Another year, another sacking. So goes the Chelsea management cycle.
Roberto di Matteo is the latest casualty of a club that has now had eight managers is an many years.
He can consider himself particularly unlucky, having delivered perhaps the brightest moment in Chelsea’s history with Champions League victory last May.
For each of his predecessors, we all believed the reason behind their sacking was their failure to deliver success in Europe. The Champions League, it seemed, was the prize most coveted by owner Roman Abramovich.
But this no longer appears to be the case. Di Matteo has been sacked anyway following a poor run of form and Chelsea’s lack of consistency in this year’s European competition – although Abramovich might have done well to consider that they are not yet out of it.
Now it seems that Abramovich is turning to Rafa Benitez – a man whose last management job also ended prematurely, sacked after 6 months in charge of a treble-winning Inter team.
None of which suggests that the owner has in place a strong contingency plan. It seems that Pep Guardiola is the preferred option, but his supposed reluctance to end his management sabbatical means that Chelsea have had to turn to plan B.
But have they not just sacked plan B? Di Matteo was never supposed to be full-time manager when he took the reins last season, but almost got the job by default having delivered the one trophy Chelsea were missing.
Surely it would have made more sense to back the man who seems to have spent wisely this summer and has put together a strong squad. Up until a month ago, they were playing attractive football and getting decent results.
There is nothing to suggest at this point that whoever takes over at Stamford Bridge will do any better with the squad he inherits, will be any more astute in the transfer market (Oscar, Hazard and Moses is good business in anyone’s book), or will be able to get anything more from Fernando Torres than his predecessor.
Liverpool’s start to the season has been undoubtedly worse than Chelsea’s and their squad unarguably weaker – yet they stand by Brendan Rodgers. Their owners have a long-term plan that they are willing to give their manager time to implement.
This means backing him in the transfer window as well as allowing him the room to set the wheels in motion. Having given Di Matteo the funds, I cant help but feel it would have been in Chelsea’s best interests to at least give him the time to stamp his mark on this team.
If Abramovich does indeed have a long-term plan involving Guardiola, Di Matteo ought to have been given the year to start the change. Instead, more management changes will cause more squad upheaval and the team will be so closer to a stable, steady plan.
The squad that Chelsea have is capable of winning the title, or challenging for it at the very least. A new manager will not suddenly have new players, and if the new man is only meant to occupy the tole on a temporary basis, he will only be moderately backed come January.
Form is temporary, but class is permanent: Abramovich would do well to remember the old cliche. Chelsea have the class, but must be given the time to find the form.