yet ready to leave West London no matter how many times she has been linked with a job in the men’s game or with the national team.
“Everyone knows I’ve got a contract with Chelsea, so what’s the speculation?” asked Hayes. “Is there a job you guys tell me I’m going to do that I know nothing about?
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have to kill any speculation. I’m under contract with Chelsea and there’s nothing to talk about.”
What is left to win?
What Hayes built in Chelsea is a dynasty, there can be no doubt about it, but it remains an unfinished project. They have won seven of the nine previous domestic titles on offer, and at a time when City and Arsenal were shining in their wake, but they cannot be considered the dominant team of their generation. That title belongs to Lyon and now to Barcelona, a team that has just finished a perfect season of 30 wins in Spain and will defend their Champions League title on Saturday. Barcelona are heading towards it against Lyon – a team looking to return to their former glory – as the obvious candidate.
Barcelona won their first European title last season against Chelsea in a landslide 4-0 victory, a match that Hayes’ side could hardly compete with. Arsenal remained, in 2007, the only English team to win a European title, although the competition was in a different form then. Chelsea had intended to prove they could finish the job this season, but Hayes’ team finished third in Group A – behind Wolfsburg and Juventus – pushing them out. Their last game saw the team battle the COVID-19 outbreak and many players fatigued. A campaign that promised a lot to get away from them.
The task ahead is clear. To take this club to the next level, and establish dominance across the continent, they need to win the Champions League. That might send a message to the rest of Europe: They are here to stay and develop, with the same team, regardless of their owners, and with Hayes at its helm.
“We have a group of people who are not going to be on the losing team,” Hayes said. “They will find a way.”