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Scolari

I am not a chelsea fan, or any soccer club fan; I seldom watch soccer games - dont have the patience to sit through 2 hours (movies are out for the same reason), but I keep track of English Premier League events, and find the contrasting fortunes of the various clubs interesting to follow

Here are some photos of Scolari at various stages of his Chelsea period


the change from the summer to the winter is obvious; so what went wrong?

I dont believe it is a case of "player power" - while there are expensively acquired stars who need to be placated, the small group of players who reportedly were asked by Abramovich about the situation and gave negative feedback, are not influential enough to produce such a decision - they would be considered as less important than Terry and Lampart, who were not asked; there was no evidence of a general revolt nor anyone initiating a complaint to Abramovich; on the other hand, I also would not accept the cynical view that Abramovich deliberately chose the group for the purpose of getting bad feedback in order to find excuse to fire Scolari - he doesnt need to mavouvre like this - it's not as if he has to answer to a higher boss; but I believe after he had already made the decision to dismiss scolari, as a matter of caution he wanted to ask around a bit - if the group said unanimously "He is a good manager; if you sack him we will all quit" "It's all the fault of players so and so - they are disruptive to the team" or at least "Give him a bit more time" then he might have reconsidered.

Abramovich was not satisfied with Chelsea's recent performance, and just as with Claudio Ranieri in 2004 (the manager at the time he bought the club), Jose Mourinho in 2007 and Avram Grant  in 2008, the manager got the blame and was told to go, though each one was given a golden handshake.


In my view, Scolari did perform poorly - he did not have the experience of managing a team of multinational stars, which lacks the kind of cohesion a national team has, and requires season-long regimes of training and planning to participate in a variety of trophy contests playing a much larger number of games than a national team participating in regional and international contests that occur once every few years, each time with just a dozen games or less; he did not know the other English club teams well (nor his own team for that matter) and so was unsure of the best game tactics and team selection; further, he did not communicate his thinking clearly to the players. It was, for example, never explained to anyone why he did not field Anelka and Drodba together, and some of his mid game player changes were weird as well as unexplained; the players left out of games or sitting on the bench would have seethed, especially if the match outcome was negative. Locker room discussion would have been against him, and during matches performance suffered because of low confidence and resolve.

Because of his amusing press conferences, people would have had the impression that he communicated well,


 

so that any lack of communication must be deliberate. Dealing with reporters and with players require, however, altogether different communication processes, since often PR is done without passing information. In addition to not getting explanations of plans and tactics, it seems the players received few ideas and directions to adjust to actual situation during the games and how to deal with the tactics the opponents used in that particular game. He also appears to have made little effort to get to know the players well personally. Here his having his major past experiences only with Portugese speaking teams may have played a part - accustomed to be a kind of father figure to his players, he needed to break unfamiliar ground to manage "human resources", some much more expensive than himself.

To some extent, he was also harmed by the high expectations when he started, given his world cup successes with Brazil and Portugal, and by the early wins of the season (Erikson at Manchester City after Taksin bought the team had the same up then down experience) - these wins show that the team is still quite strong, even though it is aging a bit and in need of building up for the future - so the subsequent falloff in performance was harder to excuse. Scolari, in other words, was victimized by his own past success.

Yet the main blame lies with the owner: buying expensive stars, whether players or coaches, works for a time, and the Mourinho regime did win the team several trophies. Scolari's arrival boosted team morale, and probably other teams were a bit in awe initially, so Chelsea started this season very well; maintaining such successes, however, requires team building skills, which take time to adjust to a new situation, and even longer to be proven.

Manchester United, for example, combines buying players, developing youngsters (when Raphael de Silve came on for the very first time, I was immediately impressed - just 18 year old, and he is not the only one), and getting the best use of older guys like Giggs and Scholes; each player, regardless of at which stage of the game he gets sent in and which position he is assigned, understands what to do. Under the multi decade regime of Fergeson, ManU had time to build up its system. Chelsea simply does not have that kind of culture, and given the short time a manager has to show results, has not been able to develop it. This is particularly obvious with the sacking of Avram Grant: he took over in a hurry after the 2007 has already started, and managed to produce better result that season than most people expected, though Chelsea missed out on all the trophies. The main reason he had to go was less because of poor performance but more because Abramovich was impressed by Scolari and wanted the position vacated, and it turned out to be a very bad decision.

Can Hiddink improve the situation during the remaining three months of the season ? probably - he seems much more of a "human resources" manager and boss figure,

 

and he would be able to make straight talk to Abramovich whereas Mourinho would have appeared vain and touchy, Grant not sufficiently impressive, and Scolari would have looked vague; but given the history of Abramovich's handling of Chelsea, I am not optimistic about long term prospects. Just getting a well established manager to take the risk of moving to Chelsea long term would already be hard; and uncertainty about who will be the boss would also cause some players to leave this summer. After all, even richer patrons are over there at Manchester City waving petrodollars at everyone... not that I feel any more optimistic about them either...