Bluesy Exit

Posted: 8 March 2012

AFTER barely eight months as boss, Andre Villas-Boas’ tumultuous saga at Chelsea is over.


On Sunday, team owner Roman Abramovich sacked the 34-year-old Portuguese, his patience finally running out following their miserable loss to West Bromwich on Saturday.


Alas, the man who did wonders at Porto only a season ago could no longer weave his magic at Chelsea.


His discharge left the Blues wallowing deeper in the quagmire. Aside from the psychological effects it might have brought in, they now sit fifth in the Premier League and at the same time on the verge of missing out on a coveted Champions League qualification spot.

 


Villas-Boas’ sacking came at a time when the squad was showing no signs of improving at this critical stage of the season. Three wins in the last 12 matches under him proved no longer bearable.


ENOUGH IS ENOUGH


He previously said he has the backing of the Russian tycoon. But the latter apparently could no longer stomach what is happening to his team and announced his decision during a dressing-room huddle last Sunday.


Abramovich raised the warning sign starting with Villas-Boas’ dismissal. There will be massive changes at the club in the summer and no one knows what these are. Only Roman knows and he is the only one who could deliver such abrupt changes on his outfit.


Chelsea’s recent run of unfavourable results tilted towards the eventual exit of Villas-Boas who just made himself the seventh ex-manager of the Abramovich era.


Yes, the Russian previously defended his appointment despite the poor team showing but AVB’s inability to unite a hostile dressing room compounded by his misunderstandings with some senior players added reason to get him to the exit door.


TEMPORARY REPLACEMENT


Taking over AVB’s post at the moment is assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player and West Brom manager. He has been given until the end of the season to guide the Blues but can he stand up to the job?


Chelsea are still in the hunt in the Champions League and FA Cup and with that at hand, Di Matteo is obviously facing a real herculean task.


Ever since AVB took over at Stamford Bridge last June in place of Carlo Ancelotti, he has been under constant pressure, one thing that never left him till the end.


Abramovich may be wrong in sacking AVB at this juncture but that just may be the medicine Chelsea need to turn things around for the better. When Abramovich feels enough is enough, he’d do anything to get rid of his underperforming managers. AVB still has two more years left on his contract but that’s the way it goes under Roman’s law – -- you don’t get the results I want, you get fired!


Or did the Russian finally axe AVB to give way to the return of Jose Mourinho? AVB was a scout at Chelsea from 2004-2007 under the Spanish coach whose recent trip to London hinted he could be back at Stamford Bridge.


A Mourinho comeback remains a vague possibility though. He was fired because he did not win the Champions League while at the helm. It was the same fate suffered by Carlo Ranieri, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti. And as of late, Mourinho implied that he will only think seriously about coming back to Chelsea if he is assured he will be given complete authority over first-team affairs.


Still, others like Rafa Benitez, Sven Goran Eriksson and Jurgen Klopp are likewise said to be on the wanted list that could also include Harry Redknapp, Mark Hughes and David Moyes. But the pronouncement on who will it be remains with Roman.


Europe’s Holy Grail is the one Abramovich yearns to hold aloft but they face another unsuccessful season because they need some sort of a miracle to overcome a 1-3 deficit against Napoli and the mission to have this accomplished now rests mainly on Di Matteo.


If things turn for the worse for the Blues, Di Matteo could likewise be heading to the exits after this season. Good for him if he could help Chelsea recover but then again he should bear in mind that even success is no guarantee of having a well-entrenched job under Abramovich. Look at what happened to Ancelotti. He gifted the club with a double in 2009 but it brought no satisfaction to the Russian big boss.


ANOTHER HATED CHAP


Di Matteo is said to be more reviled at the dugout than AVB. To make himself an amiable figure to the players, he should do what AVB failed to assert inside and outside the dressing room. He should have learned from the mistakes of the Portuguese, notably in dealing with his players. He should relate with them professionally and win them back by "befriending’’ them again.


This is the time for Di Matteo to pounce on the opportunity. No matter how burdensome his new responsibilities may be, he should show Abramovich that he could live up to expectations. And a ray of hope met him on his very first try at calling the shots as the Blues began life after Villas-Boas by downing second-tier Birmingham 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.


Di Matteo declared after that win that the team are united again. Oh come on, that’s just the FA Cup! Do the breast-beating after you beat tougher opponents in the Premier League and Champions League.


Abramovich may have gotten rid of a thorn he deemed as the one ailing Chelsea. And that was Villas-Boas. There could be some happy blokes within the club now celebrating AVB’s firing but up ahead is a stiff challenge coming no less from their demanding owner.


He has given the walking papers to the man they wanted out. It is now time for the players to repay that move by showing him they can regroup and fight decently to the finish even though it is already late in the season.


His planned revamp this summer is welcome news to the Chelsea faithful. No problem with that it seems. But on a deeper perspective, is Abramovich himself the one giving the real problem to his team?