Roman Abramovich may have made his fortune from trading in the world’s natural resources, but he distinctly lacks the minerals when it comes to managing resources of the human (footballing) variety.
Following the cowardly, premature dismissal of the Champions League and FA Cup winning Roberto Di Matteo last week, Abramovich once again proves that when it comes to the critical decision making in football, his itchy trigger finger undermines the millions he pours into the club.
Not that pulling the trigger, at it were should be taken lightly. Speaking from personal experience, I have had the misfortune of being in the position of having to let someone go and I can testify the experience was not one that I care to repeat too often to put it mildly.
While Roman Abramovich is isolated from such intimate duties, having ordered his Execs to do the dirty work, he is still the one making the key decisions.
I would advocate that making decisions and the timing of said decisions is one of the key virtues of good management. Abramovich has failed repeatedly when it comes to his timing and decision making, and this is where I base my criticism of his Chelsea stewardship.
Amateur business consulting aside, it doesn’t take a genius to come to the logical conclusion that being on your 9th manager in 10 years proves at the very least, that Abramovich is impulsive by default, which will hardly build for a stable environment.
And of those managers who met the fate in the shape of the sack, (apart from perhaps Jose Mourinho which seemed to come down to a power struggle) the reasons can either put down to a run of poor form or failing to deliver any silverware come May. Which you may say is a perfectly reasonable policy, especially if you are investing such vast amounts in the club.
However, it is this kind of short term-ism that proves he can not make the difficult decisions when it really counts, to any degree of competency.
For example, Carlo Ancelotti. If Abramovich was brave he wouldn’t have sacked the Italian after one trophy-less season. If he had the nerve and confidence, he would have stuck by Ancelotti who could have then perhaps continued to build the club, and hopefully for his sake return it to the kind of success delivered the season before he was sacked when he did the double.
But no, Abramovich proved impulsive and fired a manager of great pedigree. A pedigree that few managers possess.
Abramovich’s replacement for the heavily experienced Ancelotti? The then in vogue Andre Villas Boas. A manager with a fraction of the experience, an aging squad – some of which were older than him – and yet Abramovich expected the young Portuguese to bring in the results immediately.
In AVB’s case I am not necessarily advocating that he should have been given more time, more I am saying that the decision to sack Ancelotti in the first place was a poor decision, only further amplified by hiring such an inexperienced manager.
Or, put it another way, if you insist on hiring an inexperienced manager as a replacement for someone such as Ancelotti, then you need to prove the courage of your convictions when it comes to following through. Again he failed the bravery test.
After sacking AVB, in March, Abramovich gave Di Matteo a temporary contract until the end of the season. A decision which at the time looked liked a master stroke, as Di Matteo turned their season around winning the FA Cup but more importantly winning the trophy that Abramovich has craved for since he bought the club – the Champions League.
However, again this is where I believe Abramovich proves he lacks the steel and ability to make tough decisions.
At this point Abramovich should have taken a decision that what would have been hugely tough and equally unpopular. He should not have rehired Di Matteo. Di Matteo obviously was not his first choice, a point proved by his month long delay in offering the former Chelsea player a long term contract.
Time he likely spent courting Pep Guardiola. If he truly had confidence in Di Matteo a new contract would have been waiting for him once he got off the plain from Munich.
This kind of behaviour can hardly be conducive to building confidence in your manager. And it therefore did not come as a huge surprise when Abramovich pounced on the first, faintest opportunity to fire Di Matteo.
Instead of making that tough choice back in the summer, Chelsea now find themselves a few months into a season with yet another interim manager, after appointing the hugely unpopular Rafael Benitez. An astute decision, only by virtue of the fact that it detracts focus from Abramovich’s poor decision making.
Should Benitez succeed in transforming Chelsea’s season by winning a competition or two, will Abramovich yet again be in a similar predicament as he was with Di Matteo this past summer? Will he be unable to pull the trigger on a manager who is obviously not his prefered choice, but one who has gone on to prove himself and the team is settled?
If Pep Guardiola’s future is decided before then, and if that future does not lie at Stamford Bridge, I would fully expect Abramovich to be making another poor decision at a critical moment.
I can predict the inevitable defence of Roman Abramovich by Chelsea fans, will be to point to the many successes the Russian billionaire has brought to Stamford Bridge, as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the managerial merry go round. And, quite frankly what fan wouldn’t do the same if their club were in the same position. Its hard to bite the hand that feeds you.
But not being a Chelsea fan, I have the luxury of looking at Roman Abramovich’s tenure objectively. And I believe that his poor decisions and in some cases poorly timed decisions have sold Chelsea short of fully achieving their true potential.
Had the money been accompanied by more than just a billionaire looking for an expensive toy to throw around, perhaps Chelsea could have been even more successful than they have been over the last decade.
Last Sunday, Benitez took to the bench at Stamford Bridge for his opening game in charge to a predictable chorus of jeering, booing and negative banners.
Though, to some extent I can understand the sentiments of the booing, maybe its time Chelsea fans vented some of that ill feeling not towards the man that currently occupies the dugout, but instead to the man who makes the decisions on who sits there in the first place.