Chelsea: Time for the Blues - with Di Matteo - to become one big happy family?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That the most complex data, notion or intricate philosophical muse - which would usually be explained with a lot of weight and attention to detail - can be explained within the stillness of one static picture. It’s a bounded about phrase; a common saying and perhaps even slowly morphing into a cliché. But sometimes ‘they’, meaning whoever created and perpetuated the phrase, are wrong. For the pictures which were printed after the two managers Kenny Dalglish and Roberto Di Matteo grappled in the FA cup final could be explained by a sentence or two. In this case, the two pictures are not worth a thousand words apiece. They come rather cheaply.
Strangely, Saturday’s enemies have some likenesses. Both entered the start of their reign needing to drastically improve and stabilise their respective clubs. Kenny achieved this last year and if Di Matteo wins the upcoming Champions League final then Chelsea will be granted entry into next year’s competition with the wondrousness of being reigning champions. Both appointments were buoyed by the nicety of being club legends; perhaps Dalglish is more woven into Liverpool’s folklore than Di Matteo’s, yet it would be folly to underestimate the cordial connection ‘Robbie’ has with the fans.
As a skillful and like-able player capable of weird and wonderful moments of magic, as well as notching up quite a few medals in his London endeavours, the Swedish-Italian shined on Stamford Bridge’s stage. He is gold dust to the Blue faithful.
The likenesses slow to an abrupt halt from here on. Dalglish is suffering the come down after a summer of indulging in mediocre talent and overseeing a largely fruitless season. The recruited players may be ‘learning’, but what have they learned? Jordan Henderson appears jaded and fearful, Stewart Downing is ineffective whereas moving away from perhaps unfairly picking out individual players, the squad as a unit is worthy of the top ten berth only. And while Liverpool have been tormented, Di Matteo teed off Chelsea’s season when he was appointed.
Whatever one thinks of the way 2011’s latest Chelsea managerial instalment Andres Villas-Boas was treated – in my opinion, with an anorexic show of support from the boss and a display of devious vulgarity from a number of powerful players – to ignore the praise lavished upon Di Matteo would be spiteful and petty. You must salute him. He has guided them through FA Cup glory and is 90 minutes from Champions League glory. The players are unified, ballsy and deeply motivated in tasks which – ranging from Spurs at Wembley to Barcelona away – have been nothing but arduous.
The premise for Di Matteo was probably clear when announced as manager: place together the jigsaw pieces of a fragmented squad and stumble through the rest of the season. Try and refill gaping holes. Unify the squad and take whatever the season may offer. Few, probably not including Abramovic and the Chelsea fans themselves, would have expected to be on the cusp of winning a cup double.
The former Chelsea man has just completed stage one with flying colours. What must be remembered is that Roman Abramovic is a-flux with replica FA Cup trophies shining brightly in the trophy cabinet. Saturday’s win, however pleasing it was, resembled a warm up. The support act before the Rolling Stones of trophies is to be contested. Roman’s passion is the final stage; the pinnacle of the European game; the one success he has not yet tasted. The Champions League trophy brought to London for the first time would most likely prompt Abramovic to offer Di Matteo a contract on the night. Taste defeat and the lines become a little hazier.
The obvious and most pressing question is this: should he be offered the job? Unequivocally so will most likely be the answer. Some have claimed his appointment for next season would be a ‘risk’ considering the fact that Di Matteo was sacked from West Brom last year. To me, this seems peculiar. Abramovic’ latest appointments have all met the Russian axe eventually. Who else would be considered? Jose Mourinho looks set to remain in Madrid, Pep Guardiola will be a few months into his years break by the time the season begins.
It can be argued that Di Matteo is actually less of a risk than the names touted. The owner has demonstrated his refusal to take anything other than the cowards way out when dealing with the likes of Villas-Boas, Scolari and even Ancelotti. The Russian always ends up sacking any manager the Chelsea mafia do not take to. The player power always triumphs.
If Chelsea were to let Matteo go and appoint the latest big fish young manager, history might repeat itself. Dressing room discontent and infuriated players. Why repeat mistakes? It seems a far smarter and inerratic option to increase Matteo’s contract and allow a manager who has already brought tangible success and one who has a cordial relationship with the players, to direct the influx of youthful talent which must come Chelsea’s way this summer.
This isn't allowing the players to choose who is manager. It's intelligence: Abramovic will not support a more forceful or quick-changing boss and so Di Matteo, a man who has calmed the sea's, should be appointed. Why work against the senior players when you have someone ready who can work with them? Some may question Roberto’s abilities in rebuilding the squad and orchestrating a long term plan, yet the same sceptics questioned his ability – and Chelsea’s – to see off Barcelona.
The wilderness years for Chelsea, the years of throwing cash at someone and removing them when they fail the job you were supposed to support them in must come to an end with a man who appears to ‘get’ Chelsea football club. Chelsea appear settled and though player power may still exist, Matteo appears to be a man who will be able to approach the situation with more dexterity than his Portuguese predecessor. Roman won't work against the players and Villas-Boas found it hard to work with them.
So Matteo can be the man on both sides working with them and intelligently easing the future into place. They must be unified; no ego, no clash of ideology...no childishness. Just aiming to succeed long-term. Just, like all clubs must strive to be and just like Chelsea have appeared not to be at times this season, a big and happy family. All families have disagreements but what makes them strong is the repairing of those flaws. All sides - manager, players and owner - appeased. No petulant tantrums, just the horizon and compactness. You cannot run a football club without that strong, family-bonded feeling.
And just in case belligerence rises up again when Matteo starts executing his vision and in case relations turn sour, he must be backed. Achievements must be savoured this summer and the start of a new chapter in the reign of Roman must settle in. It is time for the inane managerial decisions to cease and intelligence at the Chelsea hierarchy to increase.
Di Matteo isn’t necessarily a risk. Or at least less of one than the other options presented. The real risk would be letting this so far successful manager walk and triumph elsewhere – as his stock will most likely have increased - while Chelsea return to the same route of appointing the latest boss in the managerial line of Pic N’ Mix and hoping he fits into what at times appears to be a complex and disaffected club. If the Swedish-Italian ex-Chelsea man can bring potent success with arguably the most fragmented squad in the Russian owners reign, then he deserves a shot – supported with a wealth of ammunition from the Russian - at the position one suspects he would be overjoyed to accept.
'Robbie', as they call him, along with intelligent behaviour from others at the club might just be the not-so-old Father figure that, after a somewhat fragmented season, can strengthen the family relations of Chelsea football club once more.
Calling all Chelsea fans. Do you agree with Jack. Should Di Matteo be given the Chelsea job on a permanent basis? Whatever your view we'd love to hear from you.