It's a genuine surprise to see Arsenal be the first English club to secure a place in the second round of the Champions League. Both Manchester clubs and Chelsea will have obstacles to overcome in their final group games but Chelsea's problems will not be solved by yet another managerial change...
So defeat in Germany last night made it four losses in the last seven games for Chelsea. As much as this is a terrible run for the Blues, it does present the perfect opportunity for me to write the article that I’ve been holding off on for some time – Andre Villas-Boas must remain at Chelsea regardless of the outcome of this season. A bad run of form was always going to come for AVB – granted I had hoped it wouldn’t come quite this soon but nonetheless it is here and with Chelsea’s record with managers in the Abramovich era, question marks are looming over Villas-Boas’ position from all corners of the press.
The game in Germany was one that was entirely dependent on the result and not the performance for AVB. Had we defended the final set piece correctly and drawn the game to go into the final fixture against Valencia a bit better off then I’m sure attention would have been drawn to how Chelsea looked comfortable for periods of the second half. And praise would have been handed to Drogba for scoring a goal that was typical of his old self, holding the ball up strongly and following with a confident turn and finish. However, Leverkusen showed great character and Chelsea had several let-offs following the goal. The first half was fairly cagey as a draw would have been by no means disastrous for either side. But after Chelsea’s goal the home side were not going to lie down and looked to capitalise on the Chelsea defence that has looked so uncharacteristically shaky over the last couple of weeks. Given the chances Bayer Leverkusen created there was not much in this game for Chelsea fans to complain about. Apart from Dider Drogba’s penalty shout but as a Blues fan I’ve now learnt to take it in my stride when we don’t get penalty decisions in the Champions League. But regardless of the game that was played on the pitch, as is so often the case with Chelsea, the press attention will remain off the pitch – with AVB’s job the centre of discussion.
For me, Abramovich’s lunatic policy on managers quite simply has to change and I’m sure very few people will disagree with this. And before I get crucified for criticising our Russian benefactor I will be the first to hold my hands up and praise the amount of good that he has done for Chelsea. There is no debate – we would not have had the success we’ve already experienced without Abramovich and his money. And in the greatest scheme of things you can be nothing but grateful as a Chelsea fan. However, you also have to admit that if the success is going to continue then the revolving door he installed on the manager’s office upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge will have to make way for a more permanent fixture. Even if it does mean we write off ’11-’12 as one of those much talked about “transitional seasons”.
Based on the exits of most of our managers it makes the Chelsea job look pretty appealing – work a year or two and get paid for five? Seems like a decent deal!
Even without the discussion of Villas-Boas, too much too young and all those obvious issues, let’s first acknowledge the other departures of the Abramovich era. Guus Hiddink seems a good place to start, as the fact that he is now a free agent has only fanned the flames of speculation on the Chelsea job. He won the FA cup without breaking a sweat in his short stay at the club and upon his departure it felt like the Dutchman had unfinished business in west London. It was only honouring his commitments with the Russian national side that prevented him from staying with Chelsea. There was also Scolari whose bad run in his first season in charge earned him an early exit – a path that many in the press are now predicting for AVB. Most recently we had Carlo Ancelotti, whose average of a trophy per season was just not quite good enough to satisfy the demands of Mr Abramovich. And there was Avram Grant, who all but for a John Terry slip, could have been the man to bring Abramovich his holy grail – the Champions League.
With the mention of that season, let’s get to the real point about Chelsea’s managers – Grant’s predecessor. Let’s be honest, anyone could have taken charge of that team between Mourinho’s exit and Terry falling over in Moscow and it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference. It was the Special One’s team. In terms of managers over the last couple of years, I feel that we could have maybe tried harder to cling on to Hiddink and Ancelotti certainly didn’t do enough wrong to get the boot but if you’re going to entertain this debate it can quite plainly be concluded that we should have never sacked Mourinho. Whatever politics and power struggles can explain that decision, they do not justify it.
We are over four years and five managers on from Mourinho and no stability has been established. Yes, AVB is very young and the swift step up from winning the Portuguese top flight and Europa League to competing in the Premier and Champions Leagues is huge. But this policy of changing the manager every time we hit a bad patch is laughable. It would cost Abramovich £20 million just to get rid of Villas-Boas. Based on the exits of most of our managers it makes the Chelsea job look pretty appealing – work a year or two and get paid for five? Seems like a decent deal!
AVB must stay. Even if we lose to Valenica, crash out of the Champions League, make premature exits from the domestic trophies and have nothing but fourth place to fight for – I still think he should stay. Sir Alex took several seasons to win anything at Manchester United – stability is clearly the only way towards sustained success.
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