Chelsea FC – Decoding Roman Abramovich

Chelsea

I don’t always smile

It was the 16th minute of Chelseaai??i??s game against Manchester City on Sunday, and a roar of applause rang across Stamford Bridge as the cameras pointed in his direction to capture the reaction. As always, he was in his executive box, sitting beside the door in his preferred seat wearing a Chelsea Champions League jacket. One wonders if he was trying to make a point. He surveyed his surroundings as a forty thousand blues chorused their support for the now departed Roberto Di Matteo, and raised their ai???Rafa Outai??i?? placards in furore. But apart from a slightly nervous but customary twitch, you couldnai??i??t say Roman Abramovich was too perturbed by the events that unfolded around him. Or even if he was, his face barely let it show. Those who searched for an inkling of emotion or a hint of hurt were probably left wondering what they always do, ai???Just what is going on in his head?ai??i??

Heai??i??d have horrible luck playing Russian roulette as heai??i??s shot himself in the foot many a time, but the important thing is, he never risks pointing the gun to his head. The name Rafael Benitez shields him from the wrath of those who are indignant with anger at Di Matteoai??i??s sacking. It is a smart move by all means, a move that might even work for Chelsea as they have a man in charge who has been out of work for two years and will sort out their defensive indiscipline. Should it not yield results for Chelsea, the manager faces the brunt of the criticism but if it must, then history repeats itself again and theyai??i??ll be saying that the change worked.

Looking back at history, it worked the very first time for Roman Abramovich when he decided that Claudio Ranieri wasnai??i??t the right man to lead Chelsea to glory. There was disapproval back then too. Mourinho himself stated in an interview that he was approached by Chelsea fans on Kings Road who asked him to stay away from the club. He was appointed as manager however and he lasted for three trophy laden years at the club. It cannot be said that Abramovich does not prefer stability. His very first move was geared towards achieving it. The problem back then was that Roman was naA?ve with regards to footballing matters, he wanted a more expansive style of football, underestimated the influence a manager can have upon his players and that led to the sacking of Jose Mourinho ai??i?? a mistake. It was the first self-inflicted wound, and everything else that has followed is merely an attempt to patch it up.

One of the positives about the Mourinho era was the fact that Jose Mourinho united the Chelsea supporters like no other manager did. The siege mentality upon which many a success was built is something that is still fondly remembered. His authority was also recognized and respected by the players at Chelsea, there has never been any murmur of discontent or ai???revolutionai??i?? within the Chelsea dressing room when Jose Mourinho was in charge. Once Mourinho was gone, the invisible walls that he had built around Chelsea began to crumble.

Player power was greater than that of the manager when each of Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti, and Andre Villas Boas were in control. This resulted in the team cruising in auto pilot mode and the managers were reduced to mere figureheads, desperately trying to gain a hold, but failing to grasp the raging pulse of the dressing room and calm it down. Forcibly trying to control the players lead to a drop in results, (the team was too well drilled in Mourinhoai??i??s methods) and that eventually led to the unavoidable pink slip from the hands of Roman Abramovich.

Guus Hiddink has been the only manager who managed to make Chelsea look as though they were back to the glory of old. He commanded respect from the players, was adored by the Chelsea faithful and they sang in appeal to Abramovich when Hiddink took charge of his final game at Stamford Bridge. ai???ai??i??We want him to stay!ai??i??ai??i?? they said. The first time since the departure of Jose Mourinho, the owner and a vast majority of the fans saw eye to eye on the appointment of a manager. It wasnai??i??t to be however, as he was tied to his duties as manager of the Russian football team at the time and was a man of his word.

Ancelotti did deliver the double for Chelsea in his very first season, but it was irony that the manager who was appointed to deliver the coveted Champions League trophy miserably failed in two seasons to take Chelsea anywhere within touching distance of it. His tactical fallacies were laid bare by both Jose Mourinho(with Inter Milan at the time) and Sir Alex Ferguson. At around the same time, Andre Villas Boas had managed the treble with Porto. If the supporters of Chelsea Football Club craved for a Mourinho like figure to be back at the club, then it became evident when Villas Boas stepped in, that the owner was on the same page as them.

The Chelsea story had all the makings of a stunning revival; Andre Villas Boas was theAi??protegeeAi??who had learned from his mentor but followed a different ideology that suited the owner better. The story that was written barely covered a few pages of Chelseaai??i??s history though, let alone match Mourinho, Villas Boas just about lasted a little longer than Luiz Felipe Scolari before Abramovich decided that the time had come to move on. With AVB though, the owner persisted, there were frequent reports of him having visited the training ground, surveying matters from within and ensuring that the players followed what they were being ordered to do. The patience was misplaced as the teamai??i??s fortunes showed no signs of improving and Chelsea registered their lowest ever finish in the Abramovich era ai??i?? it was mid table, sixth.

Lacking in patience is a charge that is alwaysAi??leveledAi??against Roman, but even more so in the cases of Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas Boas. However, it is difficult to ask for more time than has been afforded, from a man who seems to value his time more than he values his money. The world may baulk at the A?86m compensation paid out to managers at Chelsea, but what price is that for a man who has spent A?400m on a yatch and invested close to A?500m on collecting art and building an art museum of his own? He has also converted debentures into equity which means that the club has zero debt owed.

That brings us back to Di Matteo, who was sacked just 12 games in charge as Chelsea went into their now annual pre-winter slump. Yes, he sacked the man who won them the holy grail, but who wouldai??i??ve thought Chelsea would win the Champions League when Di Matteo was appointed? Roberto Di Matteo deserves all of the loyalty and the sympathies he gets from the support at Chelsea but when he was appointed, it was clear that he was keeping the seat warm for another candidate who fitted the ideal the owner had in mind.

Considering this, the Champions League and the FA Cup double posed a whole new problem for the owner altogether. Recognizing the efforts of Di Matteo however, he was awarded a permanent contract and there was no hesitation is lavishing him with the best young talents the world had on offer. The sacking came this early only because the mistakes of last season couldnai??i??t be afforded, Chelsea couldnai??i??t afford to slip out of the Champions League spots in the league yet again, the loss in revenue and face value would be huge.

Roman Abramovich has invested close to A?80m in the squad just this summer without as much a blink of an eyelid to ensure that the mistakes of last season werenai??i??t repeated and that is precisely what he seems to be doing with his latest move. Rafael Benitez might not be the most popular name but at this moment, better candidates are employed elsewhere or are taking a sabbatical across the pond, in New York. Benitez is known to be a tactically sound manager and at the very least he is definitely equipped to guarantee Chelsea a place in the top four with the squad they have in place.

Chelsea have been inconvenienced somewhat by the fact that two hugely successful clubs in Arsenal and Manchester United are English. There is a perception in English football therefore, that stability is the only way success can be achieved. The perception is absolutely spot on, but finding stability can only happen when the right person is in charge while success sometimes also happens despite instability, as has repeatedly been proven by Chelsea. Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson fit into their clubs like a glove but they are exceptions, as opposed to being the ai???normai??i?? around Europe.

Since Abramovich took over at Chelsea ai??i?? Bayern Munich have had seven coaches, Inter Milan have had nine, Tottenham have had seven, Liverpool have had five and even Barcelona famously sacked the successful Frank Rijkaard before turning their attention within to Pep Guardiola. The now stable and successful Borussia Dortmund changed managers thrice in a year in 2000 and three more times after 2003, before Jurgen Klopp was eventually appointed in 2008. Who is to say that any of these teams will persist with their managers should things not go to plan? For long could they continue with the wrong candidate in the name of stability? Likewise, will Arsenal or United remain the same after their managers have retired?

This is not to suggest that every decision Abramovich has taken is the right one – it is merely an attempt at understanding the thinking behind a face that is about as excitable as a cocaine addict at a rehab facility, and of a voice that has never been heard outside of boardrooms; it is anAi??endeavorAi??to fathom the workings of a billionaire who for all his grandeur, steps out wearing a cheap looking plastic watch on most occasions and is a confirmed teetotaler.

There is a reason the booing that rang across Stamford Bridge wasnai??i??t directed towards the owner who was sat on his perch. It is recognized by the fans that despite all of his whims and fancies, Roman Abramovich cannot be questioned when it comes to the success he has delivered on the pitch. He rescued the club from bankruptcy under Ken Bates and transformed it into one of the most well recognized clubs on a global level. If he personally invested his money and belief into Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres, he also gave the fans, players like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Juan Mata. That it is his fault when the expensive acquisitions of the two strikers failed, is hypocrisy on the part of those who celebrated the arrivals and thanked Roman Abramovich when they arrived.

Yes, there are mutedAi??whisperingAi??here and there that Abramovich has lost his marbles and must walk away, but itai??i??ll take something truly extraordinary ai??i?? even by Abramovich standards ai??i?? for the majority of the Chelsea support to turn firmly against him. Of all the managers he has sacked, the only one he is known to be in touch with is Jose Mourinho, and who knows what the silent Russian has in store for the future.

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4 Responses to “Chelsea FC – Decoding Roman Abramovich”

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  1. Nelson Ephraim says:

    God will help chelsea.

  2. T Buzz says:

    This is by far the most sensible and objective article I’ve read about Roman in recent times. The misguided and voluble English press like to vilify the man for no good reason. This, right here, is closer to the real picture.