Feb 9, 2009

Big Phil goes bye bye

Chelsea FC today fired (or sacked, as they say in certain parts of the world) Luiz Felipe Scolari after just seven months on the job. This move should surprise noone. The team has been playing like crap below expectations for some time now and Roman Abramovich is notoriously trigger-happy when it comes to coaches (if you're keeping track, we're now at four in less than three seasons. Maybe more depending on when and if they appoint a permanent replacement). But we can't really fault Roman the Barbarian on this one. Letting Mourinho go was questionable. Failing to resign Avram Grant was stupid. But this, unfortunately, was necessary.

We know Big Phil had many complaints about the transfer budget (or lack thereof) at Stamford Bridge early on. This was apparently sparked by Manchester City outbidding Blues for Robinho's services. But let's not forget he did sign Deco and Jose Boswinga, who have, how do we say this politely? Not worked out as expected? One would think that money could have been better spent elsewhere, even if it was "only" GBP23 million.

Chelsea started the season strong and held the top spot in our Top 25 until Oct. 6. It's been downhill since. To date, Blues have simply not booked any decent victories against quality competition; they managed a 1-1 home draw with Man United back on Sept. 12, then lost to Liverpool and Arsenal at home, before being completely outclassed by Man U. at Old Trafford last month then losing, admittedly unluckily, at Anfield. Their Champions League group, while not the worst, was hardly a group of death either. The other team to advance from the group, Roma, were buried in the second half of the Serie A table when Chelsea beat them (Chelsea lost the return leg at Roma, by which point they had already wrapped up the group).

Did Scolari deserve more time to mold the club to his liking? Yes. But O.J. Simpson deserves to be in...oh wait, he is in jail now. Point is, we are entering a crucial point of the season and with Chelsea essentially eliminated from Premiership title contention (again) their greatest hopes for glory are in the Champions League. They face Juventus Turin in the knockout round, with the first leg in a fortnight's time. Oh yeah, they also play at Aston Villa next week. Martin O'Neill's side, lest we forget, are third in the Premiership with a budget a fraction of Chelsea's. A loss there and Blues face the very real possibility of missing the Champions League next season. That would be a catastrophe--least of all from a financial perspective.

If anything, one could argue the firing is overdue. The Jan. 11 loss to Man United probably would have been a better catalyst, though we can forgive Roman the Barbarian for giving Big Phil the benefit of the doubt at that time. If Steven Lampard hadn't rescued Blues with a stoppage time winner against Stoke City on Jan. 17, we imagine the axe would have fallen then. As it was, a victory over Middlesbrough followed. Then the debacle at Anfield and then the scoreless tie with Hull City. And now, with Villa and Juve looming, the move became necessary. A shame, and we hate to see anybody lose their job (though Scolari will easily find work if he hasn't already and probably doesn't need the money to begin with) but Chelsea's season is on the brink and desperate times call for desperate measures. As for a replacement, that's another story for another day, but Roman may want to wait until the Mexican national team plays in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday night. If they lose the World Cup qualifier with the U.S., a certain Sven Goran Erickson figures to become available. Whether he's the best man for the job is of course another debatable matter. Maybe Avram Grant will come back?


  1. Hopefully next in charge at Chelsea will get them playing to their potential. Great Blog

  2. For me it's a shame because when big Phil started, Chelsea were playing some very attacking and attractive football. Unfortunately the results seem to be lacking so it was inevitable. Let's see what Guus can do.