Abramovich Has Egg On His Face, But AVB Did Himself No Favours

So, Roman Abramovich’s twitchy finger strikes again as yet another Chelsea manager bites the dust. Despite the pattern of recent history it was a little surprising that Andre Villas Boas didn’t last until at least the conclusion of the Champions League tie with Napoli. But alas, like many before him, AVB felt the force of Abramovich’s wielding axe. You would think that the Russian billionaire might be feeling a little bit embarrassed about disposing of the man he hired just eight months ago. The very same man that Abramovich was happy to part with more than £13 million for.  He really has been left with a large, free-range, ostrich-sized egg on his face, but he probably won’t care. He’ll simply wipe his face clean, no doubt with a wad of fifties, and he certainly won’t lose a single moment’s sleep over the farcical situation he has created.

Interim boss Roberto Di Matteo is the ninth manager in as many years to patrol the Stamford Bridge technical area. It’s a pretty disgraceful statistic when you consider the club’s success since Abramovich seized control of the blues just under a decade ago. Honours include; three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and two Charity Shields. Hardly a club in turmoil, as the frequent managerial vicissitude might suggest. To put things into perspective, since Abramovich bought the club back in 2003, Chelsea have had the same number of permanent managers as Portsmouth. The result of Abramovich’s constant chopping and changing of managers is a stagnant team that has been devoid of evolution and rejuvenation.

Employing a manager of Villas Boas’ callowness to tackle the arduous task of overseeing the much-needed transition at the club, carried with it more risk than investing in a chocolate teapot manufacturer. The job called for an experienced head, a manager that had been there, done it and collected a plethora of t-shirts, and trophies, along the way. It required a manager of European pedigree, whose reputation demanded the respect of Chelsea’s egomaniacal dressing room. Of course, managers of this calibre are in short supply. However, there was one man, unemployed no less, that ticked all the necessary boxes. The only problem; he had his P45 sanctioned by Chelsea’s Russian sugar-daddy just weeks earlier. Abramovich’s decision to part with company with the impressive Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season was met with criticism. The events of the last few months make that very decision look astonishingly ludicrous. Chelsea fans have every right to feel disillusioned by the shambles that has ensued.

There has to be a certain amount of sympathy leveled at Villas Boas, mainly because of the inexcusable behaviour of some of the senior members of the squad, the so-called professionals. The player power at Chelsea is a product of the gross mismanagement from the boardroom, a monster that Abramovich himself has indulged for the last nine years. However, whilst AVB was certainly up against it, he did himself no favours. Perhaps out of inexperience, or perhaps over-enthusiasm, Villas Boas attempted to make changes he wasn’t ready to implement. His position of strength was in the summer he took charge. This was his opportunity to make changes to the squad, while he had the owner’s backing. He was unable to shift any out, while transfers in were minimal. His attempts to change Chelsea’s style of play were futile as a result of this conservative transfer activity. The introduction of a high defensive line made his most accomplished defender look amateurish at best.

Villas Boas’ instruction was to phase out the Old Guard. To phase out implies over a period of time. He succeeded only in instantly alienating these players. Anelka and Alex made to train with the reserves before their January exits, Frank Lampard and, later, Ashley Cole ignored for matches they should have started. His sparing use of Fernando Torres will have shattered any confidence the misfiring striker regained from braces against Swansea and Genk earlier in the season. Villas Boas made a rod for his own back when he segregated the Old Guard. Many of these players are still integral to Chelsea’s success in the short-term. AVB would have been wise to keep them on-side, complete the season in an acceptable position, and then make wholesale changes in the summer. The one consolation for the young coach is that he lasted longer in the Chelsea hot seat than a World Cup winner.

Villas Boas will undoubtedly go on to have a successful managerial career – speculation about his next job has already begun – but it may have been a case of wrong job, wrong time for the former Porto coach. As for Chelsea and Abramovich, qualification for next season’s Champions League is the priority. Beyond that, who Abramovich turns to next is anyone’s guess. After exhausting most of the top managers in Europe, a return to where it all started with Jose might be the best bet, although Mourinho’s return may be reliant on the meddling Russian relinquishing full control to the current Real Madrid boss.

By Nicholas Godden

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Tags: AVB, Abramovich, Andre, Boas, Chelsea, Roman, Villas

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