Every Chicago Fire fan has their own take on why the team’s only consistency over the last few years is losing. Increasingly, many fans seem to be in favor of sacking second-year head coach Raphaël Wicky.
Is #WickyOut the solution? Let’s take a look.
Is Raphaël Wicky to blame for Chicago’s woes?
Fans need to remember that manager Raphaël Wicky inherited an unimpressive team that hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2017. To expect a one season turn-around during a pandemic is unjustified. 2020 was a weird year, and if anyone needs a reminder, remember that the Fire finished one point ahead of Atlanta United.
Only three games into the 2021 season, it’s still too early to be jumping to drastic conclusions, even taking into account last year’s performance. With the plethora of injuries Chicago faces already this season, and the general lack of success prior to his management, it is unfair to lay all the blame squarely at Wicky’s feet. This does not mean, of course, that fans shouldn’t expect at least some improvement since Wicky’s first season in 2020.
I asked Raphael Wicky about what caused some of the goals the Chicago Fire have conceded this season and what they're doing to prevent them in the future.
— Jeremy Mikula (@jeremymikula) April 28, 2021
Lackluster transfer market activity
The main criticism that fans can point to from a managing perspective is Chicago’s activity on the transfer market.
It came as a shock to learn that the Fire’s leader in assists last season, Djordje Mihailović, was moving to CF Montréal during the off-season. In return for Mihailović, the Fire received $1,000,000 dollars in General Allocation money.
Montréal head coach Thierry Henry called the move a “no-brainer.”
This might not have been so upsetting for Chicago fans if the winter transfer window off-set the move, but it did not. The Fire picked up three young players: Chinonso Offor, Jhon Espinoza, and Stanislav Ivanov.
With Ivanov injured, only Offor and Espinoza have made their debuts. Espinoza’s lasted for mere minutes in the second half of last week’s loss against the New York Red Bulls, when he came on as a sub during the 69th minute. Offor started in the Fire’s first two games, and came on as a sub against the Red Bulls.
What little we saw from Offor and Espinoza was largely positive. Yet, it’s clear that those pick-ups are just not enough to turn the Fire around. Mihailović’s absence is being felt.
A crucial talent like Mihailović should be replaced with a player proven to be equally (if not more) impactful, not just a handful of promising players. Signing promising players in place of a key player is conceivably a fine strategy for a successful team with multiple solid players to pick up the slack. It is not a good strategy for the Fire — a losing team that just traded their best chance creator.
— Patrick McCraney (@patrickmccraney) April 28, 2021
If the Fire’s problem on the transfer market is addressed by the end of the next transfer window, then they might have a shot at finishing mid-table. This is assuming, maybe generously, that they can keep their heads above water until then. By that time, it should become abundantly clear what roster changes need to be made.
There will have to be some big changes — the Fire’s moves so far are akin to tinkering with a sinking ship. If Wicky cannot address these problems and make real headway by the end of the summer window, then calls for #WickyOut will be entirely justified.