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Villas-Boas made enemies in all the wrong places

When instant gratification is achieved, anything seems possible. Right now, Roberto Di Matteo could be the next manager of Chelsea as Roman Abramovich decides to live in the eternal now.



Di Matteo is currently the Interim First Team Coach, his impermanence enshrined in his title, but after last week's victory against Napoli, he was already been proposed, at least by Ruud Gullit, as the permanent manager.

Chelsea are capable of anything except consistency. They are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and by late afternoon they expect to be in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. If Chelsea want the quick fix, then they could give the job to Di Matteo.

Andre Villas-Boas, as much as anyone, was looking for the quick fix while promising a long-term plan. He tried to change everything before reducing his footballing ambitions while holding to his belief that the senior players had little left to give.

Andre Villas-Boas made a number of mistakes which would not have improved with time. His inability to win over any significant figures in the dressing room was not helped by his desire to receive a favourable press.

AVB wanted to play thrilling football and he knew what he wanted to do. That is only a part of football management, especially at the highest level, and he failed in other critical functions. Players who don't form the senior players often cited have reported they never saw a dressing room so united in opposition to a manager and his methods.

AVB's reasonableness, his craving for media approval which manifested itself in his prickly sensitivity, would be a vulnerability in any dressing room, not just Chelsea's. His thrilling season at Porto was not, as it turned out, a preparation for his quick death as Chelsea manager. If he makes the same mistakes in another big dressing room, he will probably experience the same results.

"If there are strong players and they want a say in the dressing room," one English club manager said to me last week, "let them have the dressing room. It's an asset to have strong personalities." The strength of those personalities was demonstrated against Napoli. To find a way to use them is a gift of good management. AVB failed.

The same club manager wondered why AVB would stand on the balcony of his office, clocking the players in, looking for latecomers. AVB went looking for trouble. At Chelsea, trouble will always find you.

Two days after telling Portuguese radio that he would only play Juan Mata as a number 10 from now on (and reportedly after he had told Frank Lampard he would never play for him again because of the views Lampard expressed at a clear-the-air meeting), Mata was on the left and Lampard started. Again, AVB bristled when asked if he had been instructed to make the changes by Abramovich.

These personal failings, his essential eagerness to please, couldn't survive in the court of Abramovich. If Chelsea had been able to sign

Luka Modric last summer, things might have been different. Instead Villas-Boas tried to implement a style the players he possessed couldn't play.

They can play the way they did on Wednesday night and Villas-Boas was too late to recognise it and too late to realise he needed those players. He had no alternative.

Abramovich has already told the players they are playing for their futures. The reality is that Chelsea need this side to be broken up no matter what they achieve this season. Only John Terry of the senior cabal is worth his place on a regular basis. Lampard plays to take penalties while Didier Drogba could win Chelsea the Champions League with a couple of more big performances, but they are likely to be the only big performances he produces.

Yet Di Matteo has no option but to court the dressing room, even if this is his inclination too. The shot of John Terry instructing Michael Essien from the dug-out has been overplayed. If Terry had been on the pitch and delivered the same instructions, nobody would have noticed.

If AVB had managed with cunning, he could have fashioned this response from his big players and he would have been able to point to a Champions League quarter-final at the very least in his first season which he bravely always said was not a transition season.

If AVB had stayed and not backed himself into such an impossible corner, maybe few would have praised victory against an average Napoli side.

As it was, with expectation low, the performance was dramatic if not unexpected. Di Matteo could be the permanent manager yet but somebody soon needs to turn the team around.

The failure of Fernando Torres has harmed the rebuilding process. Torres was bought to bring in the new, but from being the most feared forward in Europe, he has morphed into Emile Heskey.

The way things are going at Chelsea, change will only come when the players can give no more. The appointment of Villa-Boas was a mistake by all sides; the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti the moment when Chelsea condemned themselves to an endless search.

They will need Champions League football to attract the best managers. Otherwise, it could be Di Matteo who is trying to fulfil Abramovich's desire for instant gratification. Even that might not satisfy him. As the old joke goes, the problem with instant gratification is that it takes too long.

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