Short-termism returns to SW6

So the brave new world lasted less than a year.

In fact, not even a season. No, just nine pretty miserable months that have been the most turbulent of Roman Abramovich’s nine-year reign as Chelsea owner.

Andre Villas-Boas was a man who was supposed to be on a mission. A mutally-agreed, long-term mission designed to end the impatience around Stamford Bridge and bring stability on and off the pitch.

He was the seventh manager to work under Abramovich and was meant to be the last one to be appointed by the trigger-happy Russian for some time.

“No one comes out of this well – manager, players, or the decision makers.”

The Portuguese’s exit, after much conflict and contradiction, is surely the ultimate admission of a catastrophic cock-up by those who appointed him.

All the noises coming out of the club when Villas-Boas arrived at great expense in June 2011 suggested a new approach.

Short-termism had been binned. The cut-throat culture was no more. Chelsea wanted to create a settled, winning dynasty.

And AVB – football’s bright young thing – was the man to do it. He would be here for the long-haul, recognised the need for change and would be given time to do it.

He would still bring success of course, and would do so by playing a stylish brand of football in keeping with the wishes of a demanding owner. All against the backdrop of a more relaxed, understanding and mindful hierarchy. The powers-that-be had learned their lessons.

Chelsea were thinking ahead, and so was the manager. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, from December onwards, just about everything. The reality has been a bit of a nightmare.

Roman Abramovich is looking for yet another manager.

Any lingering hopes of a Premier League title challenge vanished sometime in late December, the performances have generally been second-rate and talk of dressing room unrest has continued to gather momentum.

Even hopes of success in the Carling Cup disappeared in a meek surrender against eventual winners Liverpool.

AVB was still clinging to possible European glory. Victory in the Champions League, and even a mid-table finish would probably have been acceptable.

But following the 3-1 first-leg failure against Napoli that is now highly unlikely, though far from impossible.

The dismal home draw against Birmingham means progress in the FA Cup is also in serious doubt. Tuesday’s fifth-round replay looks trickier by the minute. Playing Chelsea is no longer a worry for most teams. The fear-factor has gone. Just ask West Brom.

Before the soul-destroying events of the past 10 weeks there were plenty of encouraging signs despite more than a few teething troubles.

The thrilling football we were promised had been seen in patches. Chances were being created at will, the football was sharp and exciting.

Even some of the defeats – namely with nine men against QPR and in the unfortunate loss against Manchester United – indicated things were building steadily.

And of course, the manager had backing from the very top. The joint project was still in place. Right?

But the results were not always forthcoming and crucially AVB appeared to lose his bottle for the attacking approach following the defensive debacle that saw Arsenal score five in the humiliating loss at the Bridge in October.

He seemed to become Mourinho lite. The swift, incisive football was ditched to a great extent. The more solid version of the 4-3-3 formation returned, only it was not as effective. The older guard were also undoubtedly less effective than in previous years.

John Terry has been injured, Didier Drogba has been hit and miss. Frank Lampard has been dropped, recalled, dropped again and has admitted his relationship with his boss is “not ideal”. Ashley Cole has also reportedly had a disagreement with Villas-Boas.

Of all the things AVB has been criticised for, it is his handling of his star players that has probably been the tipping point. So much is made of the ageing-star argument and the need for change.

But factor five or so older world-class players into a squad that already includes David Luiz, Ramires, Daniel Sturridge, Branislav Ivanovic and there is simply no need for panic. The squad has plenty of talent. And if Fernando Torres ever shows his class….

Villas-Boas also added the supremely talented Juan Mata, and more recently Gary Cahill. The squad looks extremely healthy.

Senior players like Lampard still have an important role to play.

The constant talk of player power, revolt and rebellion has been key to the AVB’s downfall. But did it need tackling in such a seemingly confrontational and aggressive way?

Surely he should have made the most of having some of the best players ever to play for the club in his midst. If a break-up had to happen, would it not have made sense to do it slowly? Evolution not revolution.

Patience was finally lost after Saturday’s dismal display against the Baggies, a result which meant Chelsea had won just three of their last 12 league games.

But whatever the reasoning, it looks messy from top to bottom. Very messy.

No one comes out of this well – manager, players, or the decision makers. The short-termism is back and it is a shambles.

Do the research, trust that judgement and know you have got the right man. Understand his aims and – forgive the Mourinho-ism – his methodology. Back ‘your appointment’ and stick with it.

The tragedy is AVB will more than likely go on to become a wonderful manager. He will have learned by his mistakes and gained some incredible experience, as well as a hefty pay-off.

Carlo Ancelotti paid the price for being football’s nearly man and was sacked just a season after winning the Double. That decision looks even more ridiculous now.

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