There’s got to be some level of criticism aimed at Roberto Di Matteo for his choice of tactics ahead of the game against Juventus, while the decision to rest a number of players away at West Brom on the weekend also proved to be a costly error.
This Chelsea team are a side who are looking to do away with the idea that Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba will be their saviours. It’s a team who want to transform their on-pitch philosophies into something more in-tune with the Spanish, and coincidentally it’s all orders coming from Roman Abramovich.
But the Chelsea owner has taken a very good and promising team and told them to start again. The next manager that comes in will no doubt have a different approach to dealing with the squad and how the team sets up, but Di Matteo was given little to no time to play a hand in reshaping the playing side of this club.
There’s also a hugely unwarranted sense of arrogance on the part of Abramovich with his assumption that he has a right to win. This team have stripped away the prime assets of the last decade’s winning squads in seeing off Drogba and reducing Lampard to the bench for the most part, and yet there’s never a sense that time needs to be taken to allow the new players to bed in and becoming a winning squad.
The decision to sack Di Matteo immediately after the lose in Turin couldn’t have been any more ridiculous. There should in no way have been an assumption that a Chelsea side in transition would have gone to Italy and beaten the Serie A champions, who had just completed a season unbeaten on their way to the league title. It should never be forgotten that the conductor of this impressive Juventus side is Andrea Pirlo, a magnificent midfielder who orchestrated the demolition of England at last summer’s European Championship.
Yes, Chelsea are in a poor run of form, having only picked up two wins in their last eight, but a lot of these players in the team are Abramovich’s signings. Fernando Torres is a £50 million striker who was airdropped into Carlo Ancelotti’s winning team and has since failed to make an impression. David Luiz was bought in to shore up the defence, but there can be no hiding away from the fact that the Brazilian has been poor for the majority of the season. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin were all bought this past summer without Di Matteo in mind, yet it was down to the manager to bring the best out of these players immediately and without any acknowledgement for the time it takes to acclimatise to English football.
Chelsea’s Champions League win last season has rightly been considered lucky due to the circumstances surrounding the club and the strength of others in Europe. Their league form certainly wasn’t telling of a team who were on their way to the final in Munich and, above all, the football wasn’t what the owner desired at Stamford Bridge.
Where will the consistency and calming influence come from now? Abramovich has sacked seven managers in his time as owner of the club, and while he’s brought plenty of success to west London, there can never be a full transformation of the club’s playing style if he continues in this manner.
The headline-maker and star manager is obviously Pep Guardiola. What better way for Abramovich to replicate Barcelona and Spain’s winning philosophy than to hire the man that kick-started the successful spell in 2008? But you’ve got to wonder if the Chelsea owner has taken into account the players at Barcelona and their education in playing to the same system. That wasn’t a squad who were expensively assembled from different footballing backgrounds, but rather a team who were largely products of La Masia. Furthermore, Chelsea didn’t have a Johan Cruyff figure laying the foundations for a lengthy period of success decades later; Abramovich would be foolish to assume Guardiola alone would be enough to launch a Barcelona MKII in the Premier League.
Di Matteo was not the most glamorous and certainly not the best, but he was good enough for the club to appoint him permanent manager during the summer. This is not a team who are struggling in mid-table and with little to no hope; there are very few, if any, similarities to last season under Andre Villas-Boas. Torres is struggling for form and the team need to improve defensively, but that doesn’t happen within a couple of months and with a host of new faces.