Roman Abramovich is nobody's idea of communist, but what he needs more than
anything is a Five-Year Plan.
The Chelsea owner's ruinous short-termism ensured Carlo Ancelotti lost his
job for daring to finish second, just a year after winning the double.
It also prevented the evolution of a squad now dominated by players the
wrong side of 30.
The spine of the team has not changed since Jose Mourinho's day - Petr Cech,
John Terry, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba.
All but Cech are past their peak - Lampard and Drogba are well into their
fourth decade while injuries have robbed a crucial edge from Terry and Essien.
Among the other 30-somethings are Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda and Nicolas
Anelka - in other words, the great bulk of the first team.
Despite Ancelotti's good work, he made insufficient headway in renovating
the playing personnel until midway through a chaotic second season.
The reason for that, of course, is because Abramovich's chronic impatience
does not permit transitional periods, however brief.
Summer signing Ramires endured a difficult first half of the season before
making a major improvement - had Ancelotti stuck with John Obi Mikel throughout
he might still be in a job, but he would have an inferior player to the one
Ramires can become.
When the reinforcements arrived in January, they were given no bedding-in
period. We may never know whether Ancelotti really wanted Fernando Torres, who
played like a drain as he and Drogba fought for alpha-male status.
And David Luiz's defensive waywardness culminated in a slip that allowed
Javier Hernandez to score in the first minute of the title-decider at Old
All part of the learning process, you might think - Nemanja Vidic and
Patrice Evra were both mid-season signings for Manchester United, both started
shakily and both are now brilliant.
But Fergie didn't lose his job when United finished behind Chelsea in
2005/06. And although Arsene Wenger might be pushing his luck after six
trophyless seasons, his job security has allowed him to develop yet more top-class
What chance Josh McEachran or Jeffrey Bruma establishing themselves if the
manager is too scared to use them except in games that are dead with 20 minutes
So if Guus Hiddink returns to Chelsea, as expected, he faces a very
different challenge than that which presented him in 2009.
Last time, he was a caretaker manager charged with steadying the ship
following Luiz Felipe Scolari's sacking. He succeeded where the Brazilian
failed - communicating effectively with the players, restoring their belief and
getting the best out of a quality squad.
Now it is different. Chelsea need a manager to oversee a changing of the
guard - to ensure future success, even at the price of present failure. Even harder,
he must convince Abramovich to buy into it.
Hiddink is a managerial nomad, flitting from team to team, country to
country, staying long enough to do a fine job before taking off for his next
The list of his last seven jobs is so random it might as well have been
picked out of a tombola: Real Betis, South Korea, PSV Eindhoven, Australia,
Russia, Chelsea and Turkey.
He is not exactly a manager who builds for the long haul, but that is
precisely what Chelsea need.
He must find a way to instil discipline in the talented but wayward David
Luiz, and to rebuild Torres's shattered confidence.
Even then, Chelsea could still do with another defender, a couple of
midfielders and a forward who can play with Torres.
There can be little doubt, however, that Hiddink is the right man for the
Early favourite Marco van Basten is still unproven, while Harry Redknapp
seemed a curious front-runner when a flurry of bets came in for him - Redknapp
is surely too much his own man, especially in the media, to sit easily with
Andre Villas Boas looks a superb manager, but might have been crushed under
the weight of Mourinho comparisons, especially as he is far less bombastic than
the Special One.
In any case, if you can get someone who has already done a great job and
left to great acclaim, why look anywhere else?
But Abramovich must rest his itchy trigger finger. The Russian's great
ambition is to win the Champions League, but Chelsea's current incarnation
cannot hope to knock Barcelona off their perch.
That wonderful team is the product of 15 years spent honing their players'
skills, schooling them in the Barcelona way and having the courage to give them
Even if Chelsea cannot produce such a magnificent group of players, they can
at least learn from the patience and craft required to build a top team.
Spending £50m on a striker and telling him to score goals simply will not do.
If the new manager wants to conquer Europe he needs Abramovich's money, but
above all he needs his patience.
- Roman Abramovich
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Didier Drogba
- Jose Mourinho
- Frank Lampard