Are Chelsea really the villains for sacking Di Matteo?
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.Tagged in: chelsea, football, Premier League, Roberto Di Matteo, roman abramovich, UEFA Champions League
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