It is probably one of the best Champions League seasons that I have witnessed in a long time. Of course, many people may not share the same emotion but for me the unpredictability of the 2011-12 edition has been lipsmacking. Most games have seen the favourite stumbling out and the underdog marching forward and every once in a while who doesn’t enjoy watching an underdog triumphing. Who would have thought by mid-season or hell even before the semi-finals that we would get a Bayern Munich vs Chelsea final. Football pundits were busy discussing an ‘El Clasico’ - Real Madrid vs Barcelona encounter in the final.
It is an irony that while teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid have kept falling by the wayside it is Chelsea that will try to create history in Munich’s Allianz Arena come May 19th. The Blues haven’t exactly been the most impressive side in the European competition while their form in the Premier League has made Chelsea fans question their faith in the team. But if there is one quality that the London side has beaten everyone at in this season, it is resilience. Be it their 4-1 comeback win against Napoli, their holding off Barcelona to no goal at Stamford Bridge or bouncing back after being 2-0 down and without their influential skipper John Terry after 37 minutes at Nou Camp – they have never looked ready to throw in the towel.
Chelsea’s success post the exit of Andres Villas-Boas has also proven just how important a role a manager has in a team’s fortunes. And this doesn’t mean Roberto Di Matteo is a great manager and Villas-Boas is not but at Stamford Bridge Di Matteo has man-managed and marshalled his resources a lot better than the Portuguese did. Villas-Boas’ ideas of revamping the Blues squad and phasing out the aeging players was in no way wrong, I in fact quite agreed with it, but the young manager tried to do too much too soon. Instead of taking players into confidence and opting for a slow phasing out he almost went for instant kicking out, in the process alienating himself from the players and bringing about his own downfall.
At a club like Chelsea where not just one or two but many players have been there for several years now and have formed the core of the team that has seen the revival of the club since Roman Abramovich took over there was no way Villas-Boas’ ideas were going to go down well. Of course, things were even trickier for Villas-Boas, given that he was the same age and in some cases even younger than a few players. He probably just wanted to stamp his authority and show the players who the boss was but in the end it was the players who showed him who the boss really was.
Now given their recent success probably even the biggest critics of Villas-Boas’ sacking must have taken a U-turn. However I’m still not convinced it was the right decision. Villas-Boas’ plans were clearly meant for the long haul and given enough time I reckon he would have only made the Blues a much better team – not just in terms of success but also their playing style. Now, while his exit has seen Chelsea make a resurgence the big question is - Is the club ready to settle for short-term success because clearly the time has come for Chelsea to go for the overhaul and build a new squad. The older players are obviously still needed but they cannot continue to be the mainstays of the team. But that isn’t the only thing the club needs they also need Abramovich to keep patience with the manager (whoever that maybe) because while stars can still be made overnight champion teams require a lot more time and work in their making.