Are Chelsea really the villains for sacking Di Matteo?

Varun Mathure

pg 76 lawton getty 300x225 Are Chelsea really the villains for sacking Di Matteo?This morning sounded another death knell for a Chelsea manager as Roman Abramovich wielded his favourite axe to sack Champions League winning manager Roberto Di Matteo from the club.

Tuesday night’s defeat to Juventus in the Champions League left the Blues pinning their hopes elsewhere as they moved to the verge of exiting the competition, they memorably won last year. And now the man who guided them to their brightest moment in history has been hung out to dry.

Roman Abramovich does sound like that stereotypical villain from a Bond flick, doesn’t he? And while the Russian billionaire has indeed made some brash decisions in the past, is the sacking of Di Matteo really as harsh and as extreme as it sounds?

If viewed in the context of the past eight months, the answer is yes. But if we can dissociate ourselves for a bit and actually take a wider scenario into consideration it might not seem such a bad call after all from Chelsea’s perspective.

Di Matteo is not a star manager, he isn’t someone who exudes personality and inspires the kind of belief in a team that certain bigger names do. While, he was at the helm to oversee the Blues’ conquer Europe to attribute that achievement to him would not be genuine.

The remarkable turnaround of the game against Napoli was not achieved through some sort of tactical masterplan, but by some remarkable determination shown by the players – many of whom seemed galvanised by the departure of Andre Villas-Boas.

The victories over Barcelona and Bayern Munich too were achieved through a healthy dose of good luck and opportunism, than through a novel formation. So, it isn’t completely out of place to question Di Matteo’s actual managerial contribution to their European efforts.

The Champions League triumph was one of a generation of footballers at Chelsea who had been brought in by previous managers and all the stars finally aligning in place. The FA Cup win was also achieved with just four victories under Di Matteo – two of them against Championship sides Birmingham and Leicester City.

Di Matteo’s record against the big clubs in England hasn’t also been particularly great. Since he took over his record against Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs in the league reads thus – P8 W2 D3 L3. Not the best by any stretch of imagination.

It is also important to remember that Chelsea failed to finish in the top four last season, and the close season losses to Newcastle and Liverpool would have cast them out of the Champions League were it not for their heroics in Munich.

While it is only in the last four weeks that the Blues have stuttered, a look at their fixture list indicates that the first couple of months were rather kind to them. Their win against Arsenal was great and the loss to United unlucky, but victory over Spurs was again one which could have swung either way.

Di Matteo’s previous managerial experience was at West Brom whom he guided back to the Premier League, but was sacked in his first season in the top flight when the Baggies were in 17th place having collected just 26 points from their 25 games. A managerial revelation, he was not.

And today West Brom aren’t a completely revamped outfit from two years ago. Last season, Roy Hodgson led them to their highest ever finish in the Premier League and today they sit fourth under the stewardship of Steve Clarke.

While, Chelsea will get labelled a Mickey Mouse club and get stick from a lot of fans for the way the Di Matteo affair has been handled, how many fans of a top club would be willing to take the Italian as a manager at their outfit? Surely, not too many.

With just 12 games played so far the season is still long, but for a massive stroke of luck Chelsea will be playing in the Europa League next year. They are third in the table, but there would not be  many guarantees that they would have stayed there and in contention come May.

Maybe, Abramovich is wary after seeing his team finish outside the top four last season when he persisted with Villas-Boas for a lot longer than people thought he would. With Uefa’s Financial Fair Play looming it would be financially disastrous for the Blues to not qualify for the Champions League.

And this time, they are not definitely not going to find another way to get in.
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  • MuThu

    Luck, players aligning together with passion to win are key factors in any managers success. De Matteo managed that unlike many top superstar coaches. Suppose If Benetez took the job from now, will you look on on his failed past and credit De Matteo for any likely possible he would achieve with chelsea?

  • blackfirscharlie

    Abramovich has the patience of a gnat and the ridiculous notion that success can be bought overnight. Nine managers in nine years is just plain stupid, he changes managers like people change their shoes. United are only lucky that Fergie is making money for the greedy Glazers. If the dollar profits went down, they would soon show him the door as well.

  • Paul C. Eze

    Article right on point. The major question to all pro-Di matteo ranters from other clubs is “Will you absolutely, given his experience and tactical acumen, have Di Matteo as manager at your club (Man Utd, Arsenal, Man City etc)? The answer is as good as mine!

  • Skietje

    Multiple points…Roman is out of order getting rid of Di Matteo, specially under the comments that his style didn’t suit. That is just purely ridiculous, At the beginning of the season Chelsea were playing great football, and just about anybody can see that Mata, Hazard and Oscar are all very good players. It is also their first season together, there was always going to be bumps, but you don’t put together 3 kids like that and expect 38 matches of unadulterated total football.

    Fans from all the top clubs talk about wanting Pep as their next manager. Chelsea can forget it, there is no way on earth that someone who can walk into any football job he wants is willing to work for Roman with his track record of hiring and firing. I suspect if he decides to come and work in the premier league it will be with man city. Whilst that place is full of egos they seem to be standing by their than (for now at least) and whilst everybody was talking about Pep, they have already moved Trikxi over from camp nou to Eastlands, and he will facilitate them in getting Pep.

    Rafa is genuinely the best manager available now, and he could if given the chance make Chelsea a better side than they are now. Unfortunately fans tend to not see things very clearly. Chelsea have a great midfield, up front they are having trouble and at the back as well. Perhaps a few fans need to look at the players to take some responsibility, stop idolizing certain players whom seem incapable of staying on the pitch for more than a few games at a time without picking up suspensions, then they wouldn’t have leaked as many goals as they have. If you want football with “tiki-taka” then Rafa is not your man, but he is thorough, pragmatic and the best manager Chelsea have had since Mourino. But can the Chelsea players and fans get over their prejudices? I suspect not.

  • Christian Gunning

    the author is clearly not a chelsea fan.
    Di Matteo inspired more confidence, ingenuity and forward thinking ambition than any Chelsea manager since Jose Mourinho. but to know that, you would have to be a Chelsea Fan.

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