We’d only just got into March, we’d just lost at West Brom and yet another Chelsea manager had bitten the dust. Down and out? You’d have thought so – and our critics certainly hoped so – then up stepped Roberto Di Matteo and less than 2 months on, we’ve fought our way into not just the FA Cup final, but the Champions League final as well.
Pretty amazing turnaround really but somehow Di Matteo, as our interim manager, has got us right back on track – and some. Of course it hasn’t been pretty, in fact, the words “stingy, cowardly, vulgar, unworthy” may even have been used by the less gracious to have lost out to our latest brand of ‘anti-football’ but it’s bloody effective.
Whilst Andre Villas-Boas had his own ideas on what he wanted to do with the team, he didn’t have the right resources to do it. Roberto Di Matteo, on the other hand has taken the resources he does have and played to their strengths. Under AVB, the likes of JT, Lampard, Drogba and Cole looked unmotivated, lethargic and generally fed up most of the time, under RDM the same players are now digging deep for every game.
In fact, a couple of weeks ago I likened it to 2008 and the players collective response after Mourinho’s departure. This hasn’t got anything to do with AVB going of course, I’m sure most of the players were actually delighted to see the back of him, but the ‘old guard’ had been questioned both by AVB and the press – and their response under Di Matteo reminds me a lot of 2008. That’s where RDM has used his head, whilst under AVB our older players were being asked (and then criticised) for something that wasn’t within their game to produce, all they’re being asked to do now is what comes naturally – and what they do best – the basics.
Irrespective of who is in charge next season and beyond, we all know the roles of JT, Lampard and Drogba need to be looked at but where AVB confronted that fact head on this season, RDM has decided to get whatever he can out of them while they can still give it. So instead of battering them and casting them aside as scraps, with a bit of buttering up, he’s taken AVB’ ‘leftovers’ and dished up a recipe he knew would work.
Of course, like 2008 though, getting us to the Champions League final doesn’t guarantee Roberto Di Matteo anything – even if he does what Avram Grant didn’t manage to do and actually wins it. We’ve had speculation about his future from the minute he took over the interim role and in spite of his achievements so far, there’s still plenty saying Di Matteo doesn’t have a big enough profile for the job on a permanent basis.
Personally I think that’s a crock of shit because if getting us to the FA Cup final and past Messi & Co to the Champions League final isn’t good enough, then you’d have to question what is? And whilst you can argue that Avram Grant took us to Moscow, in all honesty it was all much more straight forward for him and it’s not as if he had to do much thinking around what he needed to do with the resources he had at his disposal.
Di Matteo isn’t just savvy, he’s one of us at heart – he actually gives a shit about the club. He didn’t take the job on for the sake of his CV or for some big pay-off that, like every manager before him, knew would come eventually. Roberto Di Matteo went into this role with his eyes and his mind open – for the sake of the club. And as such, it seems that even after everything he’s done for us, if the club insulted him with a demotion at the end of it – he wouldn’t rule it out. Because, even off the back of recent achievements, the grounded RDM says “When I decided to become a number two, I didn’t look at it as a step backwards. I thought it was an exciting journey for myself, to be able to work with one of the best coaches in European football and for this club, which is in my heart. Sometimes in life you take a step back and two forwards. Whatever happens in the future, I’ll think about it and see what is the right choice.”
The question is though, do Chelsea know what the right choice is?