In Abramovich’s eyes success should be followed by adulation, not just from ones own fans but by the footballing world.
Roman Abramovich has finally achieved his goal of winning the Champions League, the trophy has he lusted and coveted over for almost a decade has finally come to Stamford Bridge. The continual exits from semi finals, the John Terry slip in Moscow; it all just seemed destined to never come for the Russian. Yet, it seems destiny would look down on Chelsea and in the most unexpected circumstances, from a season which seemed to be Chelsea’s worst under Abramovich, turned out to be their best. And still, he was not overly impressed with the triumph. In Abramovich’s eyes success should be followed by adulation, not just from ones own fans but by the footballing world.
One cannot deny that Barcelona and their way of playing has captivated fans for the past four years and that even in failure they are lauded for their style. Cryuff has said that it is better to lose playing football the right way than win the way Chelsea did. I presume that Abramovich took those comments to heart.
Chelsea are a great example of the difficulties and dangers of modern management. In today’s game the pressure and expectation on managers is unrealistic, it is not possible for every team to win the league yet every managers remit is to achieve that goal, for some knowing that failure means their head. Chelsea’s philosophy of immediate success or fired under Abramovich has actually being quite successful, take this year as a good example. Villas-Boas would not have brought home the FA Cup and Champions League and their belief in changing the manager has disrupted the growth and evolution of the side yet has continued the winning of trophies. For Abramovich this is his goal, to be successful. However, by removing managers continually, Chelsea have not been able to evolve their squad and especially have not been able to implement the style which Roman seeks so badly.
The new Barcelona?
The Russian’s intentions at Chelsea appear to be nothing but a way of spending his billions, I am sure his love for the club has grown yet his intention is to make this side the most highly regarded in the world. Really it could really have been any side, yet Chelsea appealed; based in London, available and just qualified for the Champions League made this club the most suitable option. Chelsea fans should be grateful for the investment he has made too, the past decade being one of success which fans of Chelsea would never have previously experienced. And yet, trophy after trophy something was always wrong, no matter how many titles or FA Cups the side was winning, Roman was not happy. Quite simply, he wanted to see Chelsea play a style of Barcelona, the Dutch style of total football. He wanted to be entertained, yet importantly, wanted people to talk of Chelsea in a positive way, the way people laud Barca.
It is just not that simple though and this is the problem Chelsea have encountered time and again. The managers he brings in are talented and successful, mainly because they are realists and pragmatists who know how to win with the players they have. The players bought by Mourinho were winners and were bought because they would provide Chelsea with the attributes necessary for success. It was not about style for Jose, it never has been, his reputation comes from winning things. And this is what has been the problem between managers since and Abramovich. He wants to see total football, yet the managers know this is not possible with the players at hand.
Di Matteo will not keep his job this year because although he was successful and has brought the first European crown to Chelsea, he received plaudits for a mix of a defensive style and luck. People like Cryuff dismissed the win because of the nature of the how they played, an egotist like Abramovich would have been hurt by this criticism. However, this dangerous idelology of Abramovich almost destroyed the club this season; Andre Villas-Boas was hired in ordered to play the style he desired, yet results and the ultimate backlash meant Villas-Boas lost his job. Many have blamed AVB for this and it seems he made some wrong decisions, yet he was going on the remit from the owner of having to play a certain way and implementing it immediately. Any good coach will know this is just not plausible and he paid the price, the team went back to the style which has been so beneficial and they won things which AVB would and could not have delivered. This history is important when you consider the future of Chelsea now. New players are being bought and a new manager is being sought.
A new total football era?
With the departure of Drogba, Chelsea are losing their most influential and inspirational leader, perhaps even more so than Terry. His strength, power, determination and ability to score goals has ripped apart defences for the past eight seasons at Stamford Bridge. He has terrified Wenger and even Guardiola because of what he is capable of doing. Now he is gone and with his departure and the ageing Terry and Lampard, it would appear that a new era is blossoming at Stamford Bridge. To end their bond together with the win in Munich was fitting for this trio, AVB tried too soon to move them on and perhaps if he had perservered and waited to act this summer, he may have kept his job.
With the arrivals of Hazard, Hulk and Marin, Chelsea are clearly a new look side. Do not forget also that players like Courtouis, Luiz, Ramires, Romeu, De Bryune, Mata, Lukaku, Torres and Sturridge have all been bought in the past three years to build a squad for the future. There was no questioning that Chelsea were not an ageing side, yet there were questions about the new generations quality and importantly potential to play the way Roman craves. With Hazard and Hulk Chelsea have real talent in the XI for next season, their skill and creativity will provide many goals and scare many defences. Chelsea appear to be more prepared than even United for the future. Yet the question remains, the key one, who will be managing this group of potential? Can they play the way Roman wishes and importantly for how long?
Is Pep the right man for Stamford Bridge?
The man Roman wants the most is Pep Guardiola, every club in the world does for obvious reasons. Yet there are serious issues to consider in terms of his suitability for the role. Firstly, the obvious obstacle is his wish to take time out from football and the pressures of the game. I do not think money is the issue, I bet Barca offered to make him the highest paid manager in the world, yet his mind was made up, as he said, the belt was getting too tight around his waist and he needed to take it off. Why he would go to Chelsea so soon seems baffling then; he would be leaving arguably the world’s best side (for me they peaked in 2010/11) for a side which offers riches yet does not offer the equivalent of Barca. I really don’t think any money would persuade him, especially now.
Let us presume he is interested, surely the Chelsea job is one of the most difficult in world football today. If Pep arrived the expectations for playing total football would be expected from day one. At Barca he had a group of players developed in the culture of that style, nurtured through the club system in all things Barcelona. Guardiola brought them together, took them further in their style and put together one of the best sides I have witnessed. Chelsea don’t have this, their club style has been defensive, it has relied on strength and power over technical skill and guile. It is very difficult to change this, even if the new batch of players appear more suited to this style. Barcelona consisted of a group of players who played together since they were kids, at Chelsea this new group have not played together, they do not know each others ways, movements, unlike Xavi and Iniesta, they do not have an apparent telepathic sense. It will take years to develop this, time which Roman does not afford a new man.
The new arrivals Hazard and Hulk also too go against the way of Pep. My impression of Hazard in particular has being considerably negative in recent months; his behaviour, lack of respect to Lille and an arrogance of announcing his next side are actions which do not reflect the Barca way that Guardiola preaches by. Barca’s players arrive in Ford Fiestas, they are humble to their fans, they do not rub their wealth in peoples faces, they do not put on showcases on Twitter. They instead showcase their skills on the pitch not showcasing their arrogance off it. The attitude of Barca and their players shows why they are the best, shows their willingness to improve and learn. I question whether some of Chelsea’s new stars have this ability and this makes me wonder why Guardiola would find the role appealing.
Ultimately a key factor in why I question how good Pep could be for Chelsea comes down to his desire to succeed at the club. When you listen to him talk about the team he had at Barca he talks like a fan, he tells his players to entertain the fans and he has enjoyed watching them like the rest. His unconditional love for the club, from the academy to captaining the side to then managing it, is all about Barcelona. He loves that club and put everything into the role. Will he have this same desire at Chelsea, this passion? I question how effective Pep can be at another club for this reason. Can he deliver total football and success to Stamford Bridge immediately? I doubt it. It is one or the other until patience is given to developing this style over the next decade. I doubt if Roman has this patience.
Period of transition and patience
The period of transition at Chelsea appears to be happening quicker than expected, the side will look different come the first game of the season from the one which won in Munich. It is exciting times ahead for the club, the old era consisting of the Mourinho group are gradual being replaced. A lot of money is being spent in order for Roman to have his wish of beautiful football at Stamford Bridge. I worry though that this will not bring positive results, more AVB’s will happen and Guardiola should be wary of this role.
Roman will always seek a successful manager who has achieved things while playing a good way, he has failed with AVB and bringing Guardiola seems more hopeful than possible, so who can lead this new era at Stamford Bridge? There are two managers who could do the job; Rafa Benitez will be a name touted and he could do a good job with the side, yet is his style attractive enough? And Didier Deschamps is a manager who I believe could be great for Chelsea; with history at the club he likes to play attacking football, yet his relations with owners is not always positive, either of these two can command the respect of the players and bring the new generation through.
It will be difficult for any manager though, Chelsea change managers more than any other English side and a season without success usually means a P45. Is it possible though to bring total football and combine it with success? No, not overnight and this is why the Chelsea's cycle will continue to circulate and Roman will always find his hope for total football a vision more than a reality unless he changes his approach and becomes more patient in the coming years. It will be a fascinating summer ahead for Chelsea fans, yet I wonder what we will be saying about it this time next year.