Thursday 14 December 2017

Roman lays down law to Chelsea flops

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (left) with Jose Mourinho last year Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (left) with Jose Mourinho last year Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Matt Law and Jason Burt

Roman Abramovich has issued a personal rallying call to Chelsea's beleaguered players as the club's owner considers asking Didier Drogba to return as part of a new coaching set-up.

Abramovich arrived at Chelsea's Cobham training ground yesterday morning to watch training and address the first-team squad through a translator ahead of today's game against Sunderland.

With champions Chelsea just one point above the relegation zone, Abramovich told the players he had not wanted to fire Jose Mourinho but was left with no choice.

The Russian billionaire insisted that Mourinho's exit heralded a fresh start at the club and that everybody must take responsibility to make sure performances and results quickly improved.

Abramovich also told the players that Guus Hiddink would be the caretaker manager, but it is not clear whether he spoke to Mourinho, who returned to Cobham to gather the last of his things.

Mourinho had been sacked by technical director Michael Emenalo and director Eugene Tenenbaum, as Abramovich was not at Cobham on Thursday.

Before leaving Chelsea's base yesterday, Mourinho spoke to some of the players and wished them well for the rest of the season. Those who had already left received messages from the Portuguese.

Rui Faria, Silvino Louro, Jose Morais and Carlos Lalin also lost their jobs in the latest cull, leaving assistant first-team coach Steve Holland and Eddie Newton to oversee training and take charge of the Sunderland game, with Hiddink expected to be in the Stamford Bridge stands.

Future

Other than bringing in Hiddink until the end of the season and targeting Diego Simeone as the next long-term manager, Abramovich is considering what immediate and future changes he can make to improve the club's set-up.

One idea is to bring back Drogba as part of a new coaching set-up, either under Hiddink or a new man next summer.

Abramovich remains close to Drogba and has made no secret of the fact he is keen for the Ivorian to take a position at Chelsea when he retires.

Drogba still has another season on his contract at Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact, where he has been a huge success, and is yet to be offered any position by Abramovich.

The pair, however, speak regularly and the subject is likely to be brought up in the coming days and weeks.

Last year, Mourinho said: "Drogba will be a coach or assistant youth team manager or the main ambassador of Chelsea, or director of sports. There will be a role for him when he wants.

"He is a player who Mr Abramovich wants at the club."

Although he spent most of last season on the bench behind Diego Costa, Drogba's departure during the summer has been referenced as a significant factor in Chelsea's terrible form this term.

Drogba acted as a mentor for Eden Hazard and the Belgian credits the 37-year-old with helping him produce the performances that made him Player of the Year. Without Drogba at his side, Hazard is yet to score this season.

There is also a theory that Drogba was the 'glue' that brought different groups within the dressing-room together and that without him morale has suffered.

Scouting

As well as looking at coaching, backroom and scouting appointments, Abramovich will also hold discussions with Emenalo about Chelsea's squad and whether it could be strengthened next month.

Abramovich is very much of the opinion that the players are capable of performing far better.

He feels their collective poor form was down to the fact they were playing to instruction from Mourinho.

With Mourinho now gone, Abramovich is believed to be prepared to sanction a January transfer spend with Emenalo considering a move for Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy.

Emenalo has already expressed an interest in Vardy, but was concerned that the 28-year-old would be largely frozen out by Mourinho, who favours a more physical central striker.

Vardy scored for Leicester against Chelsea on Monday night, when Emenalo was in the stands. Other than his goalscoring ability, Chelsea will be attracted to the fact he is eligible for the Champions League and would boost the homegrown quota at the club.

Leicester insist they want to keep Vardy and would demand at least £30m for their star man, which may make Chelsea think twice.

Chelsea are also interested in Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Alex Teixeira and want a new central defender, but Everton will again resist bids for John Stones and the Champions League last-16 draw against Paris St-Germain may have dealt a blow to any hopes of landing Marquinhos from the French club in January.

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