Even the most ardent and die-hard fans cannot but agree that Chelsea football Club( C F C) appears to be the EPL’s Comedy Club. It is no secret that they have had the highest number of managers within the shortest periods. In the modern game today, where a manager is only worth his weight in trophies, the role is now a pressure cooker and a poisoned chalice all rolled into one. Christmas is fast approaching and the customary managerial merry go round and musical chairs is about to start; CFC has made sure that no one beats them to it. They seem to set the benchmark and who can argue with that? The club has just hired its 10th manager since Abramovich bought the club in 2005. You cannot question the amount of investment that has been poured into the club, and some that will side with the board and owner that if you invest that much, you expect instant and constant returns. Sounds like the stock exchange and oil business; an area that Abramovich knows too well.
Many Chelsea fans would be wondering what to make of their club or what kind of image it is trying to project. Rival fans have accused Chelsea of lacking class in the past. Since the days of Mourhino who catapulted the club into a force to reckon with; winning six trophies in three years, it has found itself embroiled in one controversy or another. We can appreciate that though a good manager, Mourhino was a comedian and the dream of journalists; there was always something for the back pages. Chelsea FC has recently come under scrutiny for on and off incidents that have left many to accuse it of lacking class.
Let us take a step back into the club’s most recent shenanigans. Mark Clattenberg, the premiership referee has been cleared of using racist language against Obi Michel. The FA and the police found that he had “no case to answer”. In English, it means that there was no evidence to back up the allegation that Chelsea made against Mark Clattenburg. In French, you could say that it was a false allegation or c’est pa vrais? The allegation by the club was seen as revenge against the FA. The FA had just charged John Terry for using racially abusive words against Anton Ferdinand of QPR.
The courts cleared Terry weeks before, on a matter of law, but the FA found him GUILTY, banned him for four games and fined him some pocket money. Despite the charges, Chelsea stood by their man Terry, and allowed him to retain not only his place but the captain’s arm band. This was the same man who had called time on playing for his country, after being charged by the FA; payback time? So in one week, Chelsea backs Terry and Mikel in the same breath. Different cases, different circumstances, different victims, different perpetrators but one club. Catch my drift, as the club foxtrots from sympathiser to defender on race issues? Like any other employer, we expect clubs to back and support their employees.
As ironies go, Mikel is now being charged by the FA, courtesy of his behaviour towards the match officials on that fateful day. While Mikel is dealing with the upturned tables, the club unveil Rafa Bennitez with an 18 month contract. Rafa has a history of controversies with Chelsea; and had twice stopped them from reaching the Champions League Final while as manager of Liverpool. Some Chelsea fans still remember the taunts, but Rafa believes that “working with Abramovich will be easy”. True, just ask your predecessors. Sign a short term contract, create a sense of mini-revival, win the Capital Cup, fail in the Champions league, get sacked, and get huge pay off……. It’s true; “working with Abramovich” is really easy. I can do that job with my eyes closed, honest.
It is ironical but not surprising that Chelsea have just appointed Rafa Bennitez. Roberto Di Matteo has not only gone down in the club’s history as the player who scored the fastest goal in an English FA Cup final match, but also the manager to win the club’s first Champions League trophy. Well it is a fact that he is the ninth manager since 2005. Like many before him, Benitez has been drafted him for a recovery job. This might be a stop gap exercise; as many believe that former Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola is the ultimate choice for Abramovich. Benitez believes that he can work well with Abramovich. Where did I hear that before?
Many pundits have criticised on Chelsea’s propensity to preside over managerial musical chairs in the last decade. They have been compared to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, who have maintained consistency with Sir Alex Fergusson and Arsene Wenger respectively. You cannot question the achievements of these two, but while Man U were unveiling a statue of Sir Alex for his 26 year reign at Old Trafford today, Chelsea were unveiling their newest manager to the press.
Yes it may surprise you but Chelsea has won 12 trophies, including the Premier League, FA Cup and most recently the Champion’s League trophy since 2005. With the exception of Jose Mourhino, Hiddink, Ancielotti and Di Matteo all won trophies on short term contracts. It sounds like Chelsea has just found a winning formula here: Hire a manager short term (on probation), set him insurmountable tasks and when they achieve them, fire and compensate. It might sound comical but is Chelsea trying to show that if you set targets for people to prove themselves, they sometimes exceed it? We saw that with Di Matteo last season. His sacking will not come as a surprise to some of us. It was a stop gap, for the club would have found it difficult to sack him just after he had landed their biggest catch. Even Roberto knew from day one that he was just waiting. Bennitez knows it, just like all that have gone before him.
Now that Chelsea has declared sack race open, let us spare a thought for Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini, Nigel Adkins, Villas Boas and their respective clubs. The pressure on these guys and some in similar positions will be cranked up in the following weeks, no doubt. Waiting in the wings will be the likes of Harry Rednapp to breeze into any available managerial space. In football, you start to expect changes the moment the club chairman publically declares his/her confidence in the manager. Better still, when managers tell you that they are not worried about their positions; they are fibbing. They are worried. Never mind, enjoy the comedy show from Chelsea.
Don’t forget to shut that door before you leave.