Chelsea Need A New Philosophy Not Just A New Manager

Chelsea may have been on the verge of a Champions League exit, but Di Matteo was the one who delivered the trophy in the first place. His sacking was harsh, and Roman's ego has again left the Blues in a state of disarray...
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Chelsea may have been on the verge of a Champions League exit, but Di Matteo was the one who delivered the trophy in the first place. His sacking was harsh, and Roman's ego has again left the Blues in a state of disarray...

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Ooops he did it again. Football’s most notorious owner, Roman the Emperor, has struck again. Just yesterday Sabotage Times published an article of mine where I implied that Abramovich had sanctioned Chelsea’s summer transfers in an effort to save face and get the very best out of Fernando Torres. The Blues lost last night’s Champions League encounter against Italian Champions Juventus 3-0. Not to gloat but Chelsea are on the verge of crashing out of the Champions League - in the group stages - as the reigning title-holders. Never before have had the Champions exited this early.

Roberto Di Matteo probably sealed his own fate by axing misfiring Fernando Torres for the tie. The Italian was in a no-win situation regardless. Sticking with Fernando Torres or daring to take a risk by installing a false 9 by the name of Juan Mata. Had Chelsea won the match in Turin, Di Matteo would’ve probably been applauded for his bravery. But his experiment didn’t yield the desired result. Anyone who watched the fixture can attest that it would’ve taken Fernando Torres at the peak of his powers to overcome the Italians. Unfortunately, El Niño is about as far from hitting best form as Chelsea are from another Champions League final. The Fernando Torres of late would’ve probably cut an anonymous figure anyhow.

Torres to the rescue. That’s not a motto, that’s wishful thinking. Roberto Di Matteo was undoubtedly aware of that, hence the slight adjustments in his formation. One can only feel for Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea are still (mathematically) alive in all competitions and well-positioned to challenge for all of them, except the Champions League. Yet, he is the first high-profile manager to face the axe. He masterminded the unthinkable (win two trophies in 2011/12) and was sacked. Meanwhile Manchester City’s own Italian, Roberto Mancini, all but navigated the Citizens out of Europe’s elite club competition weeks ago and is still in charge. To add insult to injury, Mancini was afforded almost three 2 years of unlimited spending and he has not managed to take Manchester City past the group stages, let alone challenge for the Champions League title. Sure, the Citizens currently occupy the summit of the EPL standings but their four point lead is not insurmountable.

Ever watched the Eddie Murphy movie “Trading Places”? That’s what should’ve happened to the two Roberto’s. Mancini should’ve been sacked and Di Matteo given the vote of confidence. In terms of ownership, Abramovich has confirmed the Chelsea hotseat as the most insecure job in all of football. In the last five years alone the Roman Emperor has fired a truckload of high-profile managers, even those who had earned enough clout to be allowed to see out the remainder of an ongoing season.

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Carlo Ancelotti, for instance, was fired midway through his second season in charge of the Blues after delivering the first domestic double (League plus FA Cup) in his maiden campaign. For years Abramovich had tried to land the Italian tactician, mostly due to his accomplishments in the Champions League (Roman’s Holy Grail) with AC Milan. Then he sought out and activated Europa League winning-manager Andre Villas-Boas £13m release clause to sign the Portuguese from Porto – only to sack him before he even completed his very first season in the English top flight. Sure, it’s due to the Russian billionaires’ passion and investments that Chelsea have come this far in the first place. But then again, where could this Chelsea side be if their owner showed more patience with his managers?

Roman Abramovich is somewhat of a spoiled brat. He wants to success, he wants style and he wants it now. Perhaps someone has failed to inform him that even Rome wasn’t built in a day. All great sides in football have been built continuously over the years. Furthermore, for a dynasty to come to fruition it’s paramount to plan and execute a coherent vision. Though FC Barcelona is heavily lauded these days, the foundation of this side lies with the players nurtured years, if not decades, ago at Barcelona’s own La Masia academy. Only managers were hired who were willing to subscribe to Barcelona’s philosophy and add their own touches here and there.

At Chelsea a clear philosophy that distinguishes them is missing. While Jose Mourinho preferred a defensive 4-3-3 set-up, Ancelotti had his heart set at a 4-3-2-1 “Christmas Tree” formation without natural wingers. Andre Villas-Boas tried to implement a Barca-esque high-defensive line upon players that were either ill-suited or incapable of adjusting to the new style of play.

A construction site doesn’t even come close to describe the project “Chelsea FC”. On top of the requests of the various Chelsea managers add the personal vanity signings of Roman Abramovich such as Andriy Shevchenko or Fernando Torres. Neither was wanted by any of the then-Chelsea managers, Mourinho and Ancelotti.

Nowadays, ex-Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, finds himself at the top of Roman Abramovich’s shopping list. Rumor has it he even wants the job – in the summer of 2013, not now. However, Guardiola should not be under the illusion that he will be treated differently than any his predecessors. Please Roman Abramovich or face the sack. These days it means get the best out of Fernando Torres.

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If anything it would be very interesting to see how a marriage between Chelsea and Pep Guardiola unfolds. For the time being the job belongs to Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard will only serve a short-term solution for a long-term ambition. Once again, Chelsea find themselves without the one thing they need the most at this stage of their rebuilding phase: continuity.

Should Pep Guardiola be appointed as new Chelsea manager in 2013, Abramovich has to deal with one of the strong-willed characters in football. While Abramovich fires at will, Guardiola is almost fanatical in his adherence to his principles, football or otherwise. During his reign as Barcelona manager he benched the most expensive signing in club history, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, due to his perceived incompatibility with Lionel Messi and his philosophy. Based on his time in Barcelona, Torres is probably not suited to Pep’s football vision.

Roman Abramovich and Pep Guardiola – it’s a recipe for disaster. A partnership conceived in hell. One sticks to his star players, the other to his principles. If Roberto Di Matteo was fired for applying common sense and reason, where does that leave the potential appointment of Pep Guardiola?

Roberto Di Matteo tried his best to get the very best out of Fernando Torres, but he couldn’t make it work. However, Di Matteo’s sacking can’t be solely down to Chelsea’s precarious situation in the Champions League, or pure football reasons for that matter. The Italian delivered the Champions League title for crying out loud. Chelsea are still on track to challenge for the League and the domestic cups. A new manager will not outdo Roberto Di Matteo (unless that someone manages to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League and wins it, too). Therefore his premature sacking was ill-advised and unreasonable. Roberto Mancini can count himself lucky to have employers who emanate Zen-like patience. In the Roman Empire he would’ve been fired times over by now.

It’s paradox when even the average lifespan of a Real Madrid manager is longer that of a Chelsea tactician, something is very wrong.

In London, Roman’s Empire strikes back…usually its own.