Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughDi Matteo deserves, but ultimately won’t get, the Chelsea job - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Di Matteo deserves, but ultimately won’t get, the Chelsea job - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Di Matteo deserves, but ultimately won’t get, the Chelsea job

The Chelsea train keeps chugging along under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo. An absolutely pivotal win over Barcelona on Wednesday night followed up the resounding 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur has left them in touching distance of the UEFA Champions League final and a place in the FA Cup final, respectively.

At the beginning of March, following the sacking of Portuguese youngster Andre Villas-Boas, Di Matteo was bought into manage the Blues on an interim basis, presumably whilst owner Roman Abramovich courted a number of high profile targets across Europe, most notably Guus Hiddink and Barca head coach Pep Guardiola.

However, the West London side have lost just once under the stewardship of the Italian, a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with 10 of the 13 games under Di Matteo ending in victory. They may not be playing the attractive football that Abramovich desires, but the former West Bromwich Albion manager is picking up results that have boosted Chelsea’s chances of achieving a domestic and European double, while taking them to within two points of fourth placed Spurs.

The form is good, so why won’t he get the nod?

Di Matteo has enjoyed a successful time with Chelsea, both as a player and now as a manager. The reason Villas-Boas didn’t last long in the role was down to the fact that he lost the respect of the predominant figures in the Blues dressing room. However, due to his time with the club in the past, the former midfielder often worked with captain John Terry and, albeit briefly, vice-captain Frank Lampard, two key members of the dressing room at Stamford Bridge.

As heavily mooted, the continued lack of inclusion of the duo, the latter in particular, is what contributed to the downfall of Villas-Boas. Rather than shepherding the old guard out, much like Frank Rijkaard did in the 2003-04 season for Barcelona with Luis Enrique in his final season with the Blaugrana, the former FC Porto boss opted for a major cull with the likes of Terry, Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Part of the reason the Blues struggled over the course of Villas-Boas’ short spell at Stamford Bridge was his inability to keep these three happy and with reports continuously circulating of discontent within the squad, it wasn’t surprising that Chelsea struggled both domestically and on the European stage.

However, under Di Matteo, the team now relies heavily of the experience of the trio and it has paid dividends. Playing to the strengths of the player’s he has around him, be it a backs-against-the-wall performance against Barcelona on Wednesday night, he is still grinding out the results that have propelled the team up the league, into the last four of the Champions League and the final of the FA Cup.

Yet, despite ticking all the right boxes, results wise, and improving the fortunes on the pitch and with that, off it as well, he isn’t playing the football that Abramovich craves. Take the 1-0 win over Barcelona on Wednesday, the Catalan’s first defeat in 14 months; many lambasted the style in which they picked up the victory at Stamford Bridge, with some quarters of the football fan-base comparing them to Stoke City but without the Rory Delap throw.

The Italian, however, knew about the risks of trying to Barcelona at their own game and set his team up brilliantly to soak up the immense amount of pressure that the Blues came under and hit them on the counter. The European champions enjoyed a 72% share of possession against their English counterparts, but failed to break down a resolute Chelsea back-four, marshalled excellently by Terry.

This was Di Matteo’s plan for the night and it paid dividends, regardless of every outfield Barca player completing more passes than Chelsea’s highest passer of the night (John Obi Mikel with 34). Abramovich has to understand that his team won’t live up to the high standards set by Guardiola’s side straight after the appointment of a new manager.

Too much was expected of Villas-Boas early on following the style of play that his Porto team played last season. Ultimately, it proved to be his downfall that led to his sacking due to Chelsea not having the players at his disposal to play the football the owner craved. He asked Villas-Boas to remove the more senior players from the squad early on and with it, the experience and spine of the team was ripped out causing major upset throughout the squad.

Under Di Matteo, he has re-installed the trio as figureheads to his starting XI and the club are reaping the benefits under his management style. Yet, no matter how many hurdles he overcomes, many in the footballing world feel as they he still won’t do enough to convince Abramovich to give him the role on a permanent basis.

The Russian Oligarch craves the fluid football that semi-final opponents Barcelona play and despite the best efforts of Villas-Boas and Big Phil Scolari, two managers that seemed capable of bringing the specific football Abramovich wanted to Stamford Bridge, both ultimately failed to see out the season.

The more productive managers that have come in to replace the aforementioned duo, he has been happy to leave or been unable to convince to stay in West London. When Scolari left, Hiddink came in and Chelsea lost just once domestically, winning the FA Cup during his short stint with the club. And now is the chance for Di Matteo to prove himself, yet like Avram Grant, who got the Blues to the final of the Champions League and came within a penalty of lifting the trophy in 2008, it may be the case that the current interim boss receives nothing more than a pat on the back and a thank you from Roman.

Nevertheless, Di Matteo can do no more to warrant the position. He has changed the fortunes of the club despite many ruling them out of a top four finish, a shot at the FA Cup and a run this far in the Champions League, having been 3-1 down to Napoli at the last 16 stage before staging an emphatic comeback at Stamford Bridge which saw them win 4-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.

Personally, if I was Abramovich, I would accept the football on offer may not be the prettiest, but it is getting the right results. At the moment, as mentioned, Chelsea don’t have the player’s to play the style of football he plays whereas under Di Matteo, he knows that they can’t compete on a technical scale against the likes of Barca and has them playing to their strengths, which happens to be more physical and route one at this present moment.

But, as many suspect, Abramovich will be craving the big name manager to come in and replace the seat Villas-Boas left, the very same one Di Matteo has been keeping warm for the best part of two months. If I were the owner in the current position, I would ensure the Italian is giving the role permanently at the end of the season and allow him to work with the current Blues squad for next season and make his own additions in the transfer window. It is painfully evident that he has the knowledge to succeed with Chelsea, even Abramovich has to know this, but it is the style of football that I fear will see Di Matteo not offered the role on a permanent basis.