Why Scolari couldnÃ¢ÂÂt save The Damned Chelsea
Theory 1: Scolari was the New Clough
Roughly seven weeks from now, The Damned United will open in cinemas up and down the country.
Adapted from David PeaceÃ¢ÂÂs darkly brilliant novel imagining Brian CloughÃ¢ÂÂs torrid 44-day reign at Leeds United, itÃ¢ÂÂs entertaining enough Ã¢ÂÂ when was Old Big Ã¢ÂÂEad not? Ã¢ÂÂ but lighter and fluffier than the book, so not in the same league.
Watching it a few weeks ago, though, a thought did cross FourFourTwoÃ¢ÂÂs mind Ã¢ÂÂ a thought that came crashing back in with the summary dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari on Monday afternoon.
And that thought is this Ã¢ÂÂ that in 2009, Scolari is playing the part of Brian Clough, damned in his doomed attempt to follow a club legend (Mourinho/Revie) who had become a cult at the club after guiding it to unheard of success.
ThereÃ¢ÂÂs flimsy circumstantial evidence to back up the theory. Just as Cloughie kept on raiding his Derby team for reinforcements, so Scolari seemed intent on signing every Portugal player he could get his hands on. And without the transfer restrictions, who could say for sure that Helder Postiga and Nuno Gomes wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have joined Deco, Bosingwa and Quaresma at Stamford Bridge?
But there are also louder whispers, echoes from history, backed up by FourFourTwoÃ¢ÂÂs sources close to the Blues.
Admittedly the Brazilian didnÃ¢ÂÂt walk into the dressing room on his first morning at the club and call JT and Lamps "cheating b******s". As the results become a millstone, he didn't set fire to the furniture. But nor did he walk in with a Don Revie-style dossier on the opposition. And that, it seems, was the root of his problem.
That gap's only gonna get wider...
Because while ChelseaÃ¢ÂÂs results have undoubtedly been getting poorer as the season has gone on, thatÃ¢ÂÂs merely a symptom of a deeper problem: that the players have failed to adjust to ScolariÃ¢ÂÂs laid-back approach.
Under Jose Mourinho, ChelseaÃ¢ÂÂs egotistical superstars didnÃ¢ÂÂt have to think, and footballers Ã¢ÂÂ especially English footballers, sadly Ã¢ÂÂ rather like that state of affairs. Witness Fabio CapelloÃ¢ÂÂs reinvigoration of England with a few strict rules like "no ketchup". Under Scolari, they were given the freedom to think. And look what happened.
With Jose Ã¢ÂÂ like Revie Ã¢ÂÂ everything was planned with military precision (think of a really good army here. Not for example, San Marino). Every player knew exactly what he was Ã¢ÂÂ and wasnÃ¢ÂÂt Ã¢ÂÂ supposed to do. HeÃ¢ÂÂd been told how his opponent would play, what to look out for, how to deal with him. If he did it, fine. If he didnÃ¢ÂÂt, heÃ¢ÂÂd be substituted/dropped/sold.
If a player got injured and another player came on, the team already knew how that would affect their shape and their tactics. It was a fool-proof system.
Under Scolari (like Clough), it was off the cuff. Training was more relaxed. Players could Ã¢ÂÂexpress themselvesÃ¢ÂÂ. Dossiers were those blokes down the dole office. It worked with Brazil, it worked with Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ it even worked in the short-term with Chelsea. For a while there, the players looked freer, happier, easier on the eye.
But in the end it bred too much uncertainty among a group of players who needed to know in minute detail what was required.And so Scolari failed at Chelsea, just as Clough failed at Leeds. His team scored more goals, but looked like ending up empty-handed.
Roman AbramovichÃ¢ÂÂs next appointment might want to consider the old saying: Damned if you do, damned if you donÃ¢ÂÂt
Theory 2: Fergie knows best
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs one theory. Another, equally plausible explanation was given by Sir Alex Ferguson back when the season had just kicked off.
Leafing through a pre-season copy of the Racing Post, the normally mild-mannered Scot felt his blood begin to boil.
Ã¢ÂÂEvery analyst in there was tipping Chelsea for the title,Ã¢ÂÂ Ferguson recalled. Ã¢ÂÂOne guy wrote: Ã¢ÂÂThe reason is Scolari is in town.Ã¢ÂÂ He said Scolari will not be intimidated by me. He suggested that Wenger, Mourinho and Avram Grant couldnÃ¢ÂÂt Ã¢ÂÂhandle meÃ¢ÂÂ.
Ã¢ÂÂThe paper mentions me as having Ã¢ÂÂhad a goÃ¢ÂÂ at Chelsea by saying that a team [with players] over 30 canÃ¢ÂÂt win the league, which is absolute rubbish. I never said that. What I did say was that a team over 30 doesnÃ¢ÂÂt improve a lot. But Chelsea, given their performance last season, donÃ¢ÂÂt have to improve a lot to win it.
Scolari: If it stinks so bad...
Ã¢ÂÂThen, the same writer argues that Scolari is a better manager than me. IÃ¢ÂÂm not so arrogant as to believe thatÃ¢ÂÂs impossible. Scolari may be a better manager than I am. But how can a sensible writer say that about a guy who has never managed in England? If you look at ScolariÃ¢ÂÂs CV, he has managed about 17 teams.Ã¢ÂÂ
Fergie had actually forgotten Brazil and Portugal. But between 1982 and 2001, Scolari had indeed coached 17 teams: (deep breath) CSA, Juventude, Brasil de Pelotas, Al-Shabab, Brasil de Pelotas, Juventude, GrÃÂªmio, GoiÃÂ¡s, Al Qadisiya, Kuwait, CriciÃÂºma, Al-Ahli, Al Qadisiya, GrÃÂªmio, JÃÂºbilo Iwata, Palmeiras and Cruzeiro.
Yes, he won the World Cup. Yes, he reached the Euro 2004 final. But in the end Ã¢ÂÂ as was proved in Chelsea's possibly pivotal 3-0 capitulation at Old Trafford last month Ã¢ÂÂ he just wasnÃ¢ÂÂt good enough.
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