Chelsea - Abramovich didn't give Di Matteo enough rope

Roman Abramovich

Chelsea have a real problem at the moment winning over their home support, and it is proof Roman Abramovich handled Roberto di Matteo's exit badly.

During the 16th minute of every home game Chelsea fans pay tribute to Roberto di Matteo with applause and chanting. It was originally planned for the first home game after his reign, but it has stuck.

It's a great way for fans to pay tribute to their former player and the manager who led them to the Champions League - And it's natural; Manchester United fans still chant for Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Roberto di Matteo is a Chelsea hero, and the quick-fire burning out of his reign as manager still seems raw.

That is because Rafa Benitez, the man installed as his replacement, is a manager Chelsea fans were clear that they never wanted, and while he has had some very good results (8-0 v Villa, 4-0 v Stoke), he has had some very bad ones (0-1 v QPR, 2-2 v Southampton).

Going into the match with Arsenal, Chelsea now must worry about the fact that the Gunners are full of confidence, and they are not; and the knowledge that fans still chant for Di Matteo must prey on the mind of Benitez; and probably his players too.

It's a real problem for Chelsea, and it illustrates just how Roman Abramovich got it wrong.

Any new manager would need bedding in time, to expect one - whoever it is, to come in mid-season and go on a winning run. Benitez' struggles were proof of that.

Di Matteo's win rate, despite his trophy wins, was poor. His side won just 24 of 42 league games under his management. 

After a bright start, Chelsea fell off the pace in the Premier League this season, having led it early on, after the West Brom loss which preceded his sacking they were four points off the leaders. Now they are 13.

We aren't saying Di Matteo's sacking was wrong, his win rate and rut he got into, combined with the gloom of their likely Champions League exit would have combined to mean Chelsea would not win the title this season anyway.

The mistake on Abramovich's part was not letting the natural events take their course. A new boss was never going to repair it instantly, not in the league - a quick repair job may have served them well in cup competitions when AVB was sacked, but this time it was asking too much.

Had Di Matteo lasted until the end of the season, he likely would have finished in the top four, although not win the title; but you never know. 

By that time fans would have been more open to the possibility of him being removed and replaced with a new manager. The way he was sacked, he essentially went down in blaze of attempted glory - and is remembered as a martyr.

His end came about so quickly, fans weren't able to take it in, and instead remember him for the great he did for the club.

Abramovich should have given Di Matteo enough rope to hang himself - figuratively speaking - and then at least some of the fondness would have evaporated slightly and let his successor have it easier.

We don't underestimate the fondness Chelsea fans have for Di Matteo, regardless of what could have happened this season, it never would have spoiled the good he has done for the club, but the way Roman handled everything has made the atmosphere at the club and the stadium a very difficult 'working environment' for the players and the manager - And the results of that are showing on the pitch.

image: © Free-ers

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