Unlike their great rivals, Manchester United and Arsenal, Chelsea are defined not by their manager but their owner. There is nobody still at Arsenal who played for Arsène Wenger when he took his first coaching session with a group of actively suspicious footballers. Only Ryan Giggs has experienced the full gamut of Sir Alex Ferguson's triumphs and he made his debut after the great helmsman had endured five choppy years at Old Trafford.
And yet there are a number of Chelsea's squad who have been at Stamford Bridge since the beginning of the Roman Abramovich era – or in Petr Cech's case all but one season.
If Cech has one wish as he begins his eighth season in London, it is for some managerial stability to go with all the undoubted highs Abramovich's wealth has given the club. When it was suggested to him that seven managers in eight years is rather too many, the goalkeeper did not disagree.
"You change the manager when you see there is no other way to continue; I think that is the philosophy," he said. "And I hope there is a way for Andre Villas-Boas to continue for many years.
"Seven managers have been appointed since I joined the club and, unfortunately, apart from Jose Mourinho, who was here for three-and-a-half years, nobody lasted long. If we have a great season, then we can build the base for the manager to stay for many years."
Mourinho should have been what Wenger and Ferguson were to Arsenal and United. When news of his sacking was relayed to the Manchester United team plane as it stood on the runway at Lisbon Airport, waiting to return from a Champions League victory over Sporting, there was complete disbelief that it had happened. Ever since, Abramovich has been like a man trying to find someone who compares to his first girlfriend and perhaps, though he is a very different character, Villas-Boas is that someone.
"Everybody is different," said Cech. "Of course, Jose Mourinho set the standard and, of course, the others have had to try to do better than him.
"Since Andre was here before, working with Jose, many things have changed. The club has changed and he has changed – from a person who was working on the technical staff to being a manager. So far everything has been working well and I hope that continues.
"He has his own ideas how he would like us to play. We have always had a strong defence and built from that and, so far, we have not conceded a goal in pre-season."
Chelsea and Manchester United are a group of two. When it was suggested to Ferguson last season that it was possible to have a good season without lifting any silverware, he looked momentarily slapped in the face by the thought. "Not at this club," came the one-line reply. Not at Chelsea either. Avram Grant's reward for giving Abramovich what he craved, a European Cup final in Moscow, was the sack when it was lost amid a flurry of penalties.
"Sometimes you can say it's a good season and you end up trophyless, but it is hard to imagine saying that at our club," said Cech. "We will all be disappointed if we don't win a trophy this season. It is what we are about."
Domestically, Fernando Torres has won nothing. One of the reasons for his leaving Atletico Madrid for Merseyside was the fact that the club whose trophy room he toured when he was still in primary school had been eclipsed by the likes of Villarreal, let alone Real Madrid. The wellspring behind his departure from Liverpool was the same. Here was one of the best centre-forwards on the planet at an institution plummeting headlong into mediocrity.
Like Andrei Shevchenko, he was a world-class centre-forward bought by Abramovich almost as a "gift" for his manager just as an oligarch might present his wife with a yacht. Shevchenko sank without trace and Torres has not yet made it out of harbour.
"No," said Cech. "There are no similarities. Torres will score goals and he will be fine. With Andrei it did not work and it did not work from the start, but you can see with Torres that he is working, working and he is improving all the time.
"We need to improve as a team to play with him – it is just a matter of time." They said the same about Shevchenko, crippled by his lack of pace in the Premier League, his legs suddenly encased in lead. Sooner or later was the mantra but sooner never arrived and there was never a later. In Malaysia and Thailand, in front of vast crowds and faced with modest opposition, Torres has looked like Abramovich's lost boy. It is only pre-season but...
"In pre-season some players are more tired than others, some players look sharper than others," said his goalkeeper. "But his time will come and we still have time to work. I think he will be fine."Reuse content