Since Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea Football Club in July 2003, which not only propelled Chelsea into the European force they are nowadays, but also saved the club from potential liquidation, Stamford Bridge has become home for nine managers – all of whom could argue that given enough time they could have gone on to achieve great things at the club. The reasoning behind the sacking of José Mourinho remains murky; however it was the ruthless dismissals of Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo that caused fans to question the decision making of the Chelsea board – a group of trigger-happy executives who appear more than happy to take a gamble on interim managers yet dare take the risk of allowing a manager to prove himself when the going gets tough. As a Chelsea fan, and a strong admirer of the work Di Matteo has done for the club as both player and manager, the appointment of Rafael Benítez to replace Di Matteo when Chelsea were only four points off top-spot in the league struck me as yet more rash decision making on the board’s behalf, and with the side now sixteen points off Manchester United and putting in mediocre displays week-in week-out, I have reached the point where going into certain matches I no longer care whether the team wins or loses.
Ideally, I would like Chelsea to win the FA Cup, Europa League and finish comfortably in third place this season. Unfortunately, this success could be used in defence for hiring Benítez on a permanent basis – a decision I am strongly against, especially with the dearth of potential managers meaning Benítez remains a strong candidate for the job. Instead, I have come to accept that scraping third place and falling out of the remaining cup competitions wouldn’t come as much of a disappointment to me. Maybe it’s simply because I want to feel smug seeing Abramovich admit his mistake in hiring Benítez in the first place, having been one of the forty-thousand fans who booed him during his first game against Manchester City… but I know that my smugness won’t change anything. My desire is for Abramovich to finally realise that a constant cycle of managerial appointments and departures is simply not healthy for the club. It is time that he accepts that short-term success simply disguises the missed potential for Chelsea Football Club, who by now should have more than three Premier League trophies in their cabinet.
As strange as it is, I am at a state where at the beginning of most games I don’t care whether Chelsea win, lose or draw. For me, this season has been written off; I am not expecting any success come May when the season ends, all I want is for Chelsea to finish third and for Frank Lampard to break Bobby Tambling’s goal-scoring record. Seeing Chelsea draw away to Brentford, and require a last minute piece of brilliance to progress in the Europa League against a team currently third in the Czech league doesn’t bother me anymore. All I hope for is that the second-half of this season demonstrates to Abramovich why his policy is flawed. Sure we’ve had success with Hiddink, Di Matteo and potentially Benítez (all during interim periods), however having guided Chelsea to their greatest ever season (at the time) while also bringing through a number of youth players, who’s to say that under Ancelotti Chelsea wouldn’t have won more in the last few years than they have under Villas-Boas, Di Matteo and Benítez?
On an additional note, Ancelotti had Fernando Torres thrust upon him during his second season at Chelsea, further draining Chelsea fans’ confidence in the decision makers at the club. Yes, I appreciate that it has been Abramovich’s money that has brought Chelsea to where they are now, but without the fans there would be no club for Abramovich to run. He has to understand that Chelsea is not a canvas for him to build a fantasy team upon, it is a football club that had existed for nearly a century before his arrival, with thousands of supporters who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the decision-making of the board members. The same can be said for the signing of Shevchenko, a player past his peak who happens to be close friends with Mr. Abramovich. If Chelsea are to finally progress into the dominant European force that Abramovich desires, he must alter his concepts of being club owner, and instead focus more on creating a long-term plan for the club. The club needs to be figureheaded by one manager who deserves time to implement his ideals upon the club, and allow the team to grow gradually with players he wants and not who the owner wants. Short-term success is great, but deep down Roman Abramovich must understand that the occasional Premier League trophy does not classify a team as a dominant force.
As a Chelsea fan, I am forever in debt to Mr Abramovich and the wonderful success he has brought to the club. In no way am I ungrateful for his running of the club, however as hopefully I have made clear, I along with many other fans, am trapped within a state of hesitancy as to how I want this season to progress. Success this season will probably lead to yet more of the same eight-month managerial reigns, preventing the club from becoming anywhere near the solid forces within European Football that are Manchester United and Barcelona. Failure from Benítez may however finally bring to Roman Abramovich’s attention the deficiencies in his logic of immediacy, and provoke him to change the way he and the Chelsea board members make decisions in the future, with the result hopefully being decades of success within the Roman Empire of West London.
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