Demystifying Michael Emenalo - Can Jose work with him? (pt1)

By Rod Crowley at 12:00 on 21/05/13


Part 1

So now it seems but a matter of days. The Special One, currently Public Enemy No.1 in Spain, is on the verge of a dramatic return to the club that he left in acrimony six years ago. But there is apparently one remaining problem. We keep being told in countless newspaper articles that the one sticking point stopping Jose from agreeing to return is the prospect of working with Michael Emenalo, Chelsea FC's infamous Technical Director. 

We are told that Jose fears his interference, that he resents having to report to a former U12 Girls Soccer Coach and that he objects to having to hand over control of transfers to the Nigerian. Fans endlessly parrot these complaints and have come to use Emenalo as a convenient scapegoat for every club decision they disagree with.

Persisting with Torres? That's Emenalo's fault. Loaning out the likes of Lukaku and De Bruyne? Emenalo. Choosing Benitez to replace Di Matteo? Of course - it has to be Emenalo. But the plain fact is the vast majority of Chelsea supporters don't have the first clue about what Michael Emenalo actually does. Perhaps the easy scapegoat is because of his association with Avram Grant. Or possibly it is his virtually non-existent coaching track record. Or maybe it's just that people can't quite work out how he has secured himself a senior position at one of the biggest football clubs in the world.

Whatever it may be, it seems a good time to set the record straight. To separate the truth from the Emenalo mythology and to review the facts (or at least those we know) rather than just the rumour and prejudice. 




Firstly, what does Michael Emenalo actually do? The statement when he was appointed confirms his role encompasses the following:

  • He supports the work of the first team manager
  • He leads the club's international and domestic scouting network
  • He assists in driving the technical programmes of the club's Academy and international youth network.

The role is further described as 'a vital role that will assist the overall long-term football strategy of the club'. 

To shed further light on Emenalo's remit, it might be useful to compare it directly to the roles of the two people who are always cited as his predecessors as Chelsea 'Director of Football'. First, however we must note that Emenalo's job title itself is different. His post is as 'Technical Director' while Avram Grant briefly held a post named 'Director of Football' from July 2007 then, exactly two years later, Frank Arnesen assumed the role of 'Sporting Director'. The posts have different job titles because, quite simply, they are different roles.

For example, Grant, on his appointment was said to be 'responsible for liaison on, and co-ordination of, football matters across the various areas of Chelsea FC' and he also sat on the Football Club Board. But to fully understand the extent of Grant's (very short-term) remit, it is essential to note that he became Director of Football while Arnesen simultaneously held a less senior role as the club's Head of Development & Scouting (a post he had held since his appointment in 2005).




Following Grant's elevation and subsequent departure, Arnesen's role developed and expanded from previously focussing solely on the Academy and youth recruitment to him gradually assuming a much more influential role in first team recruitment and wider club matters. As if to confirm this, Arnesen was invited to join Football Club Board himself in April 2009 (while Michael Emenalo has never been part of the Football Club Board). As noted above, this was actually a few months before Arnesen officially became Sporting Director in the July of that year. At this point Arnesen was asked to 'continue with his roles relating to the Reserves and Academy' but also 'take on responsibilities relating to the co-ordination of first team activity and supporting the first team manager'. 

So, if you are still following this, the clear difference is that while Emenalo's role is to support (note, not oversee) the work of the manager plus look after scouting and the Academy; he does not have a remit to co-ordinate either 'first team activity' or 'football matters across the various areas of Chelsea FC' unlike his so-called predecessors Grant and Arnesen had. He is also, crucially, not a full member of the Football Club Board again unlike Grant and Arnesen. Therefore, it can only be concluded that Emenalo's role as Technical Director is less senior than either Grant or Arnesen were in their roles. In fact it is more closely aligned with Arnesen's old role of Head of Development & Scouting with a bit of extra 'support for the first team manager' thrown in.


Forde1Mike Forde

Incidentally, it may well be that the even more mysterious figure of Mike Forde has assumed that missing football co-ordination role. Forde is on Football Club Board and his role is grandly titled 'Director of Football Operations'. He is apparently 'responsible for all areas of performance and team operations relating to the first team, including player recruitment; medical, sport science, psychology and performance analysis.' That sounds more like the remit of a Director of Football to me.

One other aspect may be worth addressing. Although it is not specifically referred to in the summary of his job description, Michael Emenalo has also taken on a liaison role between the manager and the board and, infamously, between the manager and the owner himself. Now it would seem logical to assume that this forms part of Emenalo's remit to 'support the work of the first team manager', but many people have chosen to interpret it either as the manager having to 'report to' the Nigerian or, on a more base level, Emenalo simply being Roman's 'spy in the camp'.  I would argue that both of these interpretations are mistaken.

To begin with, it simply is not true that the manager has toreport tothe Technical Director. Emenalo is not in any sense the manager's line manager. As has always been the case, the manager reports to the club's CEO. Instead, what happens is that Emenalo is in place in order that the manager canreport throughhim. Thus, when Roman or the board have questions for the manager, Emenalo can take those questions to him and report back with his answers. Equally, if the manager wishes to raise an issue with the board or with the owner, Emenalo can act as the go-between. It is telling that none of the three managers since Emenalo became Sporting Director have grumbled about his role (even through the usual veiled moans via friends in the press). In fact they seem to have viewed it as quite a natural arrangement. AVB stated at one point:


"I have not spoken to him [Abramovich], I have spoken to persons near to him. I speak to the people close to the owner to transmit the message. People like Emenalo. That is the normal way we communicate."


And at his unveiling, Benitez 'repeatedly referred to Emenalo's key role as the conduit to the owner on footballing matters:


"The main thing is that I have spoken to Michael Emenalo, the technical director, and he's my link."


This role as a 'buffer' between the owner/board and the manager may seem odd, but when you look at the history of political tensions, professional feuds and petty factionalism that has served to undermine our managers during the Abramovich era it doesn't seem so strange. In fact having Emenalo in place as that buffer arguably introduces a level of professional distance and dare I say it, stability, at the heart of the club that was missing before.


Part 2 - The Role of Frank Arnesen...