After all the hype, and after such a great start to Premier League life under Big Phil Scolari, it has all gone wrong for Chelsea, and there are no prizes for guessing who has paid the price for it. In football, the buck seems to stop almost every time with the manager, and while often this may not exactly be fair (for example, I think Tony Adams was installed in a nigh-on impossible situation at Pompey), I think Big Phil probably didn’t have the answers to Chelsea’s downfall.
No one can question his achievements in international management, and certainly at the beginning of the season it looked like he might have what it takes to make the transition to club football a successful one, but I think in the long run, he has been exposed. There is no shame in that though. More and more in recent years we have been seeing that there is a huge divide in international and club management, with many managers successful in one code failing to make the transition effectively.
Ultimately, I think Scolari lacked the day-in day-out motivational skills to be a success at Chelsea. They are still suffering from a come-down after the heady days of Jose Mourinho’s spell in charge and I think it is his lingering ghost that has made things difficult for Scolari from the off. Chelsea, like it or not, are a team in transition at the moment, and usually, that would mean a slight drop in expectations. Of course they will be near the top, but to expect a title is rather unrealistic.
They have had an unsettles time since The Special One’s departure, with some of his team having departed and the rest seemingly still in mourning for their charismatic leader. There is no doubt that players like Drogba haven’t scaled the heights that they did under Mourinho under either Avram Grant of Phil Scolari, and until a manager comes in who is unafraid to chop and change and freshen things up a bit, Chelsea will continue to stagnate.
Scolari came in to a team that resembles very closely the one that was so successful under Mourinho, if lacking a little quality in depth. However, many of the faces in the team are now getting older, with Ballack and Drogba in particular reaching their thirties and now looking much less eager to run and work for the team. Combine that with the fact that they don’t have Mourinho there, whispering in their ear and stirring them up, and it’s no wonder Chelsea are a shadow of the side they were under Mourinho.
The best thing that Scloari did as manager of Chelsea, was to sign Deco. He brought in a world class player, who at his best is inspirational. And it almost came off for him. The little Brazilian Portuguese had a stunning start to life in the Premier League, and his arrival as Scolari’s player instilled some belief in the rest of the players, and for a few weeks, they played with magnificent belief, confidence and flair. They believed that once again, they were the best team in the world.
Then Deco’s form dipped, as every player’s will. He came in and had a greater impact initially than anyone would have expected, and then suddenly, he was struggling. It was at that point that things got difficult for Chelsea. Without Deco as their inspiration, the buck fell again to the old horses like Lampard and Terry to drive the team, but they weren’t entirely convinced as to Scolari’s management. They were also two of the most revered players under Mourinho’s regime, and had a very special relationship with the Special One. It was very difficult therefore, for Scolari to try and find a new rallying point for his side, and he failed.
For a long time now, Chelsea have lacked the spirit that made them great. Even in their most successful years a couple of seasons ago, they were never the most prodigiously talented team on paper (proven by their inability to win the Champion’s League). But what they did have was an enormous fighting spirit and incredible self belief. Even though they weren’t on paper the best team in the world, the believed that they were, and that did most of the work for them.
That sort of belief was instilled by Mourinho’s incredible charisma and motivational skills, a set of skills which Big Phil, nice guy as he is, lacks almost completely. Chelsea went for a man who had won a World Cup, but the thing is, when he led Brazil to victory, they were the best team in the world, and they knew it. He did not have to inspire them to that effect, he just had to get them out there and organise them. They had the belief.
Chelsea don’t now though, and Scolari needed to be more than a tactician. Ultimately it was his lack of motivation coupled with the lingering memory of possibly the games greatest man-manager that conspired to bring about Big Phil’s sudden and early downfall. Chelsea must be more careful with their next managerial appointment. They need to rebuild, get rid of the deadwood and begin again. Young and hungry players will do a good job for them, as long as their boss can make them believe in themselves.
So long Big Phil, good luck in your next post.