Chelsea fires another boss, but what's the plan?

Posted by Gabriele Marcotti

So that's that, then. Roberto Di Matteo bites the dust at Chelsea. And if you can find the logic in it, you're a better man than me.

They say it's a "results business." And most likely, Chelsea will become the first defending Champions League winner ever to go out at the group stage following the 3-0 defeat at Juventus on Tuesday night.

But if you buy this "results" line then it's equally true that Di Matteo came in and rescued a wayward season and delivered Chelsea its first ever Champions League crown. Not just that; he also won the FA Cup.

And sure, Chelsea had good fortune on their side in overcoming Barcelona and Bayern Munich on their way to the big one. But it's also true that they weren't exactly lucky in their recent Premier League outings against West Brom, Liverpool and Manchester United. The Blues could easily have had another four points from those three games, in which case they'd be top of the table. Would Di Matteo have gotten the boot then?

Who knows?

It's becoming increasingly hard to decipher what goes on in Roman Abramovich's head. You will no doubt hear a whole load of anti-Abramovich stuff being thrown around right about now, much of it having to do with how he's "trigger-happy" because he sacked eight managers in less than nine years.

Strictly speaking, those numbers are misleading. Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink weren't sacked; they were always interim bosses who were let go after their spell. And Claudio Ranieri, the first guy to get the chop, was someone Abramovich had inherited from the previous regime.

You can give an owner a pass for removing a leftover boss (and one who had been there for four years), especially if he replaces him with a Jose Mourinho. The Special One's departure was the one most Chelsea fans regret, but internally, Mourinho had run his course and tensions had bubbled over with club officials and players. You can live with that one.

Furthermore, you can also understand why Andre Villas-Boas and Luiz Felipe Scolari both went, as they had the worst and second-worst results of any boss in the Abramovich era. AVB had also fallen out with senior players, while Scolari, at times, looked about as interested as a 10-year-old in an accountant's office.

But you can't give the club the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Carlo Ancelotti, the double winner who had Fernando Torres and David Luiz thrown into his lap unsolicited. Nor, by any stretch, can you do it with Di Matteo.

I don't buy this argument about whether someone "deserves" to be sacked. Merit has nothing to do with it. You remove a manager when you think you can get somebody better. I don't have a problem with that.

So the issue here is whether Chelsea thinks it can get someone better right now. Forget the Pep Guardiola business. He's on Manhattan's Upper West Side as you read this; unless he did some kind of sudden about-face, he's not on his way over to jump-start Chelsea's season. If -- and it's a huge if, as we've written before -- he comes to Stamford Bridge, it will be in the summer. And if he committed to Chelsea and Di Matteo had been let go at that point, few would have batted an eyelid.

Thus it becomes a question of whether there's a better available manager out there, but it needs to be somebody so good that you accept the fact that Guardiola is not coming. Why? Because no serious boss is going to accept an interim position. And if you were going to go for a Mr. Fix-It type who could deliver instant results, someone to "save" the season and then disappear into the background, why not keep Di Matteo? After all, it's not as if a top-four finish for Chelsea looks in question this season. And who else is going to put up with Torres?

Besides, in situations such as these when you do bring in a Mr. Fix-It -- or, if you prefer, Mister Wolf from Pulp Fiction -- you usually contact him before you give the manager the bullet and make sure he's ready to go.

Unless, of course, we are to believe that Di Matteo was sacked because Chelsea did not get the result they needed at Juventus. In which case it would be a simply idiotic decision. Because the implication is that, had Chelsea drawn the game, then -- presto! -- Di Matteo would still be good enough to be Chelsea boss.

The reason Chelsea is in this situation isn't hard to discern. It was folly to go into a season with Torres and Daniel Sturridge masquerading as the Blues' entire strike force. That was not Di Matteo's decision; somebody further up the food chain needs to take ownership of that.

Thinking that four central midfielders -- one of them somewhat limited (John Obi Mikel), one of them a recycled wide player (Ramires), one of them 34 (Frank Lampard) and one of them just turned 21 with little experience (Oriol Romeu) -- could be enough to see you through the campaign was equally silly. And equally not down to Di Matteo.

Chelsea says it'll announce its new boss shortly. Whether it's an interim guy or a permanent hire will tell us plenty about what the next move is and whether there really was a coherent plan. Right now though, it looks like a knee-jerk reaction and nothing more.

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