Di Matteo's Plaudits Miss The Point
After Fernando Torres scored the winner at Camp Nou last week things have been looking bright for Chelsea. And the man who has guided Chelsea to the Champions League and FA Cup finals has been heaped with praise in recent weeks as the saviour of the club.
After the turmoil under his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo's tenure at Stamford Bridge has seen the club rejuvenated, and calls for his contract to be made permanent are becoming all the more prominent - but this all rather misses the point.
When Villas-Boas was appointed as Chelsea manager last summer, Roman Abramovich asked him to rebuild Chelsea's ageing squad with a younger, more dynamic outlook. His lucrative three-year contract was evidence of this.
But it is fair to say the Portuguese manager might have taken this job description too literally; rather than phasing out the club's old guard he gave them the chop – with disastrous consequences. With the strong characters of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba not taking too kindly to being ousted from the starting line-up; arguably being instrumental in the young manager losing his job.
As previous Chelsea managers have found out since the days of Mourinho – if you alienate the big players they will make sure you lose your job. And so it was.
Since AVB's dismissal, former fans favourite Roberto Di Matteo has overseen a very successful period for the club. Under Di Matteo the club's older players have been instrumental in the team's success, with Terry, Lampard and Drogba all being regular starters.
The sight of John Terry dishing out instructions from the bench during the Napoli game led some to argue that the older players have been picking the team and dominating the management of the club. It is not clear to what extent this is happening but it would appear that Di Matteo is pandering to his senior players and this surely cannot be a long-term solution to Chelsea's problems.
The problem for Chelsea is that Di Matteo has done nothing groundbreaking. He has simply let the senior squad members play albeit to great effect. But we already knew that they were good players – the real problem with Chelsea is the need to rebuild the squad. The core of the team is largely made of players brought together under Mourinho and the ghost of the ‘Special One' continues to haunt the Stamford Bridge dressing-room.
Therefore, if Di Matteo is given the job on a long-term basis –which will look all the more likely if Chelsea win the Champions League – he will have to do the exact same job that AVB was tasked with. Chelsea's old guard will have to be replaced one day. This is not to say that Di Matteo has done a bad job, rather that he is doing the easy job. His success has been with a short-term mindset.
If Abramovich really wants Chelsea to dominate Europe he will have to back a manager with a longer-term approach. Chelsea will be back to square one at the end of this season and the real test for Chelsea will be in the summer. Di Matteo's success will have to be judged in years, not in a matter of months. Let's just hope the owner gives the club a bit of stability.