Early Doors

Chelsea reap what they have sown

Early Doors

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Cheer up AVB - now you have 15 million reasons to be happy

Just 10 months ago, at the League Managers' Association end of season awards dinner, the recently-sacked Carlo Ancelotti got a prolonged, sympathetic round of applause by all of those in attendance.

It was a warm expression from his contemporaries that they felt for him after he was sacked by Chelsea in a Goodison Park corridor on the final day of the campaign, just a year after winning the Double in his first season at Stamford Bridge.

While several current managers spoke of how they felt for Andre Villas-Boas, following his dismissal from the same job on Sunday, the Portuguese coach's firing was not greeted with anything like the same level of surprise or sense of injustice.

The man commonly dubbed AVB will be about as fondly remembered among one of blue supporters as the similarly abbreviated IDS is by another. His brand of theoretical jargon and monotonous press conferences never sat well with the players, the press, or with the club's followers.

With morale clearly low in the Chelsea camp and with the media asking about the safety of his job at every opportunity, a timeline of his quotes as the club's manager charts a course from expectation to acceptance of his fate via defiance, denial and petulance.

He arrived last summer as one of the brightest young managerial talents in world football, poached from Porto for an unprecedented level of compensation. Now, eight months later, he leaves with a legacy based more on his touchline callisthenics more than his managerial prowess.

Defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was the culmination of a run of just two wins in his last nine games in the dugout. The title has long since been forgotten, while the Champions League berth the club has habitually claimed over the past decade may also soon slip from Chelsea's grasp.

Chelsea currently sit fifth in the Premier League table with 46 points from 27 games this season. That is a worse return than any other Chelsea manager since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

Villas-Boas averaged 1.70 points per game. The next worst is, unsurprisingly, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who brought in an average of 1.96. On paper, Villas-Boas's tenure has been a failure by any measure.

However, while he did not live up to expectations, Villas-Boas was let down by Chelsea just as much.

The 34-year-old was supposedly brought in as the man to lead a long-term overhaul of the club and dispel the hangovers of so many previous regimes. He was hired to manage a transition between the old players who had served the club so well in the past but were reaching the end of their careers, and usher in a new era. He tried that, quite sensibly ruling that players in their mid-30s could still do a job, just not in every single game, but the senior players who took umbrage at being left on the bench kicked up a stink.

In the recent Champions League defeat to Napoli he left Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien on the bench at the Stadio San Paolo. All three eventually played a part but contributed little, bar plenty of pointing and shouting from Lampard.

Just as with Scolari before him, the senior players had the final say on the matter. Abramovich listened to them over his manager. He decided to get rid of his eighth boss  in as many years at the club at a total cost of as much as £50 million, depending on which report you read.

Now he is left with Villas-Boas's former assistant, Roberto Di Matteo, in charge until the end of the season. The former Chelsea midfielder may well be a legend at the club as a player, but he is also the man West Brom sacked little more than a year ago because they were in danger of relegation. He was deemed not good enough for a place in The Hawthorns' dugout to fight the drop, but he is apparently a better man than a quadruple-winner from last season to make Chelsea retake their place among the elite in double-quick time.

Di Matteo was sacked after a run of 13 defeats in 18  games at West Brom, but now he is the man charged with qualifying for next season's Champions League, either by pipping Arsenal to fourth place or by winning this season's competition. Neither looks likely at this stage.

Mind you, Chelsea have had about as much success with their caretaker managers under Abramovich as they have with their full-time bosses. Avram Grant led the club to their only Champions League final in the wake of Jose Mourinho's acrimonious departure, whilst Guus Hiddink lifted the FA Cup after Scolari was canned.

With Chelsea facing an FA Cup fifth-round replay away to Birmingham on Tuesday, Abramovich must be hoping that Di Matteo can emulate those achievements.

While it is a shame to see any manager sacked after such a short time in a job, it is hard not to understand why Villas-Boas got the chop considering what others have been fired for by Abramovich.

Ancelotti was given his marching orders for finishing second in the league and being eliminated from Europe at the quarter-final stage. Such achievements are now pipe dreams, and only serve to show what folly it was to dispense of Ancelotti in such an indignant manner in the first place. Abramovich must take a significant portion of the blame for the club's current situation, as should the players, as well as Villas-Boas.

The appointment of a young, up-and-coming manager last summer gave rise to hopes that the Russian oligarch had finally made a concerted effort to stop the veering between boom and bust which he had himself created. He must, of course, take credit for both ends of that spectrum, but now it seems that Chelsea are once again at the lower ebb all too quickly.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In the first half Sunderland came here to upset us and Cattermole set the scene, it was ugly." — Newcastle manager Alan Pardew's verdict on a tempestuous but entertaining 1-1 draw in Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby, which was book-ended by Lee Cattermole's yellow card after less than 40 seconds and his red card shown after the final whistle. Ugly indeed.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Football managers should impose a bit of order: do we have a championship whose level justifies such astronomical salaries? I have just learned that the coach of PSG earns six million euros a year: do PSG - a good team which I like a lot - have such good results that their trainer should earn that much?" — French presidential hopeful Francois Hollande questions whether the quality of Ligue 1 merits the high wages paid to some plying their trade in the league.

COMING UP: You can watch highlights of all the weekend's Premier League matches, or just get your fix with our quickfire round-up of all the goals.

We will be rounding up our Premier League Team of the Week later on, while Paul Parker and Pitchside Europe will be delivering their latest blogs on the weekend's football at home and abroad.

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