And so ends the doomed rein of Felipão. Eight months and eight days after eagerly grabbing the poisoned chalice from Avram Grant, Luis Felipe Scolari has fallen foul to the dispensable nature of English football. The first World Cup winning manager to coach in the Premier League has exited with his reputation potentially in tatters, and has left Chelsea in a downward spiral which may take more than a new boss to amend. For a long time this winter it was thought that Kaka would be the most expensive Brazilian in football, but Scolari may have cost us a whole lot more this campaign, even if we are not talking about money anymore.
A frustrating 0-0 home draw against Hull City was the straw which broke the camel’s back but the signs had been there for a while now. The forum called it months ago with the general consensus of active posters wanting him out a long, long time ago. The problems could even be traced back to the beginning of the season.
Sir Alex Ferguson (not a World Cup winning manager one may add, yet one of the most successful coaches in the history of English football) said at the beginning of the season that he doubted Chelsea’s credentials due to the make-up of the squad. Guess what? He was spot on. It’s not only the age of some of the players which has hindered us – as he theorised – but also the attitude, the lack of application and the lack of effort from some.
But is it not the job of the manager to get the best out of his players? Aside from two summer signings – the fading José Bosingwa and the dismal Deco – and a few outgoings, it is the same squad which took Manchester United right to the wire last season in both the Premier League and the Champions League. However, it seems that some of the outgoings would have provided at least a balanced squad, which we certainly do not have now.
At the time of writing, we have two goalkeepers; three natural right backs and just one on the other side in Ashley Cole; five centre-backs, one of whom wants to leave, and two who never get picked; a player in Mikel who, without for a second doubting or calling into question his ability as a defensive midfielder, is more comfortable in an attacking role; an ageing midfield which is carried by Frank Lampard; wingers who cannot cross, dribble or provide half the thrust of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben at their pomp; and two strikers, one of whom wants to leave, the other who hasn’t scored a league goal since December 14th. And that’s not even mentioning the talented youth players who Scolari just would not give a go, even in those rare occasions where we were winning games comfortably.
This year we aren’t looking at trophies, we are just looking nervously ahead at the next game week by week.
It also seems as if the formation has been altered not to fit the players, but to fit Scolari’s ideology of attacking football. Whereas one of the many gripes over Grant’s leadership was his refusal to radically change things, Scolari has gone the other way and virtually eradicated the winning football we saw under messrs José Mourinho (over 300 words without mentioning his name, give me some credit!) and Grant. Sure it was seen as dull by some, but did any of us really care when we were picking up points, trophies and the like?
Football under Scolari had become dull, uncomfortable and most importantly predictable. So predictable that almost every team has got us figured out already. Sure the opening day of the season saw a 4-0 win over Portsmouth and an exciting display to boot, but games like these were few and far between. Instead we have become accustomed to drab draws and costly defeats.
It is slightly surprising that Roman Abramovich, Peter Kenyon or Bruce Buck (delete as applicable; I’m still not sure who calls the shots) has chosen to sack Scolari at this stage of the season. Barcelona are majestic and should wrap up the Champions League, ditto Manchester United in the Premier League. The FA Cup would be a more than welcome addition to the trophy cabinet, as it always is, but surely the new manager – whomever he is – was not brought in just to win that. Perhaps Scolari was sacked because he couldn’t handle the pressure of club football in England.
He didn’t have a plan B, he didn’t make bold decisions, he didn’t even take the press conferences for crying out loud! Ray Wilkins was allegedly brought in to fulfil media obligations and sweep Scolari’s mistakes under the carpet.
But even though the Brazilian has gone, don’t expect things to go back to the good old days of league titles and juggernaut performances. The horse has long bolted and shutting the stable door now seems to be a statement of frustration rather than long-term planning.
Needless to say, we will all wait with baited breath for future announcements. And while we do, we’ll continue to love the club and give Chelsea our full support. It will be a struggle from now until the end of the season, but following the Blues has never been totally comfortable. Scolari’s reign is over, and the next boss has a heck of a lot of work to do.
Make sure he’s the right man this time Chelsea, we cannot afford any more costly mistakes.