After the decision to sack Andre Villas-Boas yesterday, fans and media alike began to point fingers at where the blame should lie. Examining the three branches of the club (Players, Manager and Boardroom), we look at the errors of the club as a whole and in the end determine where I believe culpability lies.
Some supported the decision, Villas-Boas’ managerial record at Chelsea was the worst since Ruud Guillit, that alone speaks volumes about the season so far. In addition the manager was seen to have lost the dressing room, the backing of key individuals in the team and even certain staff members were growing increasingly weary of the young tactician’s style. His approach towards the media had become dismissive, as each press conference came along, more questions about his future at the club were asked and whilst he longed for public support from the boardroom, it never came. It appeared that Villas-Boas had become so lost in his ‘project’ refusing to change his methods in order to continue with the revolution he was entrusted to oversee and in his mind the revolution seemed to mean the break up of any remnants of the Mourinho structure, the same structure that had been in place for the past seven years and resulted in three league titles. Yes, the squad needed changing and yes players like Lampard, Drogba and Cole will eventually need to be replaced, however when the current replacements were underperforming as the stars of the golden generation watched on, there would inevitably be questions about the manager being ‘out of his depth’. Whether Villas-Boas would have turned things around, no one will ever know. The manager is hugely talented as shown by his achievements with Porto, it is a shame he wasn’t given the support required by the players nor the time promised by Roman Abramovich, which leads to the next branch of blame – The Boardroom.
It came as no surprise in the end when owner Roman Abramovich decided to cut his ties with the man who he thought was perfect to lead Chelsea into a new generation less than nine months into his command (That’s right, pregnancy takes longer than a £42million decision). Nevertheless, it is what many fans feared, a continuation of recent changes at the managerial role. Impatience, the desire for revolution without the sacrifice of success, ridiculous pressure for anyone to cope with, let alone a young manager dealing with a veteran squad. The start of the summer suggested that the Russian owner had realised his errors of old, regarding his meddling with team selection and transfer targets. However it wasn’t long before player the manager hadn’t himself targeted arrived and following the run of poor results it was made clear that the owner had once again involved himself with the running of day to day managerial duties, including the questioning of team selection prior to the Napoli game and the demand for the upcoming tactics against Manchester United’s visit to Stamford Bridge. The loss to West Brom was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the end, the boardroom and this is not just Abramovich, but ‘football experts’ Gourlay, Buck and Emenalo decided that it was time for a change. Interestingly, reports suggest that Abramovich was more than reluctant to part ways with Villas-Boas and that he even personally blamed the players for his departure, claiming there would be an overhaul in the squad come summer. A true mess this episode has developed into, even more farcical than the handling of Ancelotti’s sacking. Would fans have wished for a different owner? No. Abramovich has funded the success at Stamford Bridge, his methods questionable, have been rewarded with titles during his ownership. His backing of the players appears to have ended and so we come to the last part of the blame game – The Players.
This season’s performances as mentioned before have been the worst in sixteen years in terms of results. One could argue that this is because this has been the worst squad in as many years. Fans that disagreed with the sacking of the manager looked at the current squad of players and wondered what their part in the decision was. No players are going to be happy when a manager is brought in to revolutionise the structure in place. The ‘Old Guard’ would find it difficult to adapt to the Villas-Boas system, whether it be the training methods or the tactics on the pitch, this is understandable. Defiance against the manager however is disrespectful and this is what was faced by Villas-Boas, the players that should have helped him makes this transition easier due to the respect they commanded from their peers, made the task ultimately impossible. When Frank Lampard had a public display in the media of an unstable relationships with the manager, it was never going to solve anything, on the contrary it could only harm matters. I’m sure there has been a point in most people’s lives when they have not seen eye-to-eye with their boss, but you carry on as it is your duty. The players it seems forgot this, their duty is to play for the badge on the shirt they put on every day. In no way should this be viewed as a lack of respect for what players like Lampard and Drogba have done, they will rightly be considered legends at the club, nothing will take away from that. However their achievements should not cover up their failure to adapt or their lack of support to the manager. The club should be the primary interest to all, no individual is bigger than the club. Say what you like, player power at Chelsea is probably unlike any other club, the fans adore those who delivered what few believed would ever be possible. Nonetheless it is time to look to the future when these players are reaching the end of their careers. Comparisons can be drawn with the likes of Scholes and Giggs still playing, but they conduct themselves in a professional manner, they haven’t sulked when the manager has decided to rest them. Indeed the senior players have the mentality of winners but at the same time it is a child like mentality when things do not go their way. It shows a lack of respect to the club and their fellow team-mates ability. Surprising to some would be the alleged report that even during this revolt, the captain John Terry was not apart of it, he backed the manager, meaning the players who did cause a split not only went against the management in place but their captain.Yes, the change of manager could cause a rise in performance levels and a top four finish but it should not matter. One hundred percent effort should be given at all times.
In the end, the blame should be filtered throughout the club as a whole, but the players must be the ones to shoulder the majority of the blame. Managers have now continuously come and gone, the players have remained and the same problems have existed. Villas-Boas arguably tried too much in a short space of time, he took the word revolutionise and ran away with it, his alienation of players and staff alike was naive, his handling of the media and eventually fans was equally as ignorant. The board again couldn’t help themselves but interfere with the work of the man they entrusted to lead the club for at least the next three years, the purse strings will need to be loosened in this summer if there is to be hope for challenging on domestic and European fronts. The players again exercised their position at the club and made the task for the management, mission impossible. Their performances as a whole have been far from what is expected of them and far from that of their ability.
All there is left to do now, is to wish Roberto Di Matteo luck till the end of the season and hope fans show their support in the upcoming games. He is a Chelsea legend and if the players cannot raise their performance levels or show more compliance to the current staff, this season will likely be the final Champions League campaign for a few years with the restrictions of FFP approaching.