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Guest writer and Blues supporter Charlie Skillen explains why the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti leaves Chelsea short of options...
The sacking of Carlo Ancelotti gave further proof, if any were needed, that Chelsea FC is descending into farce. The shabby treatment of a good manager and a good man is unfortunately what we have come to expect.
A manager who presided over the club’s most successful season just 12 months ago has been shown an incredible lack of respect, which came to a head moments after the final whistle at Everton, when Ancelotti was reportedly sacked in the Goodison Park tunnel after a drab final match.
Ancelotti has his faults: my personal gripes are his apparent reluctance to change a game when necessary, and his unwavering support for underperforming big names rather than young talent. However, he is only one of a myriad of reasons why Chelsea have failed to impress this term.
Ray Wilkins’ dismissal irrevocably undermined Ancelotti at a crucial stage in the season, and as Chelsea’s worst run in 15 years stretched out for a further three months, the decision became harder and harder to ignore as a cause. The arrival of Fernando Torres, welcomed at the time, only caused an almighty ‘square peg’ situation for a Chelsea team with a 4-3-3 formation set in stone.
Now, despite finishing in second place when many were tipping them to miss out on a Champions League spot, Ancelotti has been fired and Chelsea seek their seventh manager in the eight years since Roman Abramovich took control of the club.
Absurdly, the winner in this situation is possibly Ancelotti himself. With the media very firmly on his side and his reputation far from tarnished, the Italian should be able to walk into any job in the summer.
For Chelsea, however, going through managers like Abramovich goes through bottles of champagne is surely not the answer to his ever-changing question of what success entails. The one constant in requirements, it seems, is the Champions League, which was the reason for Ancelotti’s appointment in 2009, having won it twice as a player and twice as a manager.
Chelsea have now exhausted all possible options: the ‘Special One’ (Mourinho), the owner’s buddy (Grant), the fiery international manager (Scolari) and now the Champions League winner. Where to now? Does Abramovich go for the experienced, or the youthful? And exactly how many of the ‘experienced’ category has he already used up, or will be loathe to move to a club under such an owner?
A quick glance over the bookies’ favourites reveals potential problems with each candidate. Guus Hiddink is popular with Chelsea fans, having steadied the ship after Phil Scolari’s disastrous reign came to an end, winning the FA Cup in the process. Yet Hiddink has an undeniably poorer managerial CV than Ancelotti, and his desire to come back into club management after underwhelming spells with Russia and Turkey, whom he still manages, is under question. More likely, it seems, is that Hiddink will return in a Director of Football role, advising a manager.
Marco Van Basten’s agent must be a sharp cookie, as the Dutchman is touted for any top job that comes up – unsurprising given his glittering managerial history of taking Holland to a disappointing Euro 2008 campaign, failing miserably at Ajax the following season, and of course… oh wait, that’s it.
Van Basten: potentially a below-par appointment (sorry)
The curveball option that has been touted is Harry Redknapp. Abramovich reportedly admires the man, who would be the first English manager at Chelsea since Glenn Hoddle. But, with Redknapp currently at London rivals Tottenham and having won one trophy in 347 years of management, as well as reportedly being lined up to succeed Fabio Capello in the England job, would Chelsea fans really welcome him?
Andre Villas-Boas has taken the Portuguese league by storm, and has worked at Chelsea before under his mentor Mourinho. Surely, though, rather than hoping for Mourinho Mk. II, Abramovich might as well break the rather large bank and get, well, Mourinho Mk. I. Villas-Boas is undeniably impressive, but at 33 he is the same age as Lampard and Drogba, who may not respond well to a manager younger than them who also never played professionally.
Therein lies the problem at Chelsea. For his faults, Alex Ferguson has always had great ability at getting rid of players. He knew he could sell the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy and make his team even better. If this had been at Chelsea, Van Nistelrooy would still be upfront now.
Having the same core of players for such a long period sees them become untouchable. The crux of the matter becomes that it is actually irrelevant who the Chelsea manager is, because the club’s fortunes lie in the form of the never-changing, ever-ageing spine of the team. Lampard, Drogba, Terry, Cech, Anelka, Malouda, Essien – the names roll off the tongue as easily as they did three years ago. While I’m not suggesting for a minute Chelsea get rid of all of these players – Cech and Terry have been the two best performers this season – the squad needs a massive overhaul.
Lampard has a chance now to become Chelsea’s Ryan Giggs, taking a back seat yet adding experience and undeniable prescence and ability to tricky ties where he may be required. As it is, he plays in excess of 50 games a season, and fans grow restless with a man turning up in the midfield every week regardless of form or opposition.
This is true of a number of players. Michael Essien has been a shadow of his former self this season, yet constantly gets picked, despite fans calling out for Ramires or Josh McEachran.
The sale of Drogba would facilitate a new system and more effective integration of a certain Spanish striker. There is no shame in this: the Ivorian is 33 and has been a fantastic player for Chelsea, but life goes on and the club has to move forward. Chelsea fans loved Kerry Dixon, but you won’t find many of them calling for the 49-year-old to spearhead the attack. Until Chelsea start to change the ethos of the club, from the shamless actions of the board to the tired-looking playing staff, the desired success will never arrive.
The big-name players have to be part of a fully functioning squad or sacrificed, and the cliché of the managerial merry-go-round rings true. Chelsea have run out of experienced managers to appoint, and will a young boss really get the time required to build a new team? If he doesn’t win the league in his first season, then the form book says no.
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