Chelsea Women: Has Emma Hayes’ depature been a distraction?

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Comment on the photo, Chelsea have won 13 major trophies in 12 years under Emma Hayes, but are on course to finish the 2023-24 season without any silverware.

Since Emma Hayes announced in November that this would be her final season in charge, everything has been seen through the lens of a dynasty coming to an end.

In almost every press conference since announcing her departure, Hayes and her players have been asked about the importance of ending her tenure by winning titles.

With Chelsea’s Women’s Premier League title hopes taking a major blow After the defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday, The Hayes era looks set to end with a trophyless final campaign.

“I don’t think you can ignore the elephant in the room,” said Karen Carney, the former Chelsea and England midfielder.

  • author, Adam Millington
  • Role, BBC Sport journalist

Wednesday’s defeat was Chelsea’s third in the league – and no team has ever won the league with so many losses.

Opta’s supercomputer now estimates that Chelsea have just a 9.3% chance of winning the league compared to Manchester City’s 90.3% chance.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Carney said Hayes’ imminent departure would be “worrying” for players.

It has been nearly seven months since Hayes made clear her intention to leave, with her job as the new President of the United States confirmed later that month.

They led the division with 13 points from their first five games when the news was announced and are still eyeing the league, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Now the league is their only chance of winning the title after losing in the League Cup final and exiting in the semi-finals of the other two competitions, and even that is unlikely given they trail leaders Manchester City by six points.

Chelsea have a game in hand, but only three league games remaining.

Former Liverpool striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has questioned whether Hayes’ departure was a ‘distraction’.

“‘Do you want to do that to her?’ “There was a constant line of questions for these players,” she told Sky Sports.

“It’s not that they dropped the ball per se, but it will be interesting to see after six or 12 months whether they feel in hindsight if it was more distracting than it needed to be for them.”

“It’s not that they’re throwing in the towel.”

Video explanation, Premier League: Liverpool 4-3 Chelsea – Highlights

Over the course of 12 trophy-laden years, Hayes has transformed Chelsea into the monster they have become.

Under Hayes, Chelsea have won six Women’s Super League titles, five FA Cups and two Continental Cups. She also captured the league title during the WSL’s “Spring Series” and picked up a Community Shield win as well.

Sweetman-Kirk said her immersion in the club makes her departure more difficult to deal with.

“Players go to clubs for managers,” she said. “When your manager announces at the start of the season that he is leaving, how does that affect those players?

“Players whose contracts have expired, do they think, ‘I felt safer with Emma and now I don’t know where my safety is?’”

Chelsea have fewer points after 19 games than they have in each of the past three seasons.

“I don’t think we can escape the fact that it affected the team in some way,” Sweetman Kirk added.

“It doesn’t mean they give up, but these are all the things you have to deal with as a footballer, and if you’re unstable it shows on the pitch.”

“I told the whole world it was over.”

Carney and Sweetman-Kirk’s comments came after Hayes said she believed the title race was “over” following the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool.

Hayes’ reaction surprised them both.

“We’re usually used to seeing Emma very defiant,” Sweetman-Kirk said. “It felt weird,” Carney added.

Carney said this year “looks different” for Chelsea, which has won each of the last four league titles.

Having to play in four competitions has proven to be a tough test of Chelsea’s endurance, but in other seasons they have managed to weather the storm.

“They won four titles and had injuries but I always felt throughout the remaining seasons there was something in it and I always felt Chelsea were capable of it.

“Whether it was fatigue or not, I always felt that Chelsea could find a way but I didn’t feel that way today.”

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