Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mourinho Wins Sack Race

This is incredibly bad news for Chelsea fans (although, let's face it, as a group of individuals, they're hard to empathize with).

Mourinho was the difference between Chelsea being a band of high-price mercenaries (think Lazio in their heyday) and being a well-oiled team. This man understood the chemistry and psychology of teams, and he succeeded brilliantly, as he had (with far less money) at Porto.

The full story isn't out yet, but the basic story seems to be this: Mourinho preferred team work and results and Abramovich preferred sexy players playing sexy football. Mourinho seems to have tried to asjust his style at the beginning of the year, but the experiment went wonky. 1-1 to Rosenberg wouldn't be considered a crisis in most places - and shouldn't by rights have been considered so at Chelsea, either (hell, six years ago they were being knocked out of the UEFA cup by St. Gallen at about this time of year). But it was the excuse the Russian needed to push Mourinho out.

The replacements? The papers right now are saying Sevilla's Juande Ramos, but one has to suspect that Abramovich's "sexy" vision for the club requires a sexy coach, which Ramos - for all his good work - is not. You'd have to figure, based on form (signing Ballack and Shevchenko for untold millions when neither was really needed), that he'd go for something spectacular, like trying to coax Cruyff out of retirement. That's not going to work, so the obvious candidates would then be Cappello and Lippi.

Both would be interesting choices. Lippi is probably closer in style to Mourinho, but frankly it;s hard to see how Lippi's style (or Cappello's, for that matter) would work if he has to go through a translator all the time. The secret to team-building is man-management, and the effectiveness of a quick arm-around-the-shoulder chat with Frank Lampard is inevitably going to be diminished if a translator needs to be present.

The best choice right now might be the man that Mourinho narrowly pipped to the job, former Chelsea player and French captain Didier Deschamps. Though again, his style is not necessarily especially sexy. For that, you really need a Dutch coach, which - one would think - with Frank Arnesen in place, might not be difficult to obtain.

Frank Rijkaard? Marco van Basten? Both have jobs right now, but the former in particular could be tempted if stories that he is losing the Barca dressing room prove correct.

But don't listen to me. As we found out a few weeks ago, I suck at predictions. Regardless, with Chelsea visiting to Old Trafford in three days, it's certainly an amazing amount of grist for the melodrama-mill of English football.

And you know what? I'll miss him. As irritating as he could be occasionally, he was damn smart, never boring and was by some light years the best-dressed coach in the league (the charcoal coat he wore his first winter in England was completely dreamy). I doubt if I'll like his successor anywhere near as much.


Blogger roswitha said...

Excellent blog, thank you so much. I thought of Capello and Lippi as first choices, too. I think Capello would be the better choice if at all they were to come back into either championship this season. Both Capello and Mourinho suffered, I think, from the general impression that they are coaches geared towards playing grinding football. They're not, and with a team like this Capello could play a lot prettier football than he could with the blimps at Madrid. Although, all things considered, pretty football should not be on the top of the priority list for Chelsea right now. As a team they won my respect for being committed to winning football with much more passion and consistency than most other teams, and with Mourinho gone, it will take a lot of motivation from within the team to find that groove again.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question in all of this has always been whether Abramovich actually knows what "sexy football" is. Not the fact that it was a former Chelsea manager's catchphrase, but what it looks like, or what results it can be expected to bring.

It simply can't be the kind of football that Grant's Israel teams played, can it? Abramovich simply doesn't seem to have much appreciation for the details or subtleties of the game.

Working from that basis, it would seem that Rijkaard is indeed the most likely next step, perhaps in a combined move with Ronaldinho. As a Barca socio, I would be thrilled to drive them both to Stamford Bridge for the knock down price of 125 million euro. That is probably about 25 million more than we will be able to get out of Berlusconi for the same pair; though I have to say that the idea of inciting a bidding war between those two over two wasting assets has more than a bit of intrisic appeal.

Roswitha is right about Capello. Lippi is the more philosophically defensive coach. The Roma team with which Capello won the scudetto was highly entertaining, as were a number of his Milan teams. He focused on defence at Madrid because it was obvious that was where they needed attention.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

Capello is not always boring and defensive, no, though you'd have been hard put to make such a side from our Scudetto team. But he is bristly, arrogant, uncompromising and exactly the type of chap to rub Roman up the wrong way, I think. Lippi is more personable - if more defensive minded - but he is filled with the justifiable self-confidence of a World Cup winner and I wouldn't bank on him putting up with too much interference.

Ursus is right that Abramovich sometimes seems to not really understand football, and at times I rather wonder whether he even likes it that much. He's a strange type.

Quite by chance, my first game at the Bridge was José's last ever league match... I guess I might not get invited back.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

My take on Abramovich - and who knows exactly how much you can believe from the papers - is simply that he wants praise. In Russia - and this is a harsh over-generalization, there is a respect that comes simply from winning. In England, where everyone loves an underdog, you're in effect handicapped by having a lot of money. yeah, yeah, you won, but how hard is that when you've got so much cash? You don't get our praise unless you play *well*, too.

And who in England consistently gets praised for "playing well" despite not winning lately? Urs won't like the answer, but he knows full well that it's Arsenal. *That's* what Abramovich is looking for.

Not that it will do him much good. You don't see people wandering around North London praising Danny Fiszman or Peter Hill-wood for "creating" this Arsenal squad.

On another matter - I don't see Lippi as being fundamentally defensive. Certainly, his side last summer played infinitely more attractive football than the shit-shows Trap used to inflicted on long-suffering Italians. You can put it down to players at his disposal, I suppose (he didn't have to put up with slapstick defending from Panucci, for one thing), but I thought they looked a lot better going forward than other teams of the recent past. No?

3:27 PM  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

Oi, you leave our Panucci alone.*

*the verifiable truth of your statements is irrelevant to my obligatory knee-jerk defence.

4:53 PM  

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