Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roman's Latest Gamble

As the dust settles over the shocking events that have rocked Chelsea Football Club over the past 24 hours, the question now shifts to whether Rafa Benitez is indeed the right person for the job or whether he, like many before him, is destined for an unceremonious exit from Stamford Bridge.

Back when Benitez' name was first floated for the job in March this year, I deduced that Roman Abramovich was becoming desperate and in some ways, that still holds true. I believe Chelsea had very few managers to turn to after dismissing Roberto Di Matteo.

Pep Guardiola may be Abramovich' ideal manager but the former Barcelona man is unlikely to sacrifice his legacy by becoming another statistic under Chelsea's erractic and demanding owner.

So, yes, Chelsea had very few options. Well, there was one. Not firing Di Matteo would have probably been the best option but we're passed that now.

To be fair, Benitez has a CV that would be the envy of most managers in the world and in his six years in Liverpool, the Spaniard guided the club to two Champions League finals including their fifth Champions League title, an FA Cup and a second place in the league.

And while that may have convinced Chelsea they appointed the right man, it should be noted that Benitez isn't a quick turnaround expert like Guus Hiddink. Instead, Benitez is a firm believer in long-term plans and takes a while to build a teams that can adapt to his tactics and style of play.

It's true that Benitez won the Champions League with Liverpool in his first season but the club only became title contenders in his fifth season. And I think it's pretty well-documented at this point that patience is not one of Abramovich' virtues.

But perhaps Benitez arrival at Chelsea has more to do with the misfiring Fernando Torres who enjoyed the best football of his career under the former's management at Liverpool.

In fact, I wouldn't be too surprised if Torres was a big factor that led to Benitez' appointment. It won't be the first time Abramovich has reunited a goal-drought stricken overpriced Chelsea striker with his former boss. Remember Andriy Shevchenko and Carlo Ancelotti?

And perhaps that's all Chelsea need. Thanks to Benitez' predecessors, he comes to a Chelsea that has the likes of Edin Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar not to mention an aging but still very relevant, Frank Lampard. If Benitez gets Torres to rediscover his old form, Chelsea would be in a extremely strong position in the title race.


Chelsea Appoints Benitez

As speculated, Rafa Benitez has been appointed as Chelsea's interim manager until the end of the season following Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal.

In a statement on the club's official website, Chelsea said Benitez will manage the Blues until the end of the current season.

"The owner and the Board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives," Chelsea said.

The Blues added that Benitez is set to meet the players at the training ground in Cobham tomorrow.

"The two-time UEFA Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree. He began his managerial career in his homeland, most notably at Valencia where he built a reputation as one of Europe's top coaches by winning the Spanish League twice and the UEFA Cup. He then spent six years at Liverpool and led them to their fifth European Cup and an FA Cup," the club said.

Benitez' appointment sees the Spaniard reuniting with striker Fernando Torres who has struggled to live up to his GBP50 million transfer fee Chelsea paid Liverpool for him in January 2011.

As I had noted in yesterday's posting, Benitez initially considered by Chelsea in March this year when Andre Villas Boas was sacked but a deal wasn't reached at the time as the Blues wanted an interim manager while the Spaniard was looking for a longer-term contract.

I guess being out of a job for nearly two years changed his mind this time around. I will be posting more on this soon. It also makes you wonder the role Torres played in bringing Benitez to Stamford Bridge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reactions to Di Matteo Sacking

Here are some of the reactions to Roberto Di Matteo's shocking exit from Stamford Bridge:

"I’m very disappointed for Roberto, I know him very well, he’s a close friend and that so it is disappointing when you hear that a manager has lost his job, especially when you know them. But like even more so when you feel like you know what I mean I don’t know what more he could have done, I’m hearing Chelsea fans saying they weren’t happy with certain tactics.

"But at the end of the day at the start of the season everybody was enthusing about how great he was. But I suppose when you’ve got an owner like Abravomich who is ruthless, he knows what he wants and he does what he wants, it’s a precarious job to take, you know it still makes me laugh." - Ian Wright, in an interview with Absolute Radio.

"I'm astonished, really. It just goes to show you how precarious we are as Premier League managers, and you can't take anything for granted.

"The shock that should be there for the fans and the media should sound something to the owner of that football club because I don't know if that's the ninth manager or whatever it is in so many short years. It's just not fair.

"As far as I am concerned, he has done absolutely nothing wrong. His philosophy was to perhaps change the look of the team, which he has tried to do - that doesn't happen overnight - and he's won two competitions in less than a year, so it's unbelievable.

"He should walk straight into another job - probably at someone else's misfortune, unfortunately." -  Alan Pardew in press reports from the manager's pre-match briefing for Newcastle's Europa League encounter with Maritimo.

"Wow, Chelsea have sacked their manager!! I'm a bit late I know but its a madness." - Rio Ferdinand on his official Twitter account.

"John Terry has now seen off his ELEVENTH manager at Chelsea. Can you name them all? - Mirror Football's official Twitter feed.

"HAHAHAHAHAHA!" - Andre Villas Boas (Ok, I made that one up. The rest are real.)

On a side note, as we await news of Di Matteo's replacement (all signs seem to point to Rafa Benitez), there's some other weird rumour about Didier Drogba returning to Chelsea. Can things get any crazier?

Di Matteo Sacked; Benitez to takeover?

In a bizarre twist of events, Chelsea have sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo following the Blues' Champions League defeat to Juventus with former Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, reported to be keen to fill up the vacancy at Stamford Bridge.

Di Matteo was fired by the Blues several hours after the club fell 3-0 to Juventus at Turin which left the Champions League defending champions third in Group E with an early exit from the competition a genuine possibility.

Yesterday's defeat follows a 2-1 shock loss to West Bromvich Albion in the Premier League over the weekend.

In a statement on its official website, Chelsea said: "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.

"The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts."

 So, it appears as though winning Roman Abramovich' holy grail - the Champions League - and the FA Cup last season wasn't enough to convince the Blues' owner and his board to stick it out with Di Matteo.

The Italian must surely realise the bitter irony over the fact that managers who achieved far less than he did managed to hold to their job at Chelsea much longer than he did. And while the Blues have performed poorly in Europe, the same can't be said about their domestic performance.

With only two defeats - one of which was against Man Utd following some highly dubious refereeing - in the league, the Blues are in third place and four points behind league leaders, Man City.  You could have forgiven Di Matteo for thinking his job was safe. (Mark Hughes, if you're reading this, consider yourself the luckiest man alive).

But what Roman wants, Roman gets. I only wonder if Roman really knows what he wants.

Reports suggest that Chelsea intend to name a replacement soon and the first few names to be brandied about have been - you guessed it- former Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola and Benitez, both of whom are currently unemployed.

According to, Benitez flew back to London from Abu Dhabi for a meeting with the Blues and that a deal to make him manager until the end of the season is in the works.

Benitez was previously rumoured to be interested in the job in the summer before Di Matteo was given a two-year contract after winning Chelsea's first-ever Champions League. Di Matteo was earlier appointed as the club's interim manager in March this year following Andre Villas Boas' dismissal from the job.

Guardiola, on the other hand, has long been on Abramovich' wishlist and some reports suggesting the Spanish manager was lined-up as Di Matteo's replacement before the Juventus defeat.

That's not too hard to believe when you consider the fact that Di Matteo was never the preferred choice for the job. The Italian was merely picked as an interim manager at a time when the club's preferred choices weren't available or in Benitez' case, unwilling to take up an interim job.

Few believed Di Matteo would have succeeded and many believed the club's FA Cup victory wasn't enough to warrant a contract extension. But then the Italian did what so many before him failed. He won the Champions League and Blues' had to offer him a new contract.

But would Guardiola be crazy enough to take this job? Would a manager like Guardiola who's won everything actually risk his legacy by taking this job? Considering that, Benitez seems to be the most plausible replacement.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tevez Slams Neville

Man City forward, Carlos Tevez, has criticized England manager, Roy Hodgson, for picking former Man Utd defender, Gary Neville as England's assistant coach.

In particular, the Argentine striker questions the wisdom in appointing a television pundit such as Neville for such an important role at the England national team.

"And it's difficult to believe the country doesn't challenge more successfully at the Euros or in the World Cup. But maybe England have to look at the structure of its coaching staff.

"Which brings me to Gary Neville. I can't believe that any of the top countries would employ a television pundit as a part-time coach.

"Can you imagine Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Brazil or Argentina employing a manager's right-hand man whose day job is a television pundit? I can't ever see it happening," Tevez said in his column for the Sun.

Tevez and Neville were both teammates at United although there's been very little love lost between the two. In 2010, Tevez called Neville a "sock-sucker" (or "boot-licker" depending on the translation you use) in an interview in Argentina.

So I guess it comes as no surprise then that in Tevez' seems to have drawn the conclusion that the English can't compete in the Euros or World Cup is down to the selection of Neville on Hodgson' coaching staff.

I'll admit, it's a rather boneheaded decision to bring in someone with no coaching experience to the squad but that hardly seems to be the real reason why England hasn't won a World Cup since 1966.

Still, Tevez does make a valid point that England's assistant coach can't be a full-time television pundit at the same time as, let's face it, his got some real work to do.

"He’s happy to make jokes about players referring them to a PlayStation game but I’m not sure many World Cups have been won on PlayStation — so I think Gary needs to stop playing games and concentrate on his coaching.

"I know Sky is a high-profile and lucrative job and must pay well but he has to decide whether his first loyalty is to them or the FA," he said.

The Playstation remark is in reference to statement Neville made in 2011 on Chelsea's David Luiz when he likened the Brazilian defender to being controlled on a Playstation by a 10-year old in the crowd.