Since Roman Abramovich acquired Chelsea football club in 2003, there have been nine managers in total. That is exactly one for every year he has commanded the club. Whether or not short-termism was a philosophy that Abramovich desired to exploit, he has certainly adopted it with ruthless precision.
Andre Villas-Boas was sacked today. Roberto Di Matteo is his replacement, further augmenting that fateful list. And so the eternal cycle of managers at the West London club continues. Football is a cruel world, Chelsea FC even crueller.
This move may stimulate some hope in Chelsea fans, myself being one of them, that the club’s season may be resurrected. Yet, this will probably be the similar kind of misguided hope that Fernando Torres brought to Stamford Bridge last year – ultimately a disastrous failure.
The emotion may also be akin to the installation of World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager, and he lasted less time than poor Villas-Boas.
It is this false belief that a fresh appointment suddenly makes everything perfect in and outside of the dressing room that is preventing Chelsea FC from progressing. It is this misconception that sacking the manager is always the prudent option, which stops any movement towards stability or improvement.
There are countless problems at Chelsea FC: Fernando Torres’ dreadful form, ageing players controlling the team without credible performances as a justification, and a crop of players – namely Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Florent Malouda – who are substandard and simply not good enough.
The disappointment is that Villas-Boas was the first manager in years to really combat the ever-growing list. He stopped playing Torres, which was a shrewder move that Ambramovich’s one to buy him for £50m. He also dropped the group of mentioned players who were dismally failing.
Villas-Boas also decided to assert his authority. It is usually the same observers who claim Villas-Boas’ supposed mismanagement of influential players such as Frank Lampard was detrimental, that also believe these players’ considerable power is inhibiting Chelsea. Perhaps he took his assertion of authority too far, but at least he was attempting to solve a problem that has been internally destroying Chelsea for so long.
And, if one glances at his actual record it is not as shambolic as many will lead you to believe. Chelsea FC are one place away from, and just three points off, fourth place. If you look at the squads on paper of the clubs above them, only Arsenal, who reside in fourth, are actually worse than Chelsea – and not by much. Of course the significance of fourth place puts distorted expectation on it, but, considering the substandard squad he possessed and the internal conflicts he faced, something his counterpart at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, does not, Villas-Boas has probably been harshly criticised.
Arsenal also possesses the best player in the premier league, Robin van Persie – who has the kind of quality Villas-Boas could only dream of.
It should also not be forgotten that Chelsea are still in the FA Cup and in with a slight, though definitely not impossible, chance of staying in the Champions League.
So, when you delve into the actual stats, and the extensive list of difficulties, Villas-Boas was perhaps unfairly treated by the despotic Roman Abramovich. I highly doubt that his short-term (there’s that regressive philosophy again) replacement Roberto Di Matteo will fare much better with this poisoned chalice. I also doubt that ‘Project AVB’, supported by Abramovich himself, included causing more instability at a club characterised by this harmful deficiency in the last decade, yet apparently so desperate to expunge it.
If Chelsea finish in the top four and appoint Jose Morinho before the start of next season, this will be viewed as a judicious move. However, more likely than this utopia will be a fifth place finish, further problems and still no one in full charge to properly change this side and adapt it over the extensive period of time that is required to install long-lasting improvements.
We will never know if Villas-Boas was the right man. I certainly would not have denied a man who won four titles in one season at Porto the possibility of being a saviour. That will never happen, though. What has occurred, however, is more confusion, more disorder, and more problems – but still no solution.