Roman Abramovic’s strained relationship with the man he hand-picked, at a cost of 15 million Euro, to be Chelsea’s new shining light finally broke on Sunday, as Andre Villas Boas was shown the exit at Stamford Bridge for the last time, and Roberto di Matteo was placed in temporary charge. Following a run of results which has seen the Blues pick up just three wins in eleven Premier League games, and suffer defeat to Napoli in the first leg of their Champions’ League second round tie, the final straw came with defeat to West Brom. at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
The action taken by Chelsea’s notoriously impatient owner has come as no surprise, in fact, what is surprising, is that he lasted so long with such a poor win ratio, in comparison with his predecessors’, however the entire episode has left Abramovic and Chelsea fans with more questions than answers.
Charged with ushering out an ageing squad which has enjoyed previous success, and bringing in a new era at Stamford Bridge, this was always going to be a terrifically difficult challenge for a man not yet 35 years old. Not to mention that Villas Boas, although incredibly successful in his season at Porto, had only completed one full season as a professional manager before his arrival in London, and had never been a professional player; facts which have been of no benefit to him in his struggle with senior players this season.
Chelsea face the prospect of finishing outside the Champions’ League places this term, however, the blame cannot solely be placed at the Portuguese’s door. Villas Boas has suffered from five years of short-termist, short-sighted policy at Chelsea, a policy that promotes immediate success over all else, a policy which is reinforced with ruthless action from above, should that instant gratification not be forthcoming. Yet again, Abramovich has proven this to be so.
No manager at Chelsea since Jose Mourinho has been given the time to build a squad for the future and mould it into his image like the “special one” did. Since Abramovich and Mourinho’s petty squabbling led to the end of that era for the Blues, other managers have had to deliver the same sort of success instantly; or else. That pressure has led to managers putting their faith in the older players at the club to deliver, with varying degrees of success, and what has emerged is a club where a tight nucleus of senior players rules the roost.
The problem for Abramovic and Chelsea now, is that these players are, without doubt, in the twilight of their careers: Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba are all still good players, however they’re no longer all conquering. Unfortunately for Chelsea, they are past being good enough to build a team around, as Saturday’s performance and result showed, along with others this season. The players that have been brought in around them over the years as others have left, have not always been of a high enough standard: David Luiz, Bosingwa and Ivanovic, spring to mind, and of course Abramovic’s unilateral signings, Shevchenko and Torres, have not worked out at all.
This all leaves Chelsea, their fans, and Mr. Abramovic in a bit of a pickle. A clique of strong-minded players unwilling to adapt, a disjointed squad, with a spine that’s at least two seasons past its best, an owner who wants change, but craves instant success above everything so won’t allow things to evolve naturally, and, a vacancy in the top job which is unlikely to be filled before the summer. On the pitch, Chelsea face the prospect of missing out on fourth place and Champions’ League football next term, a fact, that if it were to occur, would be a devastating blow, both financially, and in terms of securing a top manager of the sort Abramovic will be seeking.
Even if Chelsea qualify for the Champions’ League, if Abramovic is to get the kind of man he wants, with the international profile he desires, a man such as Pep Guardiola for example; the Russian, will have to be willing to be less hands on, and perhaps, a little more patient. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, these may not be things that he’s willing to do.
Chelsea’s Fallen Bosses (win ratios)
Andre Villas Boas 47.5%
Carlo Ancelotti 61.47%
Luis Felipe Scolari 55.56%