For a club who have quite a distinct reputation for swapping out there managers when the going gets tough, Chelsea aren’t doing too bad on the trophy front. Wednesday night’s Europa League win means the club have now added their eleventh trophy between their last 10 managers. Not only could it dispel the myth that clubs need long-term stability, it also means Chelsea are prepared for an era where we’re unlikely to see many long-term stays at the very top of the European game.
On one hand you have to look to the notion that Chelsea may struggle to truly capture an identity in the modern game. Roman Abramovich wants a very specific style of football played at Stamford Bridge, one that draws away from the history of the club. With managers constantly moving in and out of the club, it becomes difficult to embed a consistent style and establish an obvious identity.
But then you could argue that sport is all about winning and there can be little argument against those who choose to explore ‘unconventional’ methods for achieving success.
You’re likely to come across plenty of fans from rival clubs who entertain the idea of taking on the Chelsea approach if it means regular success. Would Arsenal fans swap Arsene Wenger’s last eight years for six or seven different managers and a trophy every season?
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But Chelsea aren’t the only ones who are achieving success on a regular basis with different managers. Bayern Munich’s Jupp Heynckes has only been in charge for two seasons and will move on to make way for Pep Guardiola this summer. Who knows how long the Spaniard will remain at the Allianz Arena, with so many expecting him to make a move to England at some point in the near future. Before Heynckes, Louis van Gaal was in charge at Bayern, also for two seasons, and won the domestic double in 2009-10.
What certainly needs to be argued is that all of those Bayern managers came in with the same approach to the game in mind. Guardiola and van Gaal specifically follow the same ideals, and Bayern are a club who are unlikely to appoint just anyone to become manager. Importantly, the boardroom at the club will often be united when choosing their managers; it’s very much about continuity and tradition.
But why is it that Chelsea are not seen in the same light as Bayern? It’s because Abramovich is erratic and irrational. He makes decisions based on very little and only seems to think about the short-term. Arguably that mindset is what has brought him and Chelsea so much success. He doesn’t take too much notice of what the supporters want, ignoring them and the history of the club – even the recent history – in favour of quick success.
Additionally, you can argue that there is plenty of negativity attached to clubs who rapidly go through a number of managers in a short period of time. Sure, we see it happen all over Europe and even Barcelona and Real Madrid – the latter in particular – make many changes while remaining competitive. In England, however, we like the idea of stability and building something for the future. More often than not, fans see a great injustice in firing managers after something as short as just a season in charge.
What needs to be looked at in the coming years is whether we’re likely to see many big clubs around Europe stay true to one manager for a prolonged period of time. Manchester United have certainly gone down that route with David Moyes and you also feel that Arsenal would like to replicate Arsene Wenger’s time at the club with his successor. But PSG are preparing to bid farewell to Carlo Ancelotti, Manchester City are on the hunt for Manuel Pellegrini – and you have to wonder how much time the English press will allow him to remain in the Premier League – and rumours emerged recently that Antonio Conte could also opt to leave Juventus this summer.
Football has become a sport where short-term decisions win the day. Abramovich’s irrational behaviour may no longer be seen as the exception but rather the norm. And who can argue? Rafa Benitez for so long this season stood as the most hated figure at Stamford Bridge. He will and should be remembered for the success he brought Chelsea on the trophy front, just as Jose Mourinho did and Ancelotti after him.
After all, football is always going to remember the trophies, but not necessarily how many managers were used to win them.
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