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Why Roman Abramovich was wise to go ‘Dutch’

Football FanCast columnist Mike
compares the managerial styles
of Hiddink and Scolari and feels that Roman made the right decision to go ‘Dutch’.

The current Chelsea season
is a tale of two managers. Luis Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink both have
impressive managerial credentials. Both men are considered to be among the best
in the world. Scolari started the season at the helm and the results were
mixed. Scolari was sacked, as Chidge and the boys predicted on the Chelsea FanCast,
and Hiddink was hired on February 11. The closed transfer window meant Guus
could not bring in any new players and would have to work with the team Scolari
left behind. A result of this timing is a unique opportunity to compare the
style of two well respected managers.

Scolari’s job was to bring
silverware back to the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet and do it with style.
Abramovich wanted Scolari to bring the stylish Brazilian football with him. The
addition of Deco and Bosingwa was a big step towards the attacking and
attractive style the Chelsea management craves.

Scolari’s beautiful football
started successfully with a dominating 4-0 win over Portsmouth. Chelsea looked
like world beaters. The Chelsea squad ran up some big scores in the first few
months. Two 5-0 wins, one over Middlesbrough and one over Sunderland. Chelsea
beat teams two and three to nil and seemed to be coasting. The players were
passing crisply and working well together. Scolari’s tactics seemed to be spot
on and the championship seemed well within reach for the Blues.

The season wore on and Scolari’s
failings slowly became apparent. When the Blues came out and dominated lower
teams everything looked good. The upper echelon teams, however, started
changing their tactics to stifle the Chelsea attack. Good defensive teams would
give Chelsea fits. Soon every team that faced Chelsea started using the same
tactics. The Chelsea team had no answer, there was no plan B. The hope that
Frank Lampard would somehow put the team on his back and find a way to win
seemed to be plan B.

While Frank Lampard is a
good back up plan no one player can save a team. Scolari seemed at a loss as to
what to do and the results began to show on the scoreboard. A nil-nil home draw
to Newcastle. The first loss at the Bridge in years the week after at the hands
of Arsenal. December and January results were sporadic at best. The players had
begun to look tired and tension developed in the changing room.

In February the fans and
management had seen enough. A loss to Liverpool and a home draw to Hull City sent
Scolari packing. Enter Guus Hiddink. Teams almost always have a resurgence when
a new manager comes in and Chelsea were no exception. The Blues began winning
consistently again. The results were not as spectacular as the 5-0 wins under
Scolari but the team was as solid as it had been in months.

Under Hiddink Chelsea can
still play the free flowing attacking football that is a Dutch trademark, but
in each game they have a plan B to fall back on. Hiddink’s changes are often
subtle but, so far, they have worked. The most obvious example of Hiddink’s
ability to adjust is the first leg of the Champions League semi final. In
Barcelona, Chelsea came out and defended with everything they had and got out
of the hostile environs of the Nou Camp with the score a manageable 0-0. This
tactic had to go against every bone in Guus’ body. The Dutch style is usually
very attacking with players challenging the defenders from all angles. Guus
felt that on the larger pitch and against the attacking prowess of Barcelona it
was time for a new plan A. The result, for the first time all season Barcelona
failed to score a goal in a home game.

Chelsea players not only
responded the Dutchman’s tactics but the players seemed to have more to give on
the pitch. The fitness of the players is improving steadily. The most notable
example has been the emergence of Florent Malouda. Malouda seems to have
regained the pace and confidence that made him a much sought after addition to
the club.

Comparing the results of
these two decorated managers shows the difference between managing a club team
and managing a national team. Scolari is a national team manager. He is used to
only having the players for short periods of time, and the players are already
fit when he gets them. National teams also tend to have only one style of play
and when it isn’t working the manager just substitutes out the players that
don’t seem to be playing well. National teams also each have a different style.
A manager may figure out how to beat Argentina but unlike in league play the
next team may not have the ability to play that style. Asking the Brazilian
national team to play a defense first tactic that might work for Italy is
looking for trouble. As good a manager as he is Scolari does not have the skill
set to manage a club team.(At least not yet.)

Guus Hiddink appears to be
more of a club manager. Guus has had some success on the national stage but
with up and coming teams. These teams can be treated more like a club team
because the players don’t have the skill to just turn up and win. If they are
to have any hope they have to be able to adjust. The manager also has a little
more leeway on which players to bring. Imagine if a Brazilian manager doesn’t
bring Ronaldinho even if he doesn’t fit into how the manager wants to play.

Hiddink is a student of the
Dutch “total football” theory. His players need to be able to play everywhere.
It is necessary so that every player can get involved in the attack. The
strikers need to be able to cover in midfield, the midfielders need to be able
to jump into the attack or cover for an overlapping defender, and the defenders
need to be able to join in the attack. Managers have limited training time with
national squads making it very hard to develop the chemistry needed to play
this way.

The events at Stamford
Bridge have shown that much like top players even top managers have to be in
the right situation to succeed. Guus isn’t necessarily a better manager than
Scolari, he is different. So far Hiddink seems to be the perfect fit for the
Chelsea team.

Article title: Why Roman Abramovich was wise to go ‘Dutch’

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