CHELSEA owner Roman Abramovich made the right call in sacking Andre Villas-Boas on Sunday after the manager seemingly lost his way with the players – although things could get worse before they get better.
The Portuguese appeared unable to motivate them any more, which means they were not happy with something. To me it looks like he was trying to teach old dogs new tricks. That just does not sit with guys who have already been very successful; it’s a simple human reaction. Villas-Boas also shot himself in the foot with some poor team selections, while he proved unable to transform Fernando Torres back into a striker worth anything like the £50m he cost Abramovich.
TAINTED BY ASSOCIATION
It has all left Chelsea facing an uphill struggle to finish in the Premier League’s top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. The players to a man are off form and are nursing some damaged egos; the team could barely be in any more of a mess.
Roberto di Matteo has been placed in charge until the end of the season and he will have to do a very, very good job indeed if he is to get that top four place. I expect them to carry on struggling, because the danger with promoting from within, as Di Matteo has been, is that it can feel like nothing has changed. New managers get a reaction from the players, who want to impress – even Villas-Boas did when he first joined – but Di Matteo is not new. He was part of that failed coaching set-up and is tainted by association.
Long-term, I would love to see former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho return for another spell, although I think he would find it far harder this time. He has had big money to spend at Real Madrid and he would need the same at Stamford Bridge. I cannot imagine him accepting a job that was going to be more difficult than his current role.
The bottom line is, however, that unless the club qualify for the Champions League Abramovich can forget about luring back Mourinho.
TICKS ALL THE BOXES
I cannot see what Chelsea’s strategy is in all of this. Imagine they lose the next three matches: they will be out of the FA Cup, further behind in the league and out of Europe. Would they sack Di Matteo?
A better short-term option might be to hire an experienced manager until the end of the season, as Abramovich did so successfully with Guus Hiddink three years ago.
His stock may have fallen but, the more I think about it, the more appointing former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson for the next dozen games makes sense.
The Swede ticks all the boxes: he knows the players, can deal with big personalities and would take the job under almost any circumstances. If they offered him the job today he would be there at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played in both the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and the 1988 European Championships. He now works as a talent scout and media commentator.