The Secret Behind Roberto Di Matteo’s Success at Chelsea
What is Roberto Di Matteo doing at Chelsea that Andre Villas-Boas wasn’t doing? The pundits can analyze it until they’re blue in the face but the answer is quite simple. Di Matteo is using common sense. While AVB tinkered and toyed, the established veterans became unsettled, which ultimately disrupted any sort of continuity at the club. We all know AVB was brought in to help usher out the old guard and bring in a new era of football at Chelsea. This isn’t something that you can do overnight. You can’t just take out the players who have been absolute staples at your club and expect there to be no fall out. If in fact AVB was told that he would have time to work in his new style of play, then he should be roundly criticized for the shoddy rush job he tried to pull off. Man for man Chelsea still have one of the strongest squads in the Premier League, which is why even with all of that quality it was baffling that AVB struggled so mightily.
The Premier League is a win now league and that is the approach that Roberto Di Matteo is taking. As Chelsea assistant he had a front row seat as to what was working and what wasn’t during AVB’s short reign. It’s not every day that a manager like Di Matteo is going to get a chance to manage a top four side so why would he want to deviate from what has worked in the past? He knows that even if he does turn around Chelsea’s season that his chances of retaining the job are slim. This is his auditioning period for his next job that he will surely get if he does succeed. Therein lies the difference between AVB and Roberto Di Matteo. One was brought in with huge expectations, the other has few expectations and anything achieved under his reign is gravy. Would Di Matteo be having the success he is having if he was in AVB’s place? It’s tough to say but there clearly aren’t many managers who can handle it.
Even if they are getting up in years, you still can’t deny the quality that players like Drogba, Terry and Lampard bring to the squad. Their pace may be slipping but their experience cannot be replicated by anyone in the squad. The fact is they know how to get it done at all levels that Chelsea play at, so why you wouldn’t want to have them there leading the younger generation and teaching them how to take care of business is beyond me. It’s a model that Sir Alex Ferguson has been using for years. You let the established players teach the young guns how to win, how to succeed, how to face adversity, how to get those scrappy results that the top teams seem to always get. If Roman Abramovich is that opposed to relying on the players that are still around from the Mourinho era then AVB would still have a job and he would have just written this year off as a loss. His indecisiveness has cost Chelsea the season and robbed us of what would have been a fantastic three horse race for the title.
Di Matteo will turn the squad around by relying on the old guard playing the style and positions they’re used to. If the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals is kind, don’t be surprised if they make it to the semis or possibly even the finals of the Champions League. If, and it is a big if, Chelsea do somehow manage to make it to the finals of the CL again then Roman’s bed is made. He has to ride out the storm with the Mourinho era players. Most teams would kill to be in that situation, I’m not quite sure why this seems like such a bad thing to the Chelsea owner. It’s common sense that you play your best players in the positions that they are comfortable in. All the over analyzing just ends up muddying the simple truth that if you have good players, you play them and build around them. This isn’t a carefully guarded secret that only top managers have. It’s just the basics, which is something that Chelsea is getting back to under Roberto Di Matteo. Jose Mourinho’s legacy will always be felt at Chelsea, Roman just needs to accept this and do what any good owner does, leave the sporting side of the business to the professionals.