herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

VILLAS-BOAS ON A HIDING TO NOTHING

Lesson for 'Pool owners in Abramovich's treatment of AVB

IF John Henry want to know what happens when an owner loses the run of himself and imagines for more than a second that he understands the game better than his manager, he should look further than the ridiculous Roman Abramovich.

Right now, Henry is faced with a choice. Liverpool's defeat by Arsenal made Champions League qualification all the more difficult but if he is demanding, as has been reported, fourth place for the money he has invested, he's simply following the same path as Abramovich.

Henry bought out some debt at Anfield, invested about £100m and took in near enough the same amount from transfers out.

That's not the kind of money that will buy entry to the Champions League from a standing start and believe me, Dalglish had a very poor squad to work with when he stepped in.



PROGRESS

No, Henry should see it as a work in progress, a trophy won and a squad heading in the right direction. One defeat, however important, does not undo all of that.

There's still a long way to run in the Champions League chase and this is the very time for Henry to reinforce his commitment.

Dalglish has proved once again that he can win and that should be enough for any club owner although it clearly was not enough for Abramovich when he showed Jose Mourino the door.

In that context, Andre Villas-Boas never had a chance. Asked to rebuild Chelsea, he was undermined from the start and from where I'm sitting this is another example of Stamford Bridge player power run riot.

Abramovich is known to be close to several in the dressing room and between his interference and the players' unwillingness to follow the direction given by Villas-Boas, there was only ever going to be one end to this story.

Abramovich treats Chelsea as a plaything and as an indulgence. His behaviour, in football terms, has been disgraceful.

Ever since he decided that his pride and ability in interfere in the way Chelsea's senior team was run were more important than actually winning football matches, the graph has been heading south.

Sacking Jose Mourinho was probably the single most foolish act I've seen in the game and I don't care how obnoxious or arrogant the man was.

He knew how to deliver winning football and I'm positive that if he had been given enough time, he would have delivered the Champions League as well.

That's what Abramovich gave up when he bought Andrei Shevchenko and parachuted him into a settled squad and unless he is the most remarkably stubborn man in the history of the game, he must realise how big a mistake that was. It seems to me that he doesn't care enough about Chelsea football club to be the owner.

If he really loved the club he would stay firmly in the background and leave his managers to manage.

If he cared for Chelsea, he would go back to Mourinho and tell him to write his own cheque.

No matter what that would cost it would be a small price to pay compared to the vast sums Abramovich has wasted on managers since he threw Mourinho out. Between wages, severance deals and compensation to other clubs, Abramovich must have shelled out well over £100m to get where he is today and all he had to do to avoid that bill was swallow his pride and leave Mourinho alone.

Villas-Boas had a huge job to do to rebuild Chelsea. He was clearly not strong enough to face down key personalities in the dressing room and paid the price.

But it is difficult to see how any manager could do that without the full support of his owner and Villas-Boas didn't enjoy that for very long.



TRUTH

The next man in has an even harder task and I see that Rafa Benitez is one of the favourites to take over, although he is currently running behind Mourinho in the bookies shops.

This may or may not have something to do with the fact that Mourinho is reported to be house-hunting in London. Maybe he wants to manage Spurs. I just can't see him back at Stamford Bridge. Even if Abramovich promised to keep his nose out of team affairs, he wouldn't be able to help himself and it would end in tears.

The truth is that Chelsea is currently unmanageable and while Abramovich remains the owner that will always be true.

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