Chelsea’s Managerial Merry-go-Round….

An arrogant, baseless whim from a deluded, out of control club owner or a decisive, ruthless yet necessary act in a desperate attempt to remedy a poor managerial appointment and to salvage your season?

The overnight sacking of Roberto di Matteo by Roman Abramovich after Chelsea’s humiliating 3-0 defeat against Juventus was greeted with a wave of shock and sympathy towards the latest pawn in Abramovich’s trigger-happy reign at Stamford Bridge. But, with the defending European Champions facing the ignomy of elimination at the group stage of this year’s competition – potentially the first defending champions to produce such an inept surrender of their trophy – Abramovich saw fit to relieve di Matteo of his duties with immediate effect despite the Italian somehow guiding the Blues to their, and the Russian’s, holy grail in May.

It might seem a crazy statement to make but I believe Chelsea and di Matteo’s unlikely triumph in Munich – perhaps the most staggering and, some would say undeserved, turn of events in recent European Champions League history – was the cherry atop of the worst possible case scenario for the club hierarchy. Di Matteo had been parachuted into Stamford Bridge by Andre Villas Boas; the Portuguese so woefully out of his depth amongst the ego’s of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba that he felt the familiar presence of former Chelsea player di Matteo would ease the implementation of his much-talked about, but never actually materialising grand ‘project’. But when AVB’s pitiful reign was mercifully cut short in March 2012, di Matteo, his knife razor sharp in eager readiness, wasted no time in gleefully stepping into the manager’s role at a club that would never have looked at him once, let alone twice, in more normal circumstances.

And so di Matteo’s uber-catenaccio tactical system – catenaccio literally meaning ‘door-bolt’- in his native Italy and a tactical approach favoured most infamously by Helenio Herrera during his stewardship of the painfully dull Inter of the 1960′s – bored everyone to tears in smothering Barcelona during their Champions League semi-final encounter and an identical approach eventually prevailed over FC Bayern in the worst European Champions League Final since the AC Milan vs Juventus snooze-a-thon in 2003. In the space of two months Roberto di Matteo had, single-handedly you might assume with the subsequent fawning praise of his leadership, risen from the role of bit-part assistant coach to European super coach! The fallout of which, amongst other things, meant that Chelsea could not automatically engage their default plan to jettison the conquering hero in favour of a competent coach with immediate effect….

…although they tried their very best! The endless delays in confirming di Matteo’s permanent position at Stamford Bridge fooled nobody, despite the club’s insistence that only minor quibbles that were holding up the proud unveiling of their Messiah. There was little disguising the blatant flirting by Abramovich in the direction of outgoing Barcelona Head Coach Pep Guardiola, nor his cosy relationship with Dutchman Guus Hiddink….nor even the persistent rumours speculating on a kiss-and-make-up between the Russian oligarch and Jose Mourinho. But with all those infinitely more preferable avenues closed to Chelsea they had little choice but to return to di Matteo while feebly claiming he was always their first choice.

A two-year contract was duly gobbled up by di Matteo; the board’s absolute and total confidence and faith in their appointment highlighted perfectly by their insistence that a non-negotiable get-out clause was inserted into his deal to be triggered after just 12mths. A purely coincidental fact is that Pep Guardiola’s self-imposed sabbatical from the game is also scheduled for his glorious return in….12mths time! Hmm…?!? In any case, most football observers doubted the need for such a clause being that di Matteo was never going to last beyond Christmas anyway….

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