Villas-Boas, deadwood, and maybe a change of heart from Abramovich. (Originally on OddsChanger)

Posted on March 4, 2012

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This week’s biggest news is that Andre Villas-Boas has been sacked as Chelsea’s manager and Roberto Di Matteo has been named as his temporary replacement.

People joke about Chelsea having no history because they were supposedly “founded” in 2003, and to an extent I can play along with that joke, because it’s funny and in some way true. Since Roman Abramovich took over the club in the summer of 2003, he has spent around £475million on player transfers, a figure that can only be contested by Manchester City. Abramovich’s acquisition of world-class players has driven the club forwards, leading them to three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two Carling Cups and two Community Shields. Since the Russian billionaire took over, The Blues also finished runners up in the Premier League (4), Community Shield (3), Carling Cup (1) and also the 2007/2008 Champions League. But has all this success come to an abrupt end? It seems that Roman Abramovich has massively cut his heavy spending this season, and may do so for the foreseeable future. But will he ever give a manager a chance? We’ll see next season.

                Chelsea’s former double-winning manager, Carlo Ancelotti (now at PSG), was sacked after a 1-0 defeat to Everton. I think the sacking has proved one of the biggest mistakes Abramovich and his board have made (apart from signing Fernando Torres). The Italian’s successor was Andre Villas-Boas, who had been everything but a fan favourite since his astonishing €17million move from Porto. Chelsea are currently sitting outside the top-four in the Premier League, and will struggle to stay in the Champions League after going 3-1 down away to Napoli in the first leg. There is clearly something wrong with this Chelsea squad; however I wouldn’t write them off just yet, all they need to do is buy some new players and get a new manager. It all sounds a bit too easy, but unfortunately for Villas-Boas, it was that easy for Chelsea to do the latter.

                Andre Villas-Boas hasn’t impressed at all this season, a recent loss to West Brom confirmed his status as the least successful manager in Chelsea’s nine year history. Joking – but he has made himself one of the least successful managers that have ever been employed at the club. He only had himself to blame, the money was (and still is) there, the players are there (sort of), so what did he do wrong? Here are a few quotes from former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti to answer that question:

                “I think that the problem at Chelsea was that they tried to change something, to have a younger team, to give more opportunity to the younger players, to play, to try to give less matches to the most important players – Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry,”

“But I think that this change needed time because it is very difficult to substitute players like Lampard, like Ashley Cole, like John Terry, because they are I think again the players in Chelsea.”

“Villas-Boas is a good coach, because he did a very good job at Porto. It’s the philosophy of the club. They tried to change something. This change needed time.” [Quotes from Goal.com, via CNN]

                So Ancelotti said “this change needed time” – try telling that to a very impatient Roman Abramovich.    

As for the playing squad, that is in dire need of some fresh faces. Look at their defence for example, Cole and Bosingwa/Ivanovic are no longer the top-class full-backs they once were, although arguably, Ashley Cole was the only one of the three who was ever “world-class” or close to it. The full-back cover consists of Hutchinson and Bertrand, I admit the pair are still young, but they are far from adequate replacements to those listed above. The centre-backs aren’t much better: Gary “0.5 tackles a game” Cahill, John Terry who has declined as a player ever since 2010, an ever-declining Paulo Ferreira and David Luiz, who seems to excel going forwards, but when it comes to defending he is always second best.

Chelsea’s midfield isn’t what it once was; Lampard and Essien seem to have lost their talents with age and injury, which is understandable. And I can see Essien leaving in the summer. The Ramires of last season is what Chelsea’s midfield require this season, a midfielder who is bursting with life and always puts in a shift, but right now he just seems a bit too ordinary. Two other mediocre players in the middle of the Blues’ park are Raul Meireles and John Obi Mikel, it’s hard to decide if they are top four quality or not, they’re both too inconsistent. As for Oriol Romeu, he is a top talent, and I can only see a bright future for him. Is he ready to step up for Chelsea just yet? Only time will tell. What Chelsea’s midfield need is someone who can instantly bring life into a game, at the same time as keeping a cool head. If Villas-Boas was still at the club in the summer, I could see him raiding his old club for Joao Moutinho, although Sochaux’s Marvin Martin would also be a good player to improve the squad.

Out-wide Chelsea seem competent, but that’s pretty much it. Kalou, Malouda and Mata between them have notched up seventeen assists this season. None of which have come from Kalou, eleven of which have come from the excellent Juan Mata. Sums it up really, Malouda has lost his speed and it losing his creative spark, luckily for Chelsea, Kevin De Bruyne is joining up with the squad in the summer. I think it’s time for Kalou to go, but who would they bring in? In January, Di Maria of Real Madrid was linked with a move to the south London club, for me he would be an excellent addition to the squad, but I highly doubt Madrid would let him leave for anything less than £25million.

Torres, Drogba and Lukaku: The former can’t score, the latter never plays, and the man in the middle still has something to give, although he’s clearly declining with time, and I’m unsure whether he’ll be playing in Chelsea colours next season. I’ve left Sturridge out for two reasons, 1) because he’s young, and needs one or two more seasons before he can be properly judged, and 2) he is one of Chelsea’s top scorers. The reason I highlighted Lukaku is because you don’t just pay in excess of £14million for a striker and then omit him from the team. He has spoken out about this recently, hinting at a loan move next season. A new striker could be on the cards for Chelsea, as their forward line is clearly lacking a solid, consistent striker. Dare I say it: Tevez?

What lies ahead for Chelsea? Does Di Matteo have it in him to revitalise the team and get them back on the push for the top four? Will he even make it to the end of the season? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

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Posted in: OddsChanger