Managing a team that features some of the best players in the world should be easy, right? Apparently not. You could ask Real Madrid's previous managers Carlos Queiróz, Bernd Schuster and Guus Hiddink, or just pay attention to what's happening at Stamford Bridge under Big Phil Scolari. Simply put, Chelsea are on the slide, and Scolari could well drag his billion-dollar team to a finish outside of the top four. So what's up with that?
Jose Mourinho was watching on at Old Trafford yesterday as Chelsea were handed their arses by a rampant Manchester United team. Mourinho looked as if he was at a funeral, not only because he was watching Luiz Felipe Scolari undo all of his good work with the saaath Laaandan side, but also because he could see what is in store for his Milan team next month when they play United in the Champions League.
United's performance set out their intentions as far as the EPL title is concerned, but they were not playing the Chelsea we have all been watching over recent seasons. Oh no, this is Scolari's Chelsea, a team that looked uninspired and defeated. All 3 goals were the product of shocking defending yesterday. John Terry stood still as Vidic passed him to head the opener on the stroke of half-time. Cole allowed Rooney to score through his legs and then Terry and Ballack played statues while Berbatov volleyed home between the two. Who is this team? This is not the Chelsea who finished second by 2 points last year and made the final of the Champions League, yet it consists of the same players.
So what's happening at Chelsea under Scolari?
Simple. He is well out of his depth.
Managing a team that is competing for the top honors means you need to be 'on it' daily. The training must be progressive and the team talks need to be an inspiration. Even mega stars need motivating from time to time and given the kind of kick up the backside that Mourinho and his successor Avram Grant were capable of. But it's not just that Scolari is like an old uncle who is a pleasure to be around, telling stories and jokes, everyones mate. He lacks the experience at this level of club football. Sure he has won a World Cup, but club and country are very different experiences. Different skills are required.
Scolari is no day-to-day manager. Recently he comes from the world of national teams, where fit players arrive for a week at a time. He must prepare them for one or two games and motivating a player to play for his country should not be too demanding. The relationship with the players is limited and the training programme of little consequence as your players arrive in good condition and are not with you long enough to have an effect on their long-term fitness.
However, at club level you have to have relationships with all of your players and have to be credible with them daily, from the training regiments to the team talks. If one player doubts your ability in any aspect of management, from the exercise to the theory, the rest will surely follow.
Big Phil's club experience has all come in inferior leagues, including the J-League of Japan, the Saudi League, the Kuwaiti league and in Brazil's A, B and C leagues. Hardly great preparation for the pressure that the Premier League and the Champions League brings is it?
It appears as if Roman got a little carried away with Scolari's international resume. No doubt Big Phil has been a good manager for Brazil and Portugal, but these are part-time jobs. Outside of the 10-15 fixtures a year, an international manager needs to just watch football. I'm not saying it's easy at all; it's not, but some people are suited to that style of management, managing from a distance and having an impact in short bursts.
Managing a Premier League team expected to challenge for the title and make the Champions League semi-final (at least) is another beast entirely. It's a marathon of familiarity and homework. You need the ability to get the best from your players every day and not just for 3 at a time. Great club managers need to be consistent with the players in routine and with discipline. This is something that international guys don't have to deal with.
Chelsea have won just one game of their last 5 Premiership games and this form has allowed Villa and United to catch them. Another slip-up and they will be fighting with Arsenal for 4th place. The alarm bells should have been ringing weeks ago. Cheslea have lost twice at home (Liverpool and Arsenal) in the league this season while Liverpool and United remain un-breached. 4 draws at home has also done serious damage to their title hopes. In other competitions Chelsea are struggling too. They were dumped from the League Cup by Burnley. Last week they failed to beat Southend in the FA Cup, forcing a replay at Roots Hall this week. Chelsea also had to win their last group game to guarantee progression in the Champions League. A home draw with Bordeaux and defeat at Roma meant they had to beat Cluj at Stamford Bridge. Drogba spared their blushes with a winner in a 2-1 victory.
This is the same Chelsea team that Scolari inherited, the same squad that Mourinho built and Grant maintained. He has added Bosingwa and Deco, that's about it. Most would say those are great additions, so the slump cannot be blamed on a lack of quality personnel, can it? (Ed. Note: a few of us reckon Bosingwa has been CFC's best player so far this season)
This is a star-studded side of international footballers, including a couple of international captains too. But something is amiss in the Chelsea camp. The players clearly looked defeated at Old Trafford yesterday. The fight and the effort was missing. Last year's Chelsea battled to the final whistle, while this year's team roll over when they go a goal down and fail to focus for a full 90 mins. Scolari is clearly not capable of driving a top team along on a day-to-day basis. The wheels are starting to fall of.
How long Roman will stick with Scolari is anyones guess, but sliding further will risk Champions League football next season and the revenue it brings in. Abrahmovic will surely sack Scolari before that happens. The Russian has already cut off the supply of cash after spending 650 million pounds and has made it clear that Chelsea have enough resources to compete for the title and the Champions League.
This is one ship that needs a new captain, as the current one is well out of his depth.