Is Di Matteo the Right Man?

Rumors around Chelsea say there was a post-game shouting match in Chelsea’s locker room after the loss to West Brom on Saturday. As a result, people have begun questioning whether RdM is the right man for the job. Even when AVB was sacked people were overlooking RdM and wondering who Chelsea would hire as their new manager. Football is not based off yesterday’s results but today’s (especially in Roman’s mind) so this leads us to wonder if RdM really is the right man for the job?

I’ve always connected RdM to Pep Guardiola. For a long time I considered Pep to be an average manager and, for the most part, I still do. He was handed the world’s best player on the world’s best team, so it would have been hard for him not to succeed. As soon as Pep left, Barca turned into a wreck. Granted they are first in La Liga and first in their Champions League group, but they have not looked like a top 10 team in the world. They lost to Celtic (and realistically could have lost to them twice) and barely scraped out victories over inferior La Liga teams. Tito is no Pep.

Which leads me back to RdM. He’s no Jose, but he’s also no AVB. Chelsea had a “good enough” team to win last year. AVB was just a completely inept manager. RdM didn’t have to do anything special. In fact, he didn’t. He made questionable decisions (sitting Drogba for Arsenal) but it all seemed to work out for him. He won playing his style of football and it wasn’t always pretty.

Abramovich is asking him to play a different style now. I think many Chelsea supporters would agree that this year’s Chelsea team is better than last year’s, with the additions of Hazard, Oscar and Moses and the elimination of dead weight like Malouda, Anelka and Kalou. So realistically, the results should be coming and RdM is the first to take blame when they don’t.

The issue I see with RdM is the same issue I saw with Carlo Ancelotti and Pep: no creativity and fear. Carlo annoyed me because it was always the same XI in the same formation. It worked extremely well until other teams caught on and he refused to change. PSG lost recently to a 9-man Rennes on Saturday because Ancelotti still has no backup plan when his tactics don’t work. Pep failed against Chelsea and Inter when he couldn’t find a way to break their defense. Both lacked creativity.

As for the fear aspect, I will forever consider Pep to be the biggest pushover and most spineless manager because he did whatever Messi told him to do. Ibra’s infamous quote about calling Pep spineless just confirmed it all. He was forced into buys he didn’t want, couldn’t sell players he wanted to sell and played Messi even when it was necessary. When Torres was struggling, Ancelotti didn’t have the courage to tell Abramovich no and stick with Drogba. Ultimately, it led to another two losses to United and his sacking.

What I’ve seen from RdM has always been the same: 4-2-3-1. No experimentation, no change, predictable XI, poor results. Teams have caught on to Chelsea’s tactics and found ways to defend and break them down. If the team is down then you know he’s just going to put on Moses and then Sturridge. He’s shown that he lacks the ability to change the game.

As for his fear, there have been jokes going around that it’s JT’s XI and he chooses the starters for every game. The real reason I worry that RdM has no courage is because he was in the dark during the transfer window. The KdB and Hazard transfers were both players he didn’t ask for. Oscar, Azpi and Marin also didn’t seem like his buys. He got Moses and it seemed like Abramovich bought him just so RdM would get at least one player he wanted. Bottom line, he seems to lack control of the team.

I like RdM a lot. In both the good and the bad, he reminds me of Pep. I do worry that this axe is coming prematurely. Remember, none of our starting XI on Saturday (aside from Petr Cech) were playing regular first team football for Chelsea this time two years ago. RdM has proven he can get results and that’s what matters at the end of the day. If we want Chelsea to be successful, we need to give RdM time to build the team’s chemistry and allow him to play his style of football (no matter how boring it is). RdM may not be the “perfect” manager for Chelsea, but I believe that he can be a roaring success at the Bridge for many years to come.

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4 thoughts on “Is Di Matteo the Right Man?

  1. A couple comments. First, the idea that Chelsea was good enough to win last year is true, I suppose, because they won. But that’s tautology and it’s insane to argue that the club on paper was anywhere near good enough. By the end, RdM had a roster than largely consisted of three kinds of players: old, injured and suspended. It was the most remarkable UCL imaginable, and to suggest that all the team required was basic managerial competence is to play fast and loose with the facts.

    Second, yeah, he plays the 4-2-3-1 pretty much exclusively. And yeah, there are probably times when a bit of variation wouldn’t hurt. But it’s also true that consistency breeds chemistry. You don’t cultivate that sixth sense in the attack when you’re playing four different formations. So there’s a trade-off there.

    The real culprit recently has more to do with missing pieces (ahem, Captain Leader Douchebag) and the fact that defensive lockdowns are impossible to assure with a go-forward attack mindset (which has been dictated by Abramo). A key problem, and one I suspect is going to have to go out the door eventually, is Sideshow. I love the boy, but he’s a defensive crapshoot here lately. I still say he belongs out wide. Or at Madrid.

    1. The bottom line is, we won so our team was good enough. Cashley was the best LB in the world, Cech was the best GK in the world, WC was outstanding. There’s the old phrase, defense wins Championships. Our defense was top notch and we won. Maybe it should say our defense was good enough and we had Drogba, but all it takes is a few players in amazing form to win a title sometimes.

      The problem with the 4-2-3-1 is that we don’t really need two holding midfielders against a team like Stoke, QPR or even West Brom. Mourinho has had great success utilizing multiple formations throughout the years.

      On that last point, yes our key problem is missing Terry. We keep clean sheets with Terry in the back and we don’t when he’s gone. People keep complaining about Luiz but he plays fine when he’s paired with anyone but Cahill. I’m not blaming Cahill only, but it’s both their faults. They’re too similar and neither have the positioning and leadership skills of JT. Luiz is never an issue when he’s playing alongside Terry. Cahill and Luiz will never be Carvalho and Terry, they’re just not a good fit for each other.

  2. Mourinho’s primary formation was the 4-3-3 (my favorite) at Chelsea with emphasis on the wingers (J. Cole, Duff, Robben, good times). The 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 are similar but still different. His final year also saw the sorta 4-1-3-2ish thing he had going that was almost a diamond 4-1-2-1-2 formation but not quite. He had somewhere around 3-4 formations that he used at Chelsea

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