Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Chelsea: The hardest managerial post on Earth.


So Villas-Boas has been sacked. The guillotine above the man's head has inevitably fallen and is anyone really that surprised? Abramovich has always exuded his monarchist attitude among his employees and eventually each one is cast out as Judas.

- Jose Mourinho sacked - won titles and trophies and usurped Manchester United.
- Carlo Ancelotti sacked - won the double in his first season and were runners up the following.
- Avram Grant sacked - reached the Champions League Final and only lost out on the League on the final day of the season

It makes awkward reading when you're a manager lined up next to take the reins of one of the most destabilised top tier clubs in European football. What is a guy to do in order to see out his contract? Now my thoughts on this are two-fold:

1. Ambramovich is a very difficult man to please
2. AVB lost before he even arrived

Number 1 is outlined above and it pangs of Abramovich's search for that elusive Champions League trophy. You'd think Avram Grant would've kept his job seeing as though he got them the closest. Now this was four years ago when this 'ageing' squad was in its prime so another run the following year could've worked in their favour just by tweaking parts of the system/clientèle. Let's not stick on that though as it's common-knowledge that no manager is safe when the Oligarch's axe constantly wielded.

Villas-Boas's record as the Chelsea manager is the worst out of his predecessors. 19 wins in 40 games equals a 47% win record. Even Scolari, who lasted only 36 games, had a win percentage of 56%. Now it's easy to blame the manager when you're looking at such statistics. Many forget the 'past their best' squad that he had at his disposal when he took over and jump on the bandwagon when the current senior players speak up. His refusal to play Kalou and freeze out Alex and Anelka looked like moves of a decisive man once they handed in transfer requests. However it's not worked out as he wanted and the team have regressed. Is it the player's fault? In short, probably. Though the players he has bought, one of which is incredible can't be blamed. Juan Mata has the potential to be one of the best in the league yet having one stand-out player isn't enough. Unless you're Arsenal.

AVB is not a footballer, he's a man that had great one-season success at Portugal's richest and most current successful side. He became hot managerial property after winning a league and cup double plus claiming the Europa league with an exciting style of football where his players were given the unpredictability of freedom. Falcao and Hulk scored 74 goals between them using these tactics. He came to Chelsea with a mentality of change and wanted to make these changes wherever he could to turn this team into a dominant force again. Now he's a man that knew the club inside out having worked as Mourinho's chief opposition scout so it should not have been such a hard task. However his previous employer said it was too soon for him to join a big club and he was somewhat right. At many times during the season he's looked lonely and completely out of depth. Carlo Ancelotti came out in the press and said that he tried to change too much too quickly and in a way he's also right. The style of play changed, the squad rotation changed, the tactics changed and the personnel changed all at the same time and it would take any number of games for all of it to come to fruition. Unfortunately it was tiime that was not available and he was naive to think that it was. Regardless of the £13m spent to break his Porto contract, he should have realised that money is no object and to discount himself from any favouritism. Proof of which can be seen in the £40m needed to pay AVB off upon being sacked.

Now not being a footballer and only a few of years older than the senior 'elite' members of the squad is an issue that's very current. Many are blaming them and even more are blaming the manager. Now the manager is to blame for not being able to handle them, however does he have the backing of the hierarchy in his attempts? However the players are to blame for not conforming, not accepting that he is the manager regardless of age and that they're not bigger than the brand. Putting it into context, imagine your manager at work was only 2 years older than you yet gave you the jobs no one wants all the time. You'd be preaching to your peers about how he's not that much older so how can he do such a thing. He can because he's the decision maker, the guy that's been tasked with providing an end product, he's the Manager. Regardless of circumstance, it isn't his fault he's now your boss but you have to respect him and he got very little; especially from the English based contingent.

I read an interesting piece that the three of them plus Drogba should be player managers and see how well they do. In all seriousness it would never happen however the thought of it is brilliant. Let's see how they deal with prima donnas. The bum chumming of Terry and Lampard would soon come to an end and Roman would see he's been loyal to the wrong entity. That would be the only way for the owner to realise he's made a mistake, something that isn't befitting of him in his stint as owner. My opinion on this whole matter is the senior players coupled with the naivety of AVB ultimately cost him his job. As I said before, he made decisions that even baffled me and I've been a supporter of his approach. Since Ancelotti played such 'boring' football, his high defensive line and quick passing brought excitement back to Stamford Bridge however at times they were suicidal tactics. The losses to Manchester United and Arsenal are examples of both sides of his tactical naivety. The game at Old Trafford - Exciting -  was not a one-sided affair and AVB was unlucky to come away with a loss. However given the loss of form for former footballer Fernando Torres and their profligacy in front of goal, it was inevitable. The new - Suicidal - tactics he enforced were also apparent against Arsenal and despite scoring 3, they conceded 5 which was unheard of and the question marks arose again.

Many are concerned with Lampard being 'dropped' was the reason for Chelsea's demise, however the well-versed among us know that not playing him is better for the team; Chelsea fans included. Yet he played 23 out of 27 league games and started 20 of them. Now he was also playing when Chelsea were at their worst when castigated in the press so to claim anything about his non-playing is nonsense.Yet when he was put on the subs bench for a total of 7 (SEVEN) games this season, he claimed it as 'not ideal'. Yet any professional at any other club would understand that they need to adapt and get on with it. A quick glance at the elder statesmen at Manchester United and Liverpool are obvious examples. Lampard is the darling of the English media, as annoying as it is, and much like his cousin Jamie Redknapp, are punching above their weight given their talent or lack thereof. He has never been one to shy away from the press and it's all too telling given the amount he supposedly leaked.

The senior members of this current side are an embarrassment. An embarrassment to this league and an embarrassment to themselves. They failed to adopt his methods in fear that they're incapable of adapting their games. It is clear that as the season went on, the team was beginning to play worse. Now I'm not one to say they were purposely playing badly, but I can say that they weren't conveying the managers messages from the training pitch to match day. He would obviously have told them to forget everything that Ancelotti told them (a manager with 16 years more experience) and learn his methods instead as they are what is best to make them succeed. As mentioned before, freedom was one of them and this would make a player have to think for themselves more rather than using Ancelotti's monotonous approach which removed the element of surprise. In turn, this leaves a player accountable if it goes wrong. Something that the senior players turned their nose up to. Added credence to this thought process is that the younger players, players that incidentally adhered to his methods, have succeeded in otherwise a poor season. Mata, Romeu, Ramires and Sturridge (only just) have had good seasons so far. However Ivanovic, Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Cole and Cech have had not one moment that comes to mind and the season ends in 2 months. The latter of those having the worst season I can remember and he's only a goalkeeper so has less to change. These players deemed themselves too important to take his methods on board and thus take the accountability.

The match against West Brom that ended AVB's season, it was these exact senior players that were terrible that day, Michael Essien included (I shall also include Terry for arguments sake). All players that are big dressing room personalities, all players that whined to the press upon not being in the team and ultimately became too big to drop. Having a player like Terry within the ranks is an isolated problem that is a disease that Chelsea have created. This guy took on Capello during the middle of a World Cup and is not afraid of mutiny. He placed himself on a pedestal and it's all too convenient that he's returned from 'injury' 2 days after AVB has been sacked.

So what next? Any manager on the shortlist will be completely put off with the debacle that just occurred. Finding a manager willing to deal with the cancerous players and an impatient employer are more than enough reasons to steer clear. No manner of things seem to work: from winning the league, getting to finals or trimming the squad of ageing players. You can be the best manager around or the hot shot youngster coming through the ranks yet you're not safe. Di Matteo is the interim First Team Coach until the end of the season and it is a laughable choice. He has no experience of managing a club of this size. His previous exploits include MK Dons and being sacked as the West Brom Manager despite finishing second in the Championship and he's supposed to get the respect that AVB didn't?

Good luck to you Roberto as you'll need it more than ever. Good luck to André Villas-Boas also, I'm sure you will find success in the future however enjoy your forty million pounds first.


  1. Nice thoughts & writing, should have been posted on every football media :)

    I think any new managers in Chelsea will have a very big burden because of the statistics of the previous one. Unless Abramovich didn't give him enough time, this would be repeated again and again.


  2. Great write-up, hopefully mainstream media will pick up on the same things(but prob not!). Your points make a lot of sense and def agree that the senior players are mainly to blame. Esp Terry having an operation and being out for 6 weeks when things came to a head and AVB dropped senior players against Napoli, only to be fit for the first game post-AVB stinks of extreme lack of professionalism.
    This team practically ran itself and almost won the Champions League so by now these players have too big egos to conform to a young manager, esp when hes a former assistant. These players also know he was there to phase them out, so without more backing from Abramovich AVB was always doomed.
    I could see Chelsea improving now though, as the senior players should be motivated to prove to supporters AVB was to blame and prove to Abramovich they shouldn't be shipped out in the summer.
    I feel sorry for AVB but was always a huge gamble for him, and as an Inter supporter Im happy to see him leave so we can get him, without paying the money we couldnt afford last summer. Our senior players are much more professional so AVB shouldnt have the same problems, just compare the captains: Terry and Zanetti!!!