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The Midweek Moan: Roman revolution reads like the reign of King Henry VIII

A portrait of King Henry VIII A portrait of King Henry VIII

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
3:10 PM

Welcome to London24’s weekly column taking a frustrated look at the world of sport and having a good old-fashioned rant to get it off our chests. This week, the Chelsea managerial merry-go-round...

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Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireChelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

You wouldn’t be surprised if Roman Abramovich had hired a crack team of theologians and religious pontificators to scour scripture and stare at the stars in order to nail down the precise moment of the Second Coming so he can hire the big bloke with the beard as his next Chelsea manager. Well, he’s already had the “Special One”.

Certainly, the criteria for the next Stamford Bridge boss is becoming ever more niche, so much so that it wouldn’t be in the least bit surprising if the manager’s job spec stipulated that applicants must be able to walk on water and cure the footballing sickness inflicting Fernando Torres.

"It’s no secret that Abramovich is quick to show his managers the sharp end of a P45 – in fact he’s so filthy rich he probably owns the Sword of Damocles – but there hasn’t been a west London resident so comfortable with swinging the axe since King Henry VIII"

James Cunliffe

And even that might not be enough considering that the last guy in charge, Roberto Di Matteo, finally delivered the moneybags Russian’s Holy Grail of the Champions League only to get the chop today, six months later.

It’s no secret that Abramovich is quick to show his managers the sharp end of a P45 – in fact he’s so filthy rich he probably owns the Sword of Damocles – but there hasn’t been a west London resident so comfortable with swinging the axe since King Henry VIII.

Rather than ‘Strive for victory, shun defeat’ Chelsea’s club motto may as well be ‘Off with their heads’ after Di Matteo (262 days) became the latest in a lineage of managerial executions, following Luiz Felipe Scolari (223 days), Andre Villas-Boas (257 days) and Avram Grant (247 days) out of the exit door less than a year from their coronations.

Like one of England’s most infamous monarchs, Roman may merely have filed for the football equivalent of a divorce with the rest, while Guus Hiddink remains the one that got away, but the stats show that eight bosses have ghosted through the corridors of Stamford Bridge – nine if you include Ray Wilkins – and the question is who next?

Of course, there won’t be any shortage of suitors but don’t be fooled into thinking that the next boss will come in because he’s excited by “the project”. That can and has changed from one minute to the next. No, the one thing that will shout loudest is – as it always has since Abramovich assumed control – the money.

When the inevitable failure spells the end then there will be a nice big pay-off to ease the ignominy of unemployment.

And whoever it is, they can forget about having their own ideas and ethos on how the game should be played. Roman wants the revolution done his way or, more to the point, the Barcelona way.

But despite all the Roubles the Russian has thrown at the problem, Chelsea never have and it’s hard to argue they ever will play like the Catalans.

If, as expected, former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez takes the hot-seat it will merely by a stop gap until the Blues’ big boss can get his hands on Pep Guardiola – as if that’s they way to achieve his dreams of becoming the best team in the world.

And if that’s the case then Abramovich knows nothing about football. Yes Guardiola won everything there was to win with the Nou Camp heroes, but the seeds had been planted long before the former defensive midfielder returned as manager to his football birthplace.

First he, as those before and after him have, inherited a style of play instilled by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, passed down through the years. He was also blessed with a largely homegrown side the like that has never been seen before and probably will never again. And let’s not forget the most important dynamic in his success – Lionel Messi.

Taking nothing away from a man who had only previously manager Barcelona B, and with the greatest of respect, a goldfish could manage that side, so good are they.

Yet a quick history should tell the Chelsea benefactor that not even Barca have retained ‘Old Big Ears’ – no team has since the Champions League’s inception 20 years ago. In that time AC Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid, to name a few, have all possessed better teams than the Blues.

Yes, Chelsea stand on the precipice of embarrassment at becoming the first European Cup holders in two decades to relinquish the crown at the group stage, but perhaps Di Matteo’s by now short-lived crowning glory in Munich six months ago just goes to show how much the Blues over achieved.

Surely even the most ardent Chelsea fan would be hard pushed to suggest they were deserving winners. Like Liverpool in 2005, who were comprehensively outplayed by AC Milan in the final, the Blues rode their luck all the way through the competition.

There’s no shame in admitting that and it certainly doesn’t take away from the fact they did win it which, after all, is the only stat that ever really matters.

But Abramovich cannot be a football thinker in any sense of the term as he might have realised that any team can win a cup but the only the best side wins a league.

And he might just need to take a step into the real world and give a manager longer than a season for that, rather than pay for a saviour.

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