International Soccer
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
Abramovich must share blame for AVB's failures

Roman Abramovich is essentially laying a foundation and then breaking it up again.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is no doubt that Chelsea stands today as one of the elite clubs in Europe due in large part to the deep pockets of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

But while the Russian's considerable coin has attracted some of the best players in the world and helped transform Chelsea into a major force in England, there is also plenty of blame to be laid at the feet of Abramovich for the club's current struggles.

First-year manager Andre Villas-Boas became the first casualty on Sunday as he was fired one day after a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich left the Blues in fifth place in the Premiership and a staggering 20 points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Unless Chelsea can overturn a 3-1 deficit to Napoli in the Champions League next Wednesday, the club will be out of Europe, while Villas-Boas's men have not been a factor in the title race at all this season.

The current campaign will be one that all Chelsea fans will be anxious to erase from memory, especially because the club is in danger of missing out on a place in next season's Champions League by finishing outside the top four for the first time in 10 seasons.

The firing of Villas-Boas is not without merit as Chelsea's season has continued to spiral out of control for the past few months with no end in sight.

Villas-Boas has seemingly had trouble getting through to the players and his tactics have come into question on more than one occasion.

Yet you have to wonder how much of a chance the 34-year-old had when he left Portuguese side FC Porto to make the move to London last June.

Villas-Boas was coming off an unbeaten season with Porto that saw the club capture the league title as well as the Europa League crown.

He was viewed as the hottest young coaching commodity in Europe, but it was a stretch to think he was ready to be thrown into the lion's den known as the Chelsea hot seat after spending less than two years as a manager in Portugal.

Since he took over Chelsea in 2003, the role of manager at the club has been a revolving door, with far more seasoned coaches like Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Luiz Felipe Scolari lasting only a short time before being canned.

Not to mention the fallout that occurred between Abramovich and former boss Jose Mourinho, who won back-to-back titles for the club before leaving for Inter Milan.

Managers often find themselves on a short leash at Chelsea, and despite the fact that Abramovich paid Porto over $20 million to release Villas-Boas from his contract, eight months later he is gone, with the remaining $12.5 million of his deal in hand.

Money has never been an object with Abramovich and that proved true in January 2011 when he shelled nearly $80 million to bring striker Fernando Torres to Chelsea from Liverpool.

Despite the fact that the club had more pressing needs at the time, like help along the back line, Abramovich went for the flashy signing and has since seen his investment falter miserably.

Villas-Boas not only inherited an overpriced, out-of-form striker in Torres, who has scored only five goals since his arrival, but was pressured at times by Abramovich to play him despite having more potent options like Didier Drogba at his disposal.

Chelsea was an aging team in a state of flux when Villas-Boas signed on, and in the end it proved far too big a task for such an inexperienced manager.

Anything less than titles is unacceptable for Abramovich, who was obviously hoping to discover the next Mourinho, only to see it backfire.

Now Abramovich will be looking to hire his eighth manager in nine years, an eye-opening record that illustrates a lack of continuity at the club.

Abramovich is essentially laying a foundation and then breaking it up again, only to repeat the process over and over.

This is no way to build lasting success at a club like Chelsea, with players having to adjust to a new system and new manager every year.

With the amount of money that Abramovich has, he can buy many things. But as he is hopefully learning, stability is not one of them.

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