He added that despite last season’s
“We’d only been outside the top two once since Roman Abramovich took over,” Gourlay said. “We found ourselves in an area that was new to us and it wasn’t a nice position to be in.”
Gourlay conceded that the squad “had to be strengthened” after last season and that he expected both £35 million signing Eden Hazard and £25 million arrival Oscar to go straight into the first-team.
He hinted that the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, along with
Hazard’s brother Thorgan, would be among those loaned out and conceded that,
at present, the
“It’s a big squad and we are still looking to strengthen in one or two areas, and there will certainly be four or five and maybe a bit more players going out on loan,” he explained.
“I think we had to strengthen the team. While we ended with a very, very strong season, it was clear that there were some areas where we did have to strengthen, so we knew we were always going to have to do that.”
The summer signings – a raft of young attacking players also including Marko
Marin – are set to continue with Chelsea targeting 21-year-old
“The average age of the side has come down dramatically,” Gourlay said. “Hazard and Oscar are two players that will definitely feature in the first team.” He added that it was “important to decide” what was right for £11 million signing Lukaku, who has disappointed on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo has been charged with changing Chelsea’s style to a more attractive, attacking approach and Gourlay said the squad changes gave him the opportunity to “form his own team”. He added: “He’s very much creating his own side now. There’s some new guys there and he can craft them into the way he wants the team to play. That’s a nice position to be in because we’ve heard it all before about inheriting someone else’s team. This is a kind of a break and a good opportunity.”
Gourlay said that the young signings represented “quite a change of strategy” for Chelsea who have traditionally bought “experienced players”.
He didn’t rule out that continuing but added the pressures of Financial Fair Play regulations, and the desire to “break even” meant the club had to think about players costing “£6-12 million” who will develop into ones “worth £25-30 million”. “With FFP we have got to be a bit more clever,” he said.
Despite winning the Champions League and
“Not at all,” he said. “We had to look at the way we performed. Yes, we won the Champions League but take it game for game we performed very well.
“The problem was that we were just too far away in the Premier League and the teams around us kept winning as well. We were very focused on the Champions League and started to believe that this just might be our season. And Robbie managed that all the way through. So he deserves the opportunity to take the team forward.”
Gourlay claimed the delay in confirming Di Matteo as manager was because the club wanted him to “go on holiday” rather than a failure to secure Pep Guardiola after he quit Barcelona. “So we let him [Di Matteo] go on his holiday but we were still in touch,” Gourlay said. “I spoke to Robbie on a number of occasions while he was away and we said ‘when you come back we’ll sit down and talk things through’. There was nothing more to it than that.
“In that time we knew the media would start to put two and two together and wonder whether there was a bigger issue in there. But it was just the timing of it.”
Gourlay said an added bonus of the club’s pre-season tour of America had been the presence of Abramovich. “It’s important for everyone, not just the players,” he said.
“I wanted him to be here to see just how his club has developed. Because he didn’t come to the States the last time and he wasn’t in Asia last year. We wanted him to see that when we’re filling stadiums we’re filling them with Chelsea fans, not just interested locals coming to watch two English teams.
“We’ve come a long way and it was good for Roman to see that. Not only that, he was coming in a day early, he was watching the training. Everyone enjoys having him around. It sends out the right messages.”