As incidental is the fact that I write this piece on the day when Roman Abramovich sacks another coach at Stamford Bridge, it is one situation which intrigues me. The more I see it in the field of sports, the dilemma seems ever-more complex while the philosophies differ and the possibilities are plenty.
Andres Vilas Boas gets sacked today after a series of bad results, just like Carlo Ancellotti got sacked last year after a defeat to Everton and many years back Jose Mourinho also saw the same route. In between came Felipe Scolari and Avram Grant who could not hold their own in the dressing room and just one man managed to re-instill the belief at the Bridge – Guss Hiddink. Amidst all the mayhem, the only constant has been 80% of the Chelsea squad. The core of the “transformed blues” under “The Special One” has been Terry, Drogba, Lampard, Carvalho, Cole, Ballack and later to an extent in Essien, Malouda, Kalou, Mikel. Mourinho made them believe they could win and there have been phases of sheer brilliance as I remember under Scolari and Ancelloti, not to forget the resurgence under Guss Hiddink. However, let us also not forget that it is the same cluster which has lost a lot as well in the last 6 years – UCL has eluded them year on year as their desperation has reached a point where their heads are not in the right place when needed most. There have been ample cases where big names like Kezman, Shevchenko, Torres have flopped miserably and they have let go off key players like Damien Duff, Robben and importantly Carvalho. An interesting point here is that in the last 5-6 years, no new player or coach has settled into the Chelsea system which shows how much power the “Core” at Stamford Bridge has. These players who have won ample under Mourinho have been controlling the dressing room like its their mistress and it is evidently and clearly the reason for the managers getting sacked and the club not moving forward at all. The truth of the matter is that it is the same “Core” which have lost a lot in the last few years and the change needs to be made here and not with the men at helm of affairs. In a team game, it is the team which wins and it is a losing team who will not know how to win once their cycle is over – quite frankly this “Core” at Chelsea has run its tide and with them in the team, no coach, not even Mourinho can bring about the much-needed re-evolution at Chelsea.
Real Madrid went through this phase post their last UCL title and the Galacticos lost their legs while coaches were being changed like an infant’s nappies only for them to realize that players will have to be changed and only then a coach like a Mourinho can deliver what he promises. They are in the 2nd season under his leadership and the La Liga title looks in the bag and frankly speaking they seem the only team to be able to challenge Barcelona in the UCL. Jose Mourinho’s leadership has evolved in a sense that he had ready squads at Chelsea and Inter Milan and he brought belief to them whereas in the case of Madrid he has gone around building his own team, bringing his own players and giving the fans every it of sense of the attacking play of the Galacticos of yester-years rather than his usual style of controlled, result-oriented football. This stint of the Madristas will undoubtedly be a formidable endorsement to Jose’s skills, not that there is any need of it at all !! Chelsea cannot see it yet, I hope they do now.
Then there are clubs with the complete opposite philosophy where Managers have been the constant and no matter what, players have come and gone. As ancient as a philosophy this seems to be, the stability factor brings with it a lot of assurance and the results are to be seen in one of the most celebrated clubs of recent history – Manchester United. Barring a lean spell in the first few years of his career when he needed the faith, this man has done unbelievable things with the Red Devils and he is far from being done with it. Watch him jump out of his seat when Giggs scored an injury time winner last week and you wonder when will this man ever stop, more importantly I do not think anyone wants him to stop yet because there is lot more he still has to offer, not only to the players but also the young managers of the footballing world. He has made legends out of mavericks like Cantona and Keane, at the same time nurtured the talents of youngsters like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, only to let them go when his authority got challenged. One has to have immense respect for a man who accepted recently that he made a mistake in selling players like Jaap Stam and Gerard Pique, yet his handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo saga was professionalism personified. I still belief his awareness of the situation and having handled title challenges by many teams in the past will hold him in good stead to be Champions of England in 2012, only challenge being his twin club from the City of Manchester. Maybe it is time for a team like Chelsea to understand the virtue of stability and give themselves a few years to re-build.
Napoli and Juventus are fantastic examples of team re-building where they are a force to reckon with today as well as in the years to come. The trio of Lavezzi, Cavani and Hamsik absolutely destroyed Chelsea in their 1st leg of the UCL and do not forget it is this team which knocked Manchester City out of UCL this year. Juventus have taken a good 4-5 years to recover from the Calcipoly saga and it is only now that they have a good team which will challenge for the Serie A title this year and maybe UCL next year. The coaches have come and gone, however, this year they have had a lot of new players who have come in and brought the hunger as well as negated the “losing” feeling prevalent in the team for last few years. While Tottenham Hotspur cannot be called as a team in the re-building phase, however, under the astute leadership of Harry Redknapp they have been able to build a team today which is serious title contender in the EPL this year. Teams like Chelsea and Inter Milan will have to understand the virtue of patience and getting the right kind of players for the job rather than being desperate for success in the near future, in the process jeopardizing their re-building process.
I write this piece today as a blues fan who feels no anger towards their heartless performances, but feels sad that we have not put up a fight in the last few weeks and the “Core” has well and truly now become a shadow of their old self. As elated as I have been in the last few years on seeing Scolari and Ancelloti get sacked, today I feel I have been immature in doing so. I accept now that a team needs time to rebuild, with the right kind of troops and the confidence given to the man at the helm of affairs.
It cannot be a mere co-incidence that the 2 sides needing rebuilding today are essentially Jose Mourinho’s teams and AVB rightly said today ” Mourinho’s shadow is a threat to the world’s best coaches “, hence, hoping against hope, I would want the romance to be re-ignited and see Jose Mourinho re-build the Bridge again – this time with a new “Core” at the heart of Chelsea !!