The trouble with despots? They are seldom enlightened. Chelsea oligarch Roman Abramovich has sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas, just eight months after paying $21 million to pry him from his Porto contract. AVB joins a lengthy list of gentlemen being paid not to manage Chelsea. Caretaker Roberto Di Matteo will be the seventh manager since 2007.
Chelsea hired the 34-year-old Villas-Boas last summer, fresh off winning the treble in his first season. He was the hottest young manager in Europe. He also had just one year of experience (neither at a big club nor in a top caliber league) and was barely older than the squad’s veteran core. His style, up tempo and attacking, was at odds with the club’s aging personnel.
This season was supposed to be one of transition, with AVB performing the soccer equivalent of a rigid pro-style to spread conversion in football. He bought a couple players, Juan Mata and Raul Meireles, who fit his system but otherwise had to make due. He faced the same conundrum every post-Mourinho manager has faced with Chelsea’s veteran core: enact much needed change or keep things intact for short-term results and dressing room harmony. He opted for the former option and it has cost him.
AVB lost the players’ support. His style left his defense exposed too often. Fernando Torres, signed for $80 million, has become soccer’s Barry Zito with just two goals in 22 league appearances. Chelsea has, consequently, hit a terrible run of form, winning just three of their last 12 EPL matches and dropping points to six teams below 10th place. Yesterday’s limp 1-0 loss to West Brom to fall three points behind Arsenal for fourth was Villas-Boas’ last straw. The situation, regarding Chelsea’s Champions League future, is dire, though one wonders whether yet more turnover will be the prudent response.
Abramovich has invested more than $700 million in Chelsea’s squad since 2003 and more than $200 million the past two seasons. The trouble has been comprehensive instability and impatience from their owner. The Blues need a manager with the gravitas to wrest control, the aplomb to handle the pressure and the delicacy to keep Abramovich placated. You’ll hear much talk of Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola, though the best man for the job works at Real Madrid.
[Photo via Getty]