By Chris Wright
Chelsea lost a game of football last night, and a fairly high-profile one at that – against Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League. Their ropey, porous defence was breached three times by one of the most coveted forward lines in world football.
The result came as little surprise to many given the respective morale being exuded by both clubs at present, yet it has served to provide yet another example of submissive ineptitude with which to flog Andres Villas-Boas; the man in the metaphorical crosshairs.
We’ve seen it before several times at Chelsea in their recent history. It happened most recently under Carlo Ancelotti; a relatively slight dip in form and suddenly the coach is being undermined by a heady mix of Abramovich’s backstage antics and Mourinho’s old guard all over again.
Several months before he was acrimoniously P45-ed in the Goodison Park tunnel, with the club at the top of the league at the time, Ancelotti publicly claimed that he ‘wasn’t 100% in control’ of first-team proceedings at Stamford Bridge. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the club’s managerial record knew exactly what he meant and empathised whole-heartedly. The realisation was stark; his days were numbered.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
As far back as 2000, Gianluca Vialli was scanned just five matches into the new season (and four months after winning the FA Cup) when centre-half Frank Leboeuf let slip to all and sundry that many of Chelsea’s first-team players ‘had a few problems’ with the follically-challenged Italian’s particular strain of coaching methods.
Leboeuf was dropped to the reserves for his insolence but, crucially, Vialli was also ruthlessly denied of the ‘last chance’ he’d been promised to deliver the league title to the Bridge for the first time since 1955. He was duly relieved of his duties and in doing so, saw his dismissal become a blueprint which has been repeated ad infinitum for the prevailing decade-and-a-bit of Chelsea’s history – a decade that has included just as much success as it has wildly unbridled managerial upheaval.
When Abramovich bought into the club in 2003, he quickly sought to bring in his own man at the helm and replaced Vialli’s replacement, Claudio Ranieri, with Jose Mourinho a year later.
Mourinho and his monolithically brash ego were the perfect fit for the Russian oligarch’s burgeoning global marketing enterprise and all seemed symbiotically rosy until Abramovich and his close circle of ‘yes men’ wanted more, more, more , got ideas above their station and started meddling in first-team affairs.
In potted terms, it all came to head in 2007 and Mourinho walked after a Champions League tie with Rosenborg, leaving in his wake a formidable legacy and a newly devout band of smitten followers within the Chelsea squad – players he still, five years down the line, describes as ‘belonging to him’. Players that, if recent rumours are to be believed, still flirt with him via text.
All but one (AVB, as yet) of Mourinho’s permanent successors have outwardly