Scolari is actually the calm in the Chelsea storm

January 15, 2009

The immediate future of Chelsea, and their Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is about as clear as the fog that almost led to the postponement of their FA Cup replay at Southend United on Wednesday.

Although many insiders believe there is little real prospect of the World Cup winning coach leaving Stamford Bridge despite fans’ disgruntlement, there is plenty that needs to be put right if Chelsea are to end the season basking in the sunlight.

The confusion in west London though, is not just centred on what tactics 60-year-old Scolari should employ and who might actually be playing for or leaving the team.

Off the field there are continuing, unsettling rumours about whether Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the man who has bankrolled the club’s most successful period since their formation in 1905, is still in love with the boys in blue.

The serious questions about Scolari concern his training routines, his tinkering with his defensive formation and his relationship with the players.

An honest and open man, club sources said this week that things had never been quite the same at Chelsea since the departure of his long-serving and popular assistant coach Steve Clarke to West Ham United in September.

Clarke’s “arm around the shoulder” approach to solving problems is in contrast to Scolari who openly queried some of his players’ commitment this week, while also taking his share of the blame for their poor form.

In return, senior players have openly questioned his training methods and clearly, in the early stages against Southend on Wednesday, were not coping with his newly employed zonal marking plan when they went a goal down and were lucky not to trail 2-0 before winning 4-1.

However, just four defeats in his first 31 matches in charge hint he might be getting something right — even though Chelsea have looked a pale shadow of themselves recently.

For all of their woes though, they are still third in the Premier League, only four points behind leaders Liverpool with 17 games to play.

They are also into the last 16 of the Champions League with an intriguing tie against Juventus, coached by their old boss Claudio Ranieri, and into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

CALM EYE
Scolari — unlike his old confrontational self — is almost the calm eye at the centre of the British media storm that has engulfed Stamford Bridge — one that could well just turn out to be nothing more than a storm in a Brazilian coffee cup.

Yes, Scolari publicly castigated his players after their 3-0 loss at Manchester United on Sunday, and yes, he has been unable to stop a run of disappointing performances, especially at home.

But Scolari, who had coached for 25 years in Brazil, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Portugal before coming to England, is not suddenly floundering now.

He reinforced his authority by dropping one-time golden boy Didier Drogba from the squad for the game at Southend after a run of indifferent performances.

Strong managers do that, not weak ones, and Scolari is a long way from weak.

CHELSEA APPRECIATED
In many ways he has revitalised the image of the club and won over some neutral fans who enjoy a freer-flowing game than they saw under his predecessors Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant.

That has taken some doing. The last time any Chelsea teams were widely appreciated for their style was when they were winning trophies back in the 1970s.

Another Chelsea source told Reuters this week: “The problem at Chelsea is not really Scolari but a wider malaise at the club.

“It’s not just training routines, training routines change all the time at football clubs, that’s no big deal. The big problem at Chelsea are the rumours surrounding the owner and the departure of Steve Clarke.”

The “rumours” surrounding the owner have rumbled on for a while now and another club source revealed: “I think the feeling some have is that Roman Abramovich is losing interest.

“He’s a man still worth billions — why has he blocked any transfers into Stamford Bridge this January ?”

The club and Abramovich’s staff have laughed off such notions of decreasing passion and insist Chelsea is as close to his heart as ever.

New players now might not be the answer Scolari is looking for in any case. Getting the best out of the ones he has at his disposal is Chelsea’s easiest way out of the gloom.

4 comments

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If Abramovich decreas his passion for chelsea especially at this crucial time that means is not a lover of foolball. there is a season for everything (ups and downs). this is not the time for blames.

he should not stop any transfer especially now that we need player like Kaka of A/M.

Chelsea fo life

I lvoe the blues

Posted by Eleta Paul | Report as abusive

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There is no doubt on Scolari authority. He has done well at Portugal before coming to Chelsea.

However, his style of play might not be suitable for English football.

I do agreed that the problem at Chelsea is not really Scolari but a wider malaise at the club.

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Chelsea have a fantastic squad, probably the most complete in the Premiership, so if the manager can’t get them playing well together then where else can the blame lie?

Scolari’s job is made doubly difficult by incredibly fickle fans and that fool Abramovich, so in time he’ll realise he’s in the wrong job.

Mourinho was the only one in recent years to come out of it with any credit, that’s because he’s headstrong and writes his own headlines rather than headlines that criticise being written about him.

Save yourself Big Phil…before it’s too late!!

Posted by Bert | Report as abusive

The common denominator was indeed Steve Clarke. All was well until he left to join Franco. I don’t think Scolari can cut it with big egos, yes okay he managed Brasil but he clearly prefers to be a father figure/leader to a younger team so CFC need a clear out of the old guard. Perhaps if Man City want to but into Terry that would be great.
Good to see young names on the bench today. Well done the old man :P (Lamps-what a good season so far) for pulling us out of the fire against Stoke!

Posted by rich | Report as abusive