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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where Roman went wrong

Here's my latest piece on the turmoil at Chelsea, from today's First Post.

As predicted on The First Post yesterday, Jose Mourinho's three-year-reign as Chelsea manager is at an end. The dire 1-1 home draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League on Tuesday night proved the last straw for the club's billionaire chairman, Roman Abramovich.
After a board meeting which stretched into the night, the club issued a statement today to say that the 'Special One' had left by "mutual consent". Mourinho's successor is the club's Israeli sporting director, Avram Grant, a personal friend of Abramovich.
But though Mourinho (above)- the high priest of defensive football - is gone, Abramovich's ambition to turn Chelsea into an entertaining side will be hard to fulfil. The Russian wants goals, which are in short supply in Premier League football, and it's unlikely Grant, whose elevation is due rather to shrewd networking than a dazzling CV, will make much of a difference. Stultifying defensive tactics, with the use of a lone striker, predominate; even Manchester United have netted only four times in six league matches.
The only top side that is scoring goals - and playing the kind of sexy, attractive football that Abramovich so desperately wanted from Mourinho - is Arsenal. Abramovich could try to coax away Arsene Wenger - he'd have to cover Wenger's newly signed contract, but he can afford it - or he could just buy Arsenal.
The truth is that Chelsea was never the right club for a man of Abramovich's huge ambitions: prior to his arrival they had won only one league title in their history. Historically, Chelsea's attendances have never been high: last night 60,000 saw Arsenal defeat Sevilla at Asburton Grove - compared with 24,973 at Chelsea on Tuesday, leaving the stands half empty.
Arsenal have a fantastic new stadium, a great manager, a massive fan base - and could be open to offers. What more does Roman Abramovich want?

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