Big shoes to fill: the key tasks facing Sonia Bompastor at Chelsea

Estimated read time 5 min read

Replace the coaching staff

Emma Hayes has not left alone for the United States. Joining the former Chelsea manager in the US women’s national team set-up are her assistant coach Denise Reddy, goalkeeper coach Stuart Searle, head of performance Bart Caubergh, performance analyst Ferdia O’Hanrahan and opposition scout Cameron Meighan. Camille Abily and Théo Rivrin are joining Sonia Bompastor to resume their assistant manager and assistant coach roles with the former Lyon manager, but Bompastor has a big job ahead in replacing so many highly regarded staff, in particular Searle. Fortunately for Bompastor, the general manager, Paul Green, who was Hayes’s right-hand man, remains in post and has been leading that process and helping to ensure a smooth introduction to life at the club.

If it’s not broken don’t fix it?

Tottenham’s manager, Robert Vilahamn, pointed to the difficulty any manager would have when coming into a club as successful when he spoke of how quickly Spurs players have bought into what he wants to do. “I knew that it was a good club to sign for because they were struggling last year and I know that the environment was not the best,” he said. “When you come to that kind of club you know that it’s quite easy, everybody is probably going to buy into what you’re saying. So, Chelsea, they’re winning all the time, they’re going to have a new coach, you don’t really know if they’re going to buy into the new coach directly or if they feel: ‘Why do we change this? We have been winning all the time.’” Stamping your authority and identity on players who understand what it means to win and how you do it is not going to be easy. Bompastor faced a similar situation when she took over at Lyon. She won the league in each of her three seasons and reached two Champions League finals, winning one. But the two Lyon managers before Bompastor, Jean-Luc Vasseur and Reynald Pedros, have underwhelmed since leaving the club after securing a number of titles there. Is Bompastor good enough to buck the trend? Time will tell.


Hayes was known for shrewd recruitment, often scouting players for a number of years. Also important to her was that people fit a certain profile she wanted off the pitch. Hayes made no secret of the fact that Chelsea spent years monitoring and coveting Sam Kerr before they brought her in and that they would know their targets months before the window opened. So what will recruitment look like this summer? Will Bompastor be given the chance to sign players to fit the style of football she wants or has the work on who comes in been done? A bit of both. It is understood some signings have already been made, in keeping with the way the club work, but the club are also open to suggestions from the manager as she slots into that process. Hayes has left the squad in a very healthy place, packed with young talent and experience, but any new manager wants to imprint their identity. Bompastor’s skill as a manager of people will also be tested; Hayes was masterful in her management of a squad stacked with talent. Keeping players happy is no mean feat.

Sam KerrView image in fullscreen

Champions League

One thing Bompastor has that Hayes hasn’t? A Champions League trophy as a manager. There should be no downgrading of Hayes’s Champions League win as assistant to Vic Akers with Arsenal in 2007 but with Chelsea it was the one thing missing. Bompastor comes in with knowledge and experience of how to win it as a player and manager, the first woman to achieve that feat. Her 2022 triumph came somewhat unexpectedly, against the new kids on the block Barcelona, who have become the most dominant force in European football and defeated Bompastor’s Lyon in this season’s final. Few managers have got the better of Barcelona; Bompastor is one who has and that as a credential goes a long way.

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The voice

Bompastor has big shoes to fill on and off the pitch. Hayes has been a powerful advocate for the women’s game and so much more in England, speaking out on topics such as endometriosis, menstrual cycles, motherhood and loss, to name a few. Bompastor should feel no pressure to pick up the baton in this respect. No manager should have to do what Hayes has done – it has been exhausting for her. The day when a manager can focus on managing should be welcomed. However, there is still a long way to go in the development of women’s football and Hayes’s Chelsea have been at the forefront of pushing for change and driving standards. Bompastor has an opportunity to use her voice in a similar way should she choose to.

Imbue her competitiveness

The Aston Villa and France midfielder Kenza Dali has nothing but good things to say about Bompastor, who coached her in Lyon’s academy and played alongside her when Dali joined the first team aged 16. “Sonia was an amazing left-back, amazing player, and so competitive,” said Dali, speaking at a Uefa We Play Strong event before the Champions League final. “If you ask for one word to describe Sonia it is competitive. Every single drill at training was competitive with her. I was young, I was scared of her, and when they gave out the bibs, I was like: ‘Please God, not Sonia in my team. If I lose the ball with Sonia, she’s going to kill me.’” Off the pitch? “Really nice, nice human being,” she said. “With me, the relationship was different because she was my coach as well, and she was the type of coach you don’t mess with, but a good person.”


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