At the end of Saturday's match at the Hawthorns against West Brom, Chelsea, having lost for a seventh time this season, and with recent form of just three wins in the last 12 games were drifting.
Not just drifting away from a rejuvenated Arsenal, who, with Robin van Persie scoring with practically every touch are now three points clear, but into a quagmire of depression, angst and defeatism.
We've all been there with our clubs; my similar period came last season, as Liverpool slumped into the bottom-half under Roy Hodgson, and the whole club seemed to be surrounded by a fog of depression. In that instance it felt like Hodgson's dismissal after just six months in the job was necessary; he was signed as a man with a track record of taking clubs on the brink of relegation into solid Premier League outfits, challenging in the cups and for the top half (a record that has been added to with a brilliant spell at West Brom); but he simply wasn't right for Liverpool, and had to go.
In the aftermath of Chelsea's recent slump, the pressure mounted on their young manager Andre Villas-Boas; on Sunday, club owner Roman Abramovich sacked his seventh manager in less than a decade. The decision is an atrocious one, and the Russian oligarch is an embarrassment to his club
On a purely financial point of view, at £13 million, the compensation paid to FC Porto was, whilst probably slightly less than the amount kicking about in Roman's car ashtray, the highest fee ever paid to secure a manager's release. Letting him go after such a short period of time represents a ridiculously capricious approach to ones investment, analogous to releasing Fernando Torres on a free transfer just because he's out of form at the moment.
But contained in that £ 13million wasn't the recognition that Villas-Boas would bring immediate success to Chelsea, but that he was a work in progress and had the potential to be great. To give AVB just six months to bring success to a club in transition simply wasn't long enough.
In the same way that Hodgson's appointment didn't seem to fit with the Liverpool FC ethos, one could argue that Villas-Boas' long game 'three year project' mentality doesn't fit with the notoriously trigger-happy approach to firing and hiring employed by Roman Abramovich.
Let's remember this is a man who sacked Avram Grant after a year in charge despite finishing second in the league and reaching the Champion's League final, and who got rid of Carlo Ancelotti despite his having guided the club to a domestic double the previous year. However, Andre Villas-Boas could have taken the club in a new and exciting direction. His entire philosophy is centred around building a team not as a collection of individuals, but as a unit; this cannot happen overnight. His task was rendered even tougher by incredibly unprofessional and childish behaviour by some of his star players; Frank Lampard, who as a senior player should have acted as a leader within the side whether he was picked or not, criticised his manager and the relationship he had with him after being dropped in consecutive Premier League and Champions' League fixtures earlier this month, whilst Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole have been accused of practically leading a mutiny against their manager. The blame for Chelsea's fortunes lie with them, and not their boss.
Chelsea has for the past two or three seasons appeared to be a club in need of transition, with a key core of star players (add Petr Cech and John Terry to the aforementioned three) having passed their peak but still retaining huge influence over the side, in a way that is ultimately to its detriment.
AVB showed courage by being unafraid to drop them, instead trying to do what was best for the team in the long-term, and to get the best out of these players by using them more sparingly; but he simply didn't have the time to shape a team in his own image, and was instead lumped with the remnants of his predecessors. The Chelsea hierarchy invested in a three year project, one that could only work if the manager was given the security to know he could forge his own team. Villas-Boas showed bravery. Roman Abramovich buckled.
Obviously, fans are now calling for the return of Jose Mourinho. And, as he has done everywhere he's went, were he to return to Chelsea, he'd undoubtedly be successful. However, it's a saddening indictment of the state of football today that someone who could've been a new 'Special One' was never given the chance to shine at Stamford Bridge.
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