The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo as Chelsea coach may not have come as a surprise.
For days now the grapevine had been swamped with rumours of Di Matteo’s imminent departure. Chelsea had been in dire straits for the most part of the season and their 3-0 thumping by Juventus in their last Champions’ League Group match proved to be the last straw.
In a terse statement placed on its website Chelsea said in part:
“Chelsea Football Club has parted company this morning with manager Roberto Di Matteo.
The team’s recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the Board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season”
Roman Abrahmovich the Chelsea owner had made a statement of intent when he hired Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player and assistant manager, on a permanent basis in March 2012.
The fact that Abrahmovich overlooked experienced big name tacticians seems to have been an experiment that backfired. Di Matteo, whose previous biggest assignment was as coach of West Brom replaced Andres Villas Boas himself a coach with a threadbare Curriculum Vitae. At West Brom Di Matteo was unceremoniously shown the door after two months of poor results.
Initially Di Matteo seemed to have the Midas touch. Chelsea were like a club re-born. They started playing a brand of exciting football and ended the season on a high with the FA Cup and Champions League trophies in their cabinet.
It seemed that the club had finally gotten a coach with a desire to win and one who importantly had the respect of the senior players of the squad.
With the acquisitions in the 2012/13 season of Eden Hazard, Victor Moses, Oscar, Cesar and others at a combined value of almost 80 million pounds it was expected that Chelsea would build on the successes of the past season and become a formidable unit.
It was not to be.
But how good was Di Matteo at Chelsea?
After taking over the reins from his former boss AVB, Di Matteo managed a paltry 5 wins in 11 games in the league, his side stringing together some unconvincing displays to finish 6th. In fact Chelsea are in this year’s Champions league itself by virtue of being the defending Champions.
It was in last year’s Champions League that Chelsea exhibited some flashes of the potential the club had. Specifically in the victories against Napoli (where Chelsea had to fight from 3 goals down) and Benfica the Blues were dominant.
In the latter stages against Barcelona and finally Bayern Munchen Chelsea played the waiting game and demonstrated to perfection the concept of smash and grab.
Despite a fair record of 24 won 9 drawn and 9 lost making a win rate of 57.14% the performances of Chelsea this season have been unconvincing. Roman Abrahmovich is known to disdain mediocrity and rules the London club with an iron fist. It therefore became evident after Chelsea won just two of their last eight games that the writing was on the wall for Di Matteo.
Chelsea are looking to hire Rafael Benitez or Avram Grant as a stop gap measure with their sights set on Pep Guardiola in the near future as the ultimate replacement. The next coach to be hired will be Abrahmovich and Chelsea’s 9th coach in 9 years.
The Blues have a tough game on Sunday when they host league leaders Manchester City and it will be definitely be a baptism of fire for whoever will be at the helm.
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