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Chelsea
Posted by Phil Lythell on 03/28/2012

Chelsea find themselves on the brink of yet another appearance in the semi-finals of the Champions League, something that was all but unthinkable after the disaster in Naples just over a month ago. The 1-0 win in Benfica is another step on the road to redemption for the squad and a reminder that the club are still a force to be reckoned with even if they do not instil quite the same fear in the opposition as previous vintages once did.

And so the upturn in fortunes since the departure of Andre Villas-Boas continues and it would appear that the change of manager has been the catalyst. No doubt there is more unity within the dressing room and greater dialogue between the players and the management; two imperatives for positive performances.

However, luck has played its full part in proceedings as well.

For starters, the availability of John Terry has been the foundation upon which recent – relative – success has been built. It is no coincidence that the captain’s lightning recovery from knee surgery has ensured that the team has kept three clean sheets in the four matches in which he has featured since his return to fitness. Villas-Boas was denied his leader’s services for the first leg against Napoli and saw David Luiz’s partnership with Champions League debutant Gary Cahill flounder in the white-hot atmosphere of the Stadio San Paolo. Terry was also unavailable for what would prove to be the Portuguese’s final game in charge, the 1-0 defeat at West Brom when the winning goal was the product of a total lack of organisation within the defence.

The bounce of the ball – metaphorically speaking - has also tended to spin in Chelsea’s favour rather more often under the supervision of Roberto Di Matteo. Consider the following: the bizarre miscommunication of the Napoli players at Stamford Bridge that saw a cheap corner conceded from which Chelsea went 2-0 up courtesy of Terry; the ludicrous stamp by Stoke’s Ricardo Fuller on Branislav Ivanovic that saw a potentially tricky opponent reduced to 10 men; the deflection from Cahill’s shot that wrong-footed Man City’s Joe Hart to give us the lead albeit in vain; the refusal of the ball to go over the line just before half time against Tottenham when Rafael van der Vaart and Adebayor somehow spurned three chances between them within the blink of an eye; the thunderous shot by Benfica’s Oscar Cardoso that struck David Luiz on the goal line rather than the back of the net.

Can you believe that any of those moments would have gone the same way had Andre Villas-Boas been in charge? Of course, such conjecture can be easily dismissed and - probably should be – in light of the old football maxim ‘you make your own luck’. However, our former manager was at the wrong end of two ‘offside’ goals away at Manchester United (a game in which both Fernando Torres and Ramires also contrived to miss open goals); saw Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny not receive his marching orders despite clearly denying Ashley Cole a goalscoring opportunity during the 5-3 home defeat to the Gunners when the score was still 2-2; witnessed Nicolas Anelka miss a point blank header at QPR in that fractious 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road; denied two potential match-winning penalties on the opening day at Stoke while also seeing Man United be gifted a spot-kick as they fought back from 3-0 down to draw at Stamford Bridge in February.

Had those errors by officials and players not been made then the table could be looking very different indeed and it is highly likely that Villas-Boas would still be employed in west London rather than nursing a bruised ego with an enormous payoff cheque embossed with the signature of Roman Abramovich.

As well as bristling at his misfortune, one can also imagine Villas-Boas watching events unfold in Lisbon on Tuesday night with incredulity. The line-up chosen by Di Matteo looked remarkably similar to the eleven that took the field at Napoli. Yet while they wilted in Italy, the players were resolute in Portugal. The contrast in regard to performance and result could not have been sharper.

But while an element of luck is almost always present in any moment of success, ultimately preparation and belief play a greater role. The body language of the players has changed considerably for the better in the past three and a half weeks, though whether that is Di Matteo’s influence or the opportunity given by the clean slate of new management is hard to know.

What can be attributed to Di Matteo is the understanding that he has forged within the team. He has been unafraid to rotate his players and has been equally as bold in team selection as his predecessor but the players appear to be clearer in their mind of the jobs they are being asked to do. The gusto of the second leg against Napoli, the swatting aside of Leicester City, the discipline against Benfica all speak of a side sticking to their task. Yes, the Tottenham game was disappointing as was the defeat at City but there are more reasons to get excited about the team now that at any other point this season.

It will all count for nothing should Chelsea fail to make it to the last four of the Champions League and a possible showdown with Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, fall away in the Premier League with a poor display against Aston Villa on Saturday or capitulate against Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final.

Still, at least there is now good reason to be hopeful, a sensation that had been all too lacking in the final weeks of the previous manager’s reign.

You can read more of Phil's opinions at ShoutyAndSpitty.com

Comments

Posted by Mike on 03/29/2012

I have to say that was one of the most honest team blogs I've read and pretty much agree with everything you said. There is always something to be said for the clean slate effect

Posted by Eyad Al-kobri on 03/29/2012

Yeah it has been a disappointing season but there is still hope of silverware and glory. We need to make the UCL next year though through 4th place in the league or by winning the whole thing. If we advance and play Barcelona then that would be a difficult task though not impossible. Our success is going to come down to Fernando Torres's play. I think he has been our best player over the last couple of weeks but he has to regain his Liverpool form and no one can then stop us. We also just need to pray and hope that we maintain a healthy squad and even 4th place can be achieved. I think if we can get 4th place and win the FA cup regardless if we beat Barcelona or not (assuming we get past Benfica first) well be a successful season for Chelsea FC.

Posted by aLVin9800 on 03/29/2012

Many troubled water flowed through Stamford Bridge when AVB was in charge with the latest disclosure by Kalou and the earlier reports that how he alienated Alex and Anelka when they handed in their transfer requests.

It is cleared now that despite of AVB's strong credentials as a coach, he lacked the inter-personal skills, compounded by the fact that he was young and learned the trade by not even kicking a ball in his life! How do you expect the Chelsea's millionaire footballers to respect him?

As you said, you make your own luck, in a long season, some goes your way and others don't! So, clearly the players orchestrated AVB's demise and when RDM took over, the unity and team spirit were clearly manifested.

Chelsea's woes are far from over and the same team spirit must prevail in the remaining league games and the returned home leg against Benfica.

Sturridge, team spirit is collective efforts and not selfish play, learn from Drogba and Torres, and not to criticize them!

Posted by Adewale on 03/29/2012

Robert Di Matteo is really good and needs to be rewarded with the good job he as done since less than a week.Please am appealling to chelsea board to look on to these development.

Permanent Roberto Di Matteo deal as a chelsea manager

Posted by brenton on 03/29/2012

Nice one mate.

Honest, to the point, enlightening.

Posted by Aaron on 03/29/2012

Agree with this totally. It's during crisis time where you find true leaders and heroes, and RDM has done a great job picking up the pieces and instilling back the decisiveness and discipline of the old Chelsea.

I'd say, hand the man the job on a permanent basis, Mr Abramovic.

Posted by william on 03/29/2012

This is obviously a new and improved team!if the blues can maintain this form and get themselves a trophy,either the fa cup or ucl,then I think di matteo should be giving a contract...why dump a manager performing and risk bringing in som1 that could distabilize this resurgent team?abramovic made this mistake with mourinho,grant,who I still think did a good job,and ancelotti who won d double for the blues in his first season...abramovic should give di matteo the reward that he deserves!!!

Posted by Dave on 03/29/2012

Yes, Di Matteo has gotten it right! I hope Chelsea goes all the way, knocking out the cocky Real Madrid en route ! Go Chelsea... but do let the Gunners have 3rd placing :P

Posted by Yussuf on 03/29/2012

Hum,there seem to a very bright light at the end of the tunnel for the "Blues" this season,but we've to be united.The Team should be indivisible and cooperate with one another,especially "RDM"and on the field of play for their success.Indeed our success!

Posted by Mark Jackman on 03/29/2012

We flew in from Singapore and saw the Aston Villa game. My kids had never even seen Chelsea concede a goal before! Too much was staked on Modric joining pre-season. Hindsight is 20/20 but how crazy was it to stake everything on a young AVB? Let's just win the European Cup this season and put the nightmare of John Terry's slip for the penalty to history! Thanks so much Didier Drogba but Torres for the future.

Posted by Asu Moses on 03/29/2012

Clearly agreed, this is the best blog have read. There always an element of luck in every success. AVB did a nice job. But it is obvious that he lack communication skill which has been the secreat of RDM. CHELSEA need to crown this effort by winning a trophy and ultimately qualify for next year UCL either by the top 4 route or by winning the current tournament. Wish CHELSEA luck

Posted by Hussam on 03/29/2012

Im a gunner, but im rooting for Chelsea FIERCELY in the champions league.. also for torres to regain his liverpool form.. may u crush whoever u meet in the semifinals..

Posted by Indro on 03/29/2012

Good article. I do not think that RDM is such a master tactician like Mourinho or Ranieri. But he does the right thing: he installs the team spirit and he brings the unity of the dressing room. Our strong points, which is a solid defensive play, is displayed again under RDM. I believe for Chelsea that if we can keep a clean sheet, goals will come. Probably from corners, counter attacks or scrappy plays. Against City, we almost succeed had Essien not made that handball mistake. Against Spurs, a disappointed result but we kept the clean sheet. I hope that we'll qualify to the CL semi (no easy task against Benfica at home though) and will meet Milan (not Barça).

Posted by Jim T on 03/29/2012

@aLVin9800

How can you end with that line about Sturridge? He was not selfish against Spurs or against Benfica. In fact, on a 4 vs 2 at the end of the Benfica match he passed to Mata (who was unmarked) in a good passing position but Mata took the impossible shot rather than passing!!! I thought Mata was off his game against Benfica (perhaps due to fatigue)but we should have had 2 away goals! Oh well, he has been our best player this season and is allowed a mistake now and then. Anyway, my point is Sturridge has not been selfish as of late so hopefully he is listening to his coach and teamates... how about some encouragement?

KTBFFH

Posted by precious offiong on 03/29/2012

RDM is a good coach considering his method of selection, making sure that all his players makes a play of the game and that will make every player happy. I think thats one of the key factors to the blues success. I'll be glad if we win the FA, UCL and the make it to the first 4.

Posted by d on 03/29/2012

"United gifted a spot kick"... from the writer of the Chelsea blog I find that one highly ironic. Congrats on finally stringing some wins together.

Posted by Edgar Towers on 03/29/2012

Tell me something is it just me or what, Chelsea are the only team in England remaining in the last eight, What are the odds there are 2 Spanish teams, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France. I c the Spanish teams being knocked out after this round, because their is a big possibility of Chelsea facing AC Milan and Real Madrid facing Bayern Munich which is on top of its form. in the last final 4 Chelsea is likely to be considered the underdogs but i have a great spirit that we will sail through.

Posted by Matt on 03/29/2012

In absolute agreement with d blog, nd all U guys' comments. I see we've got 2ru fans who read nd understand d game. We'll smile come end of d season. Up CHELSEA

Posted by thomson eddie on 03/29/2012

well, i think RDM is on the verge of success and achievement if he is given the chance and opportunity to prove his worth, bcos continuity matters alot in anything one does in life... AVB is not better than RDM, just that to be an assistant coach is a starting point of a coach,s carrier. if u look at what he did with west bromish abion, u could see that he did quite well and brought them to top flight football, so he has gotten that xperience and luck... ROMAN ABRAMOVIC pls give him a chance at least 1 yr contract....

Posted by Justin on 03/29/2012

Good article. Definitely luck has played a part here and there, but it's also obvious that the players wanted AVB gone and didn't play up to their potential knowing Roman would put the ax down if results were poor. RDM is a solid coach at the moment, but with the huge turnover that's bound to happen this summer, I don't know if you can risk him being in charge. I say look for a coach that's great with developing and working with young talent. Start working more on bringing players up through our system (i.e., Amenolo is worthless and should be replaced). I think we can finish top 4, though, we just need to make a statement these last few weeks. KTBFFH

Posted by Jeremy on 03/29/2012

Great Piece. This type of insight goes largely unspoken.

Posted by George on 03/29/2012

RDM has done a fantastic job taking Chelsea from the depth of despair to an up-beat team challenging on several fronts. In this respect he is a success already. I think him continuing as Chelsea boss is not dependent on finishing 4th or winning a trophy but being ready to resolve the problems that have not gone away: fitting in new,young, talented players with the experienced but less energetic players, working with some players that have potential but have shortcomings etc. If he is able to do that, we may have found a real diamond of a manager and I hope Roman can see that.

Posted by prince Dickson on 03/29/2012

Nice blog. I think AVB lacked interpersonal skills, no doubt I think he is a good coach but not a great coach so is RDM but the difference is the relationship with the players. RDM is doing a great job and if he can win the CL then he has a good chance of landing chelsea's top job. Wish him luck.

Posted by Carlos Slim on 03/30/2012

I love this blogger. You're a realist mate and I admire you for that. I also agree with Alvin's sentiments up there, that for all AVB's woes, they were largely orchestrated by the players themselves. Oh well,he didn't do much to help his cause either. I like the work Di Matteo (or Terry as is purported)is doing to rescue that looked bleak. UP BLUES!

Posted by Richard on 03/30/2012

keep up the hardwork, its become more healthy 2 support Chelsea

Posted by tejas on 03/30/2012

RDM seems to be a part of the squad rather than someone controlling it from outside. With him, the tension prevailing in the squad suddenly seems to have vanished.

Posted by John mark on 03/30/2012

hey,with the few successes so far i think it's still too early to start clamouring for RDM to be rewarded,though i really think he has done well so far but,still it's too early! you don't promote a student to the next class while he's still struggling with his exams let's get to the end and see how successfully things worked out for him, only then shall we rightfully call and protest for his permanency at the job or else you'll find out soon that same people that are calling for his promotion now will call for his sack! Let's watch and see.

Posted by John mark on 03/30/2012

I think that's one most important secrets of a good coach, making sure that most of your players have a sense of belonging if you use only a few of your players and abandon the rest then you have divided your house against yourself and your fall will be great!

Posted by John mark on 03/30/2012

I think that's one most important secrets of a good coach, making sure that most of your players have a sense of belonging if you use only a few of your players and abandon the rest then you have divided your house against yourself and your fall will be great!

Posted by Mike Chrysler on 03/30/2012

Phil,
It seems I am not alone in my love for the club. And, with any love, one has to look at it with both eyes open. Your assessment of the performances this season could not have been any more pertinent. I remember where I was the day I was told Ruud Gullit had signed. Living in Sydney with all the multi media at my disposal, I feel like I know the club like never before. Yet, one thing has not changed. My emotions that are so closely alined to Chelsea's success or failures. I have felt every Torres near miss. I have burst with delight at that Ivanovich volley. And, have felt like the Chelsea family, wherever they may be, have had those same feelings at exactly the same time. Chelsea..... The ride of your life! Like every season for a few years now, from here till the end of May will pull the heart strings! Pure Theatre!

Posted by Inem on 03/31/2012

Did u say Chelsea suffered misfortune under AVB? Will u call AVB's scandalous substitutions against wigan and villa that snatched defeat out of the jaw of victory misfortune? What was the basis for freezing out Anelka and Alex? Pls AVB was a disaster period and let's call a spade a spade.

Posted by sarath menon on 03/31/2012

the best blog i ever read the secret of RDM success is that he keeps things straight and simple which AVB failed to do... he is a little older and been a chelsea legend ... blue is the color of blood running through his veins thats give with the extra hunger to succed
looking forward to read more blogs like this

Posted by Joe kangwanda on 03/31/2012

That is the Chelsea i know, i remember when mourinno was fired then we brought in that man from Israel Chelsea went on to the UCL Final, which we played against Man U , in Moscow when Terry and Anelka missed the shootout. Again we brought in Scorlari just for eight months again he was realized, we the brought Hiddick for for four months we went on and win the F.A cup. And then we brought in Carlo Ancelote we won double League and FA. the next season he was fired because we didn't won anything.If we're not careful Chelsea will employee all the coaches on this planet. The only and one coach who will bring success at Chelsea is the spacial one, the one called Mourinho his the best coach for chelsea. Lets bring him back and see what he will do. he will make Ferguson to retire becaus he has no competitoin in England, when Mourinho came in England Ferguson won nothing remember, he keeps other coaches awake.
Joe kangwanda from zambia. the home african Champion for 2012 and forever.

Posted by PRINCE ADEJUMO PAUL on 03/31/2012

Well said everyone,it will be tough to make the last 4,but it is possible,winning champions league is not impossible,we only need to have winning mentality,you don't win games by name,but by legs so Barca, Real md,Bayern M, Ac Milan are just names,but we can summount them,let us keep faith in D Matteo,Mr Abramovic should pls retain RDM,he can deliver,i am confident that this season with RDM,we shal silverware. Up chelsea

Posted by Taiwo Tobi Tobless on 03/31/2012

AVB makes life hard for himself at chelsea,u can imagin a coach playing 40 games with a single formatin,he is the flop of the year.

Posted by Phansamay on 03/31/2012

It is not about luck sir, the current Chelsea play much better, better movement, better teamwork and create much more oppotunities, and thats why they scored more goals and Torres scored too. Looking back at AVB era, they didn't not have many chances to get near to the goal in each match.

Posted by rahmoon on 04/01/2012

am not saying AVB is not a good coach but RDM is better and dont bother to ask why!

Posted by Harjas on 04/01/2012

AVB wrote his own script. He was not kind enough to the players. The players at Chelsea have won so much that they demand respect from the management. AVB didn't respect the amazing players we had and thus the players didn't perform well.
RDM, on the other hand, is a friend with the players. Every one saw the way he celebrated with Drogba, Torres, Terry and Lampard after the win against Napoli. RDM is also a really good manager but it is the players who are performing now coz they are getting the respect they deserve.
AVB was an amazing tactician (remember 9-man vs QPR). RDM is not so good with tactics. He made some huge tactical errors against Man City but as he's a Chelsea legend, this is more than just a job for him.
Roman Abramovich should give RDM at least a 1-year contract

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About
Phil Lythell Phil Lythell is a Chelsea season ticket holder and lifelong Blues supporter stretching back to the sepia-tinted days of Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin. Author of Chelsea-centric blog ShoutyandSpitty.com, Phil has spent his entire life living within a 20 minute walk of Stamford Bridge which has cost him a fortune but has also kept him from those interminable queues outside Fulham Broadway Station giving him more time in the pub to discuss the latest glorious/calamitous/insipid match.

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