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Sonia Bompastor: Who is new Chelsea Women head coach replacing Emma Hayes?

Sonia Bompastor has been named as Emma Hayes' successor at Chelsea; Hayes left for the top job at USWNT this summer after a 12-year reign as Blues boss; Bompastor joins from Lyon, having already won the Champions League - something Hayes never managed

Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor
Image: Sonia Bompastor is Chelsea's new head coach

Sonia Bompastor has been named as Emma Hayes' successor, but what makes the former Lyon boss right for the job?

There are two criteria that Chelsea were looking for when appointing a head coach to fill Hayes' impossibly large shoes.

Any new manager must maintain the success of the club. Chelsea have dominated domestic football in England for years, and have begun to assert themselves in Europe too.

A female coach has also been high on their wishlist. In Hayes, Chelsea have had a trailblazer. One of the game's chief champions who has been responsible for growth and change - a major player in improving the overall health of the sport.

The fact she has done so from a female perspective is equally important. Hayes entered the game at a time when very few female voices were taken seriously - a gap in experienced female head coaches still exists to this day.

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Emma Hayes is front and centre to lift the Women's Super League trophy and has the dream farewell

And Bompastor fits both - she is another woman managing at a top European club, with a proven track record of success.

"Sonia is another big personality," writer and analyst Abdullah Abdullah told Sky Sports. He has written books on both Lyon and Chelsea's journeys in European competition.

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Sonia Bompastor won the Champions League with Lyon during her playing career
Image: Bompastor won the Champions League with Lyon during her playing career

"She came into a Lyon dressing room that needed guidance after they lost their way a little bit under the previous manager. She is a legend of the club and French football so she was instantly respected and lauded internally.

"That gave her a foundation with the French players. This can be replicated at Chelsea with someone who is a legend, but has also played the game-winning Champions League and league titles."

As Abdullah says, in her first full season in charge at Lyon, Bompastor led her side to the league and European double - beating Barcelona 3-1 in the Champions League final, with Lyon scoring three times inside the opening 33 minutes.

Sonia Bompastor also had a storied international career as a player with France
Image: The current Lyon coach also had a storied international career as a player with France

In the 2022/23 season, she retained the Division 1 Feminine title and won the Coupe de France. This campaign, her Lyon side went unbeaten, winning a third successive title.

And that's before we even touch on Bompastor's own illustrious playing career, including two spells at Lyon. She won numerous league, cup and European titles, also having success at fellow French side Montpellier.

Add to that over 150 international caps for France, Bompastor is a woman who has been proven herself time and again.

What can Chelsea expect from Bompastor?

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Former Lyon midfielder Izzy Christiansen explains what Chelsea can expect with incoming manager Bompastor

A new head coach will mean changes across the board and while some may not be stark departures from Hayes' tenure, Bompastor will want to implement her own ideas.

"On the pitch, Sonia is pretty relaxed," Abdullah explained. "There isn't much in terms of theatrics or over-aggressive reactions. She has confidence in her teams.

"At Lyon, she knew she had the best team in France and possibly Europe, so she likes to leave them to get on with it.

"When it comes to player management, she approaches it professionally but knows how to get the best out of players.

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Chelsea head coach Hayes explains what winning the clubs seventh Women's Super League title means to her and how much she will miss the club

"At one point where Selma Bacha and Delphine Cascarino were low on confidence, she [Bompastor] had more confidence in Cascarino than Cascarino herself, which led to her starting to play better.

"So there is a human touch. She's played professionally so she understands players well. Being at Lyon, she knew the dressing room and what it's like to play for such a historic club."

Then there's Bompastor's style of play. Hayes is known for her keen analytical and tactical eye, able to adapt her team in games and across seasons. It's how she has maintained success for so long.

Hayes' teams like to play in possession and more recently, have lined up as a 4-3-3. Defensively astute but with firepower going forward, Chelsea are a force, and landed a fifth straight WSL title in Hayes' final game in charge.

But Bompastor has her own style, and will look to implement that.

"Sonia has a set way of playing. She likes to set up typically in a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder and two No 8s," Abdullah added.

"For the most part, she likes flying full-backs and two wingers that typically look to come inside, interchange and link with the striker. She's had Ada Hegerberg for her time there so we know that she asks the team - especially the full-backs - to send crosses into Ada.

"I think we'll see a lot more of a systematic style of play come in against Emma's more principled approach.

"There are a few tactical changes I see with who plays and who doesn't. I think Niamh Charles, Catarina Macario, and Lauren James will be huge players for Bompastor, but I can also see another central midfielder coming in to suit her style."

Why Chelsea want a female-led coaching team

The decision from Chelsea to hand-select their next head coach from one of the game's top clubs is indicative of just how serious they are about continued and unrivalled success.

Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui said: "Chelsea's move for Bompastor will come as a surprise for many reasons despite her playing and coaching career.

"To approach one of the few teams seen as genuine contenders for the Champions League is a bold one.

"Bompastor is seen as an exceptionally pragmatic coach. Her strategic mind did win Lyon the Champions League in 2022, when her side out-fought and out-thought Barcelona.

"The approach for Bompastor also shows how few top-level female candidates there are in the game. The reality is there are very few female coaches qualified to take on the magnitude of the job at Chelsea."

Sonia Bompastor's assistant, Camille Abily (centre), played for Lyon as recently as 2018
Image: Bompastor's assistant, Camille Abily (centre), played for Lyon as recently as 2018

Bompastor will be joined by assistant manager Camille Abily - another similarity to Hayes' Chelsea set-up.

"Camille is a huge plus," Abdullah said. "Think of what Denise Reddy is to Emma, Camille is to Sonia. She's the arm around the shoulder to the players and another massive legend of Lyon which the players respect.

"We'll see her influence on games and it is another mirror of the Emma set-up. In my opinion, Camille is a future manager in the making."

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How might Bompsator settle in the WSL?

Bompastor will have familiar faces to greet her on her first day at Cobham. Kadeisha Buchanan and Macario both joined Chelsea from Lyon and have played under the incoming coach already.

France international Eve Perisset knows her too, while Ashley Lawrence has faced Bompastor with PSG.

Abdullah added: "Lyon was essentially her first big job and when you're given a big team in a league you're expected to dominate, it's a little easier - but winning the Champions League was impressive.

"I think she'll take a little while to adapt, so it's important that she gets players she knows along with the squad she has.

"Buchanan, Macario, and Perisset are players she'll be familiar with, given she's coached the former two and won the Champions League with them. So implementing her ideas will be a little easier."

And the Champions League is one of Chelsea's key goals. It was the one club trophy that eluded Hayes, and would be pinnacle of the Blues' development and success to finally be crowned European champions.

Appointing someone who won it as both a player and manager - and was in the final mere days ago - will not have been by chance. Nothing ever is with Chelsea.

Sky Sports' Izzy Christensen explained: "The Champions League is an interesting one for an English club. It would mark success in the WSL if we go on and have an English team winning the Champions League in the coming years.

"I still think we're a little bit off that but bringing in a coach at Chelsea, who are probably the closest team to winning the Champions League in the WSL, who has that experience of winning it as a player… Bompastor knows what it's like to play the game at the highest level so her coming in, it has to be the ambition for Chelsea.

"They have the calibre of players in the squad to go on and win the Champions League - it's just a case of doing it. Changing up the brains behind the team with Hayes moving on, it could well be the catalyst."

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