Thinking back to May, picturing Roberto Di Matteo climb up the steps of the Allianz Arena, embracing Roman Abramovich and shouting “I DID IT!” is a memory that will live on. It was a moment a handful of clubs accomplish, a feat few men achieve. It looked like winning combination, Di Matteo and Abramovich. Chelsea were lucky, uncompromising, and looked to have a real sense of unity under the then interim manager.
It took some months prior to winning the highest accolade in club football, (and the FA cup) for Di Matteo to be appointed as full time manager. This raised some eyebrows, it certainly raised mine. This man clearly had the support of all the players and seemed to know how to rally them into putting in more effort than they knew they had, but the owner seemed to be looking at a different picture.
After the defeat to Juventus, and the chances of Champions League progression fading, I woke this morning with a due sense of dread. Maybe I had a premonition in my sleep; more likely, like the rest of the football world, I am aware that the owner of Chelsea has a temper shorter than a smurf’s trouser measurements.
It’s clear now, if it wasn’t then, that Di Matteo was never Roman Abramovich’s first choice Chelsea manager. Alas he lasted just 42 games at the helm of Stamford Bridge. After just eight months in charge, he is the eighth manager to be fired by Roman Abramovich.
Clearly a big fan of Alan Sugar’s work, Abramovich is well known for firing people, so it wasn’t a surprise when Roberto Di Matteo got his marching orders this morning. Like a mother whose child is misbehaving, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.
The results this month have been poor, yes. Dropping Torres for Azpilicueta last night in Turin, in hind sight, was probably a poor choice, but when Roberto Di Matteo took over, Chelsea were in a bad place. It was clear Villas-Boas was trying to change things too quickly and it didn’t work. For what it’s worth he probably should have been fired. RDM lifted Chelsea, to a place they had never been before, though it counts for very little me saying this, he definitely should not have been fired.
Building success takes time, it’s obvious. Young players need time to grow. Chelsea bought several players under the age of 21 in the summer. A team times time to gel. As talented as the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Moses and Azpilicueta clearly are, they can’t be expected to drag Chelsea by the scruff of the neck and hammer their way into a locked safe like Drogba could.
This season’s new philosophy was working; perhaps not looking at the immediate results, but the new players settled in well and were working together looking as if they were all enjoying their football. A 3-0 loss to Juventus last night was painful for all Chelsea fans, but not enough for them to call for Di Matteo’s head to roll.
Chelsea’s next fixture is at home to Man City. With no manager, no Terry, no Lampard (who are still injured) and no in form strikers, how can Chelsea possibly look forward positively?
With the luck from last season apparently running out, heart can be taken from the array of talent still at the disposal of whoever takes charge this weekend. If Chelsea Football Club have proven anything in the Abramovich era, it’s that when their backs are against the wall they will find a way to succeed.
Whoever takes over now, whether it be Rafa Benitez, who surely will be just be warming the bench for ex-Barcelona boss Guardiola, or whether it be football’s golden goose himself (fingers crossed for Guardiola), Di Matteo can walk away with his head held high; he did a good job under a difficult man.