Making the future of both Roberto Di Matteo, saviour and “interim” manager, and Didier Drogba, scorer of that gloriously surprising and significant goal, hang in the balance. Almost grudgingly, Chelsea eventually dropped the patronising classification of Di Matteo as “interim coach.”
Taking over at the point where an incoherent team had been lucky to get away with no more than a 3-1 defeat in Naples, Di Matteo inspired and devised a 4-1 victory after extra time at Stamford Bridge, elimination of Benfica, somehow squeezed through in Barcelona, despite being reduced to ten men, followed by that breathless victory in Munich.
Fortune favours the brave it’s said and though Chelsea’s tactics against both Barcelona and Bayern were hardly daring, it took a brave man to reinvigorate a team on its knees. Di Matteo had to pick up the pieces left by an over promoted Villas Boas who, whatever his previous triumphs with Porto, showed himself sadly out of his depth. His tactics were wrong, seriously exposing to attack a team no longer young, while he showed a thin skinned petulance in banishing two such experienced players as Nicolas Anelka and Alex, not only from training with the first team, but even from the Xmas team luncheon!
Di Matteo has the complete confidence of his team, won on the field of play after it seemed initial doubts. And Chelsea we know is a revolving managerial door. Any better known manager who did come would simply be entering it on a temporary basis before being liberally paid off.
Not that Roman Abramovich always goes for glitter. After he had somewhat petulantly sacked The Special One, Jose Mourinho, whom did he install but Israel’s Avram Grant; a coach who gets job after job but doesn’t occupy any of them for long. The latest one from which he has been ejected that of Partizan Belgrade, doing pretty well in their League till Grant took over. Millwall fans took malign joy at his doomed spell at rivals West Ham.
As for Drogba, what folly it was to refuse his request for a two-year contract, offering him no better than a one-year deal, for a contract which they knew would expire at the end of this season. That meant an offer from Shanghai, where Anelka had gone already, with a reported £250,000 a week. He may be 34-years-old but his supremely well and powerfully taken goals have taken Chelsea against all the odds to the European Cup conquest. All this must be down to Abramovich himself since it is he who so plainly calls the shots, though we see statements from ceremonial but irrelevant front men.
What a remarkable manager is Ian Holloway. At the start of the season, he must have wearily confronted the task of rebuilding a team which had lost such key men as Charlie Adam.
In the event, he managed to get his rebuilt team, with such discoveries as young Thomas Ince, scorer of that fine goal at Wembley, into the playoffs: by the skin of their teeth. And there largely to outplay far richer West Ham and lose against the run of play and against true justice.
With money at such a premium, he can hardly relish the need to pick himself up, dust himself off and start all over again.
He surely deserved better.
Lucky Arsenal. Unlucky Spurs. Yet again pipped at the European post.
Two shocking blunders by deputy WBA keeper Fulop gave the Gunners bizarre victory.
A couple of years ago, they sneaked past a Spurs team struck by infection en route to play their last game at West Ham; no help from the Premiership when they narrowly lost.