9 March ~ Since Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003, the club has had nine managers (including caretakers) in nine seasons. And now, after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, it’s back to square one. In terms of results, Villas-Boas had the worst record of any manager in the Abramovich era. He undoubtedly goes down as the Russian's worst managerial appointment to date, and many would say, not necessarily just in hindsight, it was a mistake to hire him in the first place. As a Chelsea supporter I can’t dispute any of these claims, but that doesn’t mean Chelsea were right to sack him.
Of the many reasons for this, somewhere near the top is money. Chelsea reportedly spent £28 million sacking Carlo Ancelotti – an even bigger mistake – and prizing Villas-Boas from Porto in the summer. It was a huge price for such an inexperienced manager, but it may have been legitimised if the club didn’t get rid of him, along with another large pay-off, barely seven months on. It is Abramovich’s money, but it would be naive to suggest this is where the impact ends.
FIFA’s financial fair play regulations are looming and Chelsea are already far from equitable, recording losses of £70 million last year. The Blues have a small 42,000-seater stadium, some of the highest paid players in the Premier League, have spent more money than any other club in England since January last year and, in spite of Villas-Boas’s ousting, still face the distinct possibility of not being in next season’s Champions League. This club can’t afford to spend silly money on employing and sacking managers, inexperienced or otherwise.
If that’s not incentive enough to have a little faith, why not look to the most successful English club of recent times, Manchester United. In his 25 years at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson has won 12 league titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions Leagues. If the Ferguson of 1986 had come to the present day Chelsea he wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to win his first piece of silverware, the 1990 FA Cup, in his third season in charge. The chances are, he would have been ousted at some point between 2004 and 2007, when United only managed a solitary League Cup victory. Not every manager is a Ferguson in disguise but Abramovich will never find the right person for the job without more patience.
An optimistic fan could have been forgiven for believing that Villas-Boas would be given a good chance at Chelsea. Up until very recently he seemed assured that he would hold his position for at least two seasons, if not three. As he made said repeatedly, he was working on a long-term(ish) "project". Clearly the Chelsea-revolution has been put off for the sake short-term success.
Good luck to Di Matteo. If he does well over the next two months, maybe he’ll be given a chance to shine next season. If not, someone else will be appointed. Either way, what happens when things inevitably start to turn on the new manager? You’d like to think Chelsea would have learned from their mistakes, but far more likely they’ll sack him and it’ll be back to square one again. William Turvill