Abramovich’s Chelsea: The journey from Mourinho to Benitez
This is a team that has gone through a notable transformation in the past few years after the end of the Special One’s reign within the walls of Stamford Bridge, and the club is beginning to reap its returns.
As controversial as it is how Roman Abramovich is quick to judge and even quicker to react when it comes to demanding results from his managers, it seems to be producing results many clubs would relish.
After Mourinho’s spell, his successor’s respective tenures at Stamford Bridge were only short-lived. From Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Ray Wilkins to veterans Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, and of course, Portuguese tactician Andre Villas-Boas whose expensive release clause was activated only to be sacked midway in the season.
The Portuguese was succeeded by his assistant Roberto Di Matteo, who masterminded the impossible and landed the Russian billionaire and Chelsea their first Champions League trophy after a more than stuttering campaign. However, the Italian was then, ironically, also dismissed after a poor run in the Champions League in the ongoing season.
Now the baton is passed on to Rafael Benitez to see what Spanish magic he would be able to conjure up to keep his seat. Many speculated that he was brought in to “recoup” the massive initial investment Abramovich has paid for Chelsea FC’s £50 million Spanish striker Fernando Torres – and it does seem to be working.
Nevertheless, after seeing how Chelsea demolished the woe-ridden Aston Villa with a brilliant display of football, there seems to be something deeper in motion.
The turning point seems to be during the Carlo Ancelotti’s second season when he brought in the first few seeds that would eventually become the keystones of the current squad. From the infamous arrival of Torres, despite it was not his personal intentions to sign him, to Brazilian duo David Luiz and Ramires.
The start of a new era has probably just begun and unfortunately Ancelotti was not allowed to stick around to see his seeds blossom.
His heir of sorts, Andre Villas-Boas, was tasked to pick up where the Italian had left off. The signings he brought in to establish a different playing philosophy included the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, Gary Cahill, Piazon and Oriol Romeu.
And yet unfortunately, despite the disappointing run in the Premier League, he has helped added to the blueprint that eventually led to the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League triumphs, in which he wasn’t accredited to, but rather noted as an immense accomplishment for Di Matteo.
Even that did not save Di Matteo from getting ejected from the Blues hot seat when his team experienced a hiccup in their Champions League title defense this season. Rafa Benitez was therefore announced as a caretaker manager while the club is keen to lure Pep Guardiola from his sabbatical leave in the near future.
It has always been duly noted that Chelsea’s winning team during Mourinho’s reign had to be eventually rejuvenated if Chelsea wanted to maintain their dominance in a league that is constantly growing in strength and quality. Time is needed and yet Roman refused to let this hinder him from getting what he wants at the intermediate future. Despite the massive turnover in management, Chelsea has still been winning notable silverware.
Furthermore, one could have never foresaw they would go as far as changing their tactics and football philosophy. Mourinho is famous for brewing a strategy that constricts the ability of his opponents to play football. From stopping play to committing tackles, it seeks to disrupt plays as much as possible while capitalizing on any chances they can find to front an attack.
His attention to details has allowed the team to know precisely what they need to do in order to win games, the unattractive nature of his sides game-play is the byproduct of said set-up.
2006/07 Squad Lineup
Essien Ballack Lampard
Moses Mata Hazard
This is very different to the aesthetic of current Chelsea team under Rafa Benitez. Built on a solid back four who will not hesitate to launch an onslaught whenever they see a chance, this team is hungry for goals. This combining with a dynamic lineup of midfielders who are able to confront, defend and build a play forward, it is a recipe for victories.
For a few seasons, Torres has been at the center of criticism for not producing the results of what he is “worth” but many fail to notice, despite his lack of goals, he has been involved in the attacks and his technical ability is astute despite it is non-comparable to his glory days at Liverpool.
Bringing in Rafa Benitez appears to be Roman Abramovich’s last attempt at recouping his massive outlay for the enigmatic striker. If there is any manager out there who understands Fernando Torres inside out, it would be his former mentor and current Chelsea FC manager Rafa Benitez. And it seems like Rafa has been able to apply the finishing touches to this side and secured Torres’s importance in the team.
Watching the Aston Villa game provides much needed proof on how different this team is to Mourinho’s. The current squad plays free-flowing football where all players are involved in defense as well as offence. At times you see Torres lending a foot when Aston Villa tried to conjure up a chance while you see the likes of Ivanovic and Cahill charging for the opponents’ six-yard box at any given opportunity.
It is always exciting and refreshing to see a team built on young, budding stars with the bench lined with even more promising talents like Marin, Oscar and Piazon. It started out like a recipe for disaster as a string of managers attempted to dismantle the old team and instilling new life to the squad. No two managers preach the same philosophy and it has been surprising to see how it eventually played out in a matter of years.
Comparing Chelsea’s success to Arsene Wenger’s attempt to refurbish his Invincible team, it is apparent that the former has done a better job and in a shorter amount of time despite the controversies and disapproval involved. I, for one, am excited to see more of what this team can achieve. Hopefully, this may bring some stability to the club.
Furthermore, the fans should give Benitez the chance, patience and time to prove his worth as afforded to his Spanish compatriot.
Written by Serena, BCom (Hons.) Accounting undergraduate who enjoys watching and analysing the beautiful game from different perspectives. Say hello @SerenaJHT.