Introducing a regular morning segment. It did well when I tried it on Twitter over the last few days, and lord knows everyone loves a reliable appointment post, as compared to all the others that have come and gone on the Footy Blog.

So, let’s break this down. When the little-known and little-regarded Israeli national team manager Avram Grant succeeded Jose Mourinho as Chelsea gaffer in 2007 and took the club to two Cup finals that season only to lose, most put his success down to building on Jose Mourinho’s template. The players were already drilled in the Mourinho style; Grant was just an Abaramovich crony keeping the seat warm for someone half decent. The Myth of the All-Powerful Manager remained intact.

This time around, Roberto Di Matteo has lifted Chelsea to successes though beyond the reach of a club that suffered under Andre Villas-Boas’ “project.” Now the popular line says the players are simply happy to be free of an idealist pushing an unwanted tactical vision, which of course insinuates Di Matteo is at best a cheerleader for individually-talented players, and at worst, some guy. Charitably, it should be said Di Matteo’s team is well-drilled, and tactically-disciplined, despite John Terry being a maniac.

Still, that sort of thing doesn’t exactly take an idealist in the Luis Enrique/Guardiola/Aron Winter mode, but a very talented roster playing with that ineffable but no less crucial quality: confidence. There’s an argument to be made that perhaps teams are able to succeed without a grandstanding, idealist playing around with passing charts and complex formational chalkboards. Is there something to this? Hate Thread below.

Comments (5)

  1. I’d say Di Matteo has managed to his strengths by instilling some defensive structure to Chelsea, instilled some confidence in the players by playing to their strengths and finally is probably a good motivator and man manager (can’t know without being in the room)…

    The major strength of any “modern” (whatever you mean by that) manager is the ability to adapt.

    To recognize the strengths and weaknesses of his players adapt his “system” (overused word) to fit them and adapt to opponents and changes in the game as it proceeds. Chelsea had a plan and only had to marginally modify it after Terry’s stupidity but they did and that with a little luck (always needed) won the game for them.

    A second vital skill these days is the ability to motivate players who shouldn’t need it but still do – these multi-millionaire’s make more than the GDP of some small countries – motivating people who have everything they could want or need in life must be a challenge most days.

    I think Di Matteo has done all of these things well and that qualifies him as a very modern manager with a little more tactical acumen than he is being given credit for.

  2. I guess to lend some Canadian content to that post I could have added for an example of a club and manager that seems to be doing none of this see TFC and Aron Winter as much as I hate to say it.

  3. Something still tells me that even if Roberto wins the champions league this season, he is going to be fired. There is something that stinks around Abramovich and starts with being insatiate.

  4. Part of the issue is that Di Matteo is doing what Chelsea was built to do, while AVB was told he would be allowed make changes and to do something for tomorrow. Then you got old dogs who don’t like new tricks sabotaging those changes. Yes obviously Di Matteo gets credit for recognizing the old team wasn’t ‘dead’ just yet and let it play, with encouragement, to surprising results. Credit earned. But it doesn’t replace the fact that Chelsea is an aging team and there is not a clear path for ‘constant evolution’ – which could have been said with Ferguson’s ManU (though even that ‘project’/'plan’ seems to be using its last legs with no real replacements found for Giggs and Scholes). There does not appear to be a complete team without the Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba spine capable of competing match after match. Are there replacements that fit those roles or close enough to make evolution possible? If not, a manager with a plan will eventually be brought in and forced/allowed to make a reinvention of the team.

  5. Di Matteo probably would have been the perfect person to start off this season with, given the results he’s been able to coax out of the existing team. AVB, in turn, probably would have been the perfect person to bring in 1-2 seasons from now in order to handle that transitional phase; it’s just a shame that Abramovich’s cheque writing finger had to get so itchy, he could have saved his “mourinho 2.0″ doll a lot of ignominy, allowing a bit more time for his career to develop without this black cloud of “failure” over him. I wonder how bitter Boas is right now knowing that the team that couldn’t even beat Aston Villa at home earlier in the season for him just tied Barca at the Nou camp under his assistant manager.

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