WELL, the season seems to have petered out to a rather inglorious final fortnight. The display against Newcastle still managed to get my blood boiling for the sheer lack of effort from the majority of the players — most of them were evidently on the beach already.
After surrendering the Double, the only thing we had left to play for was London supremacy but the players obviously had no such worries with a performance which was as clear a display of going through the motions as you are likely to see.
It did not sit well with the supporters — we had all still turned up, paid our money, urged them on —was a strongly competed game too much to ask for? It seems it was. To add insult to injury, they then kept supporters waiting an inordinate amount of time before coming out for their “lap of appreciation.” Many decided that this was simply not acceptable and left, so that by the time the players deemed to honour us with their presence, the stadium was less than a third full. Carlo tailed along at the back — awkwardly I thought — with a few muted chants of his name going around the stadium. If that was indeed his final appearance at Stamford Bridge it was a rather sad ending for a man who delivered a historic achievement last season.
Whenever the players speak of Ancelotti, it seems to be with affection but their actions betray them I think, as I don’t think they show enough respect nor fear when they take to the field.
I think the second season for a good manager is always far more difficult than the first; in that first season all the players are out to prove themselves — the second year, they often become complacent.
Familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt, but neither does it provide the environment for improvement — unless that manager is of the calibre of someone like Ferguson, or Mourinho to a lesser degree.
There is no doubt in a Ferguson side who is in charge. He dictates everything and if you don’t conform you are out, if you don’t give your all you are out, if you upset the applecart you are out. There isn’t that hierarchy at Chelsea. The power seems to shift . . . players, managers, owner – different stages of the season sees different individuals as dominant and that does not create an environment for success.
This is down to the owner and senior management at Chelsea. Only Abramovich and his delegates can empower the manager to give him the gravitas and mandate to manage on his terms. Then the manager lives and dies by his actions. Ancelotti will generate much sympathy if and when he goes precisely for this reason – that he managed with interference at all levels yet delivered Chelsea’s best-ever season last year and recovered to take second spot this season.
But for many these achievements will mask their belief that he wasn’t the right man for Chelsea anyway and that last year’s Double was as much a result of a season of flux for United as it was of our own making.
That is neither here nor there at this moment in time, because whoever manages Chelsea next season needs to be given every opportunity to tackle the job whole-heartedly with no interference.
This includes support from the players – which is also where I believe Ancelotti has been somewhat let down. Some players seem to play to their own game plan which I imagine they must feel best demonstrates their strengths, but is not necessarily what is best for the team. In short we have become a group of individuals finally having had the last vestiges of the Mourinho group ethic dissipate – and we are much poorer for it.
With more and more clubs finding sugar daddies to fund teams stuffed with Galacticos the role of the manager will become ever more important. There was a time where a big transfer fund would virtually guarantee you a share of the trophies at the end of the season, but with ten or more billionaire funded clubs challenging for a maximum of four trophies, it’s going to take a bit more to ensure yours is one of the clubs with one of those baubles come May.
Abramovich needs to re-focus on what he wants – if he wants to play real life Football Manager then so be it – let him continue in the same vein. If he wants to win things and perhaps have a shot at creating a dynasty, he needs to have a manager that is willing to challenge him and he needs to be able to not only accept that challenge but concede that the manager in question should have the final say over team matters. Only then will you have a manger that is totally respected by the players – no matter how much money they are on.
Will we achieve that scenario at Chelsea? On recent evidence I would say not, but I would imagine a few seasons without trophies would be enough to focus the mind. Some tough decisions need to be made – and soon too.