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The Roker Ramble: Sacking AVB Simply Delays Chelsea's Necessary Rebuild

The Roker Ramble. In which we talk about life outside of Sunderland.
The Roker Ramble. In which we talk about life outside of Sunderland.

Contrary to the belief of much of the north-east, there was a footballing world outside of the Tyne-Wear derby this weekend. While Sunderland were proudly battling to within four minutes of a victory at the Sports Direct Arena, the rest of the world had not quite completely stopped to take notice.

Somewhere around the time Simon Mignolet was defying Demba Ba from the penalty spot, news filtered through that Chelsea had sacked a certain Andre Villas-Boas from his post as manager...

In the end, the removal of Villas-Boas from the Stamford Bridge dugout was not a great surprise. And yet is that lack of surprise which makes the move all the more galling. With the departure of the Portuguese came the fact that this was now the seventh manager to have been shown the door at Chelsea since just 2004.

Roman Abramovich has oft been accused of viewing the club as his own personal plaything - his latest act does little to dispel such accusations. Of those seven outgoing coaches only one - Guus Hiddink - can be said to have truly left of his own accord.

Villas-Boas, hard as it is to believe, actually lasted longer than a previous incumbent sacked by the Russian oil tycoon - though only just. Saturday's defeat at West Brom was the thirty-four year old's fortieth game in charge since taking control last summer; Luiz Felipe Scolari lasted just thirty-six before his dismissal in 2009.

Regardless, this latest upheaval is the most worrying of them all.

The introduction of Villas-Boas back in the more optimistic days of June last year signalled a new era in south west London. His arrival was one with an eye to the future. He was greeted by an ageing squad, one that had just relinquished the Premier League title to Manchester United for the fourth time in five years.

His remit was to revitalise the fortunes of a side that had, at least in the opinions of the owner, gone stale in the latter days of predecessor Carlo Ancelotti. With a playing staff that still harnessed many senior pros, ones that had been at the club in Villas-Boas previous stint at the club (as an assistant coach under Jose Mourinho), it was not difficult to see why.

At first, things seemed to go well. Chelsea went five games unbeaten at the start of the season and, more importantly, the manager was able to bring in the youthful faces his squad needed. In came Romelu Lukaku (18), Oriol Romeu (20) and Juan Mata (23). The elevation of Daniel Sturridge (22) into the first team further outlined Villas-Boas intentions to rebuild the Blues with a younger core. At twenty-eight, Raul Meireles was a more elderly acquisition; though he still looked youthful when lined up alongside the likes of Lampard and Droga.

Villas-Boas' first defeat as Chelsea manager - and indeed, his first defeat for roughly eighteen months across three clubs - came at title foes United in mid-September. The 3-1 reversal was not, however, indicative of the game itself. The visitors bossed the game yet somehow found themselves three down at the break. Fernando Torres' goal just after the interval restored some pride and, had the £50m Spaniard not fluffed his lines horrendously later in the second half, Chelsea could well have come away with a point.

That they didn't was the first blip in the new manager's reign. As the months and games went on though, this first was joined by many more of increasing embarrassment: successive home defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool; a 1-0 loss in the derby with QPR at Loftus Road; a New Years Eve humbling at the hands of a distinctly average Aston Villa side; the concession of a point against Manchester United last month when Chelsea themselves had held a three goal lead at one stage.

Saturday's defeat at The Hawthorns was evidently the final nail in the coffin for Andre Villas-Boas - but sacking him will do little to aid Chelsea and Abramovich's woes.

The most pertinent reason why is this: there has been just one departure when, in fact, there should have been a handful. Through removing yet another manager, Chelsea have simply delayed dealing with a tumour that lies malignantly at the heart of its dressing room, in the shape of its senior players.

Leading the ragtag plague of disruption is none other than John Terry. The same man who caused such a furore in that aforementioned QPR following his supposed racial outburst towards Anton Ferdinand also happens to be the same man who has effectively led a behind-the-scenes revolt at the Blues' Cobham training ground.

Only now are we finding out the full details and scale of such a revolt, but the initial signs are not pretty for the likes of Terry and fellow Chelsea stalwart Ashley Cole. Recent rumours suggest the players soon made a mockery of Villas-Boas' meticulous nature; one story goes that the squad would regularly test his patience regarding timekeeping, regularly leaving it until the very last minute to fly into training in their assortment of flashy cars.

Joining the trio of English troublemaking is Frank Lampard, a man whose recent fallouts with his manager have been perhaps the most visible - the goalscoring midfielder has often been a picture of disgruntlement when his manager has needed unity on the field.

And so, ultimately, the revolting players overthrew a manager to whom they never gave a chance in the first place. Bloodless it may have been, but the failure of Abramovich to stick to his initial guns and trust in Villas-Boas' ability to rebuild a side that sorely needs rebuilding speaks volumes.

Former manager Scolari has already stated that the next man to permanently take the reigns will face a hellish scenario. It is hard to disagree. Any new manager will find himself presented with a squad core steadfastly determined to hang onto its last vestiges of importance, even when all others can see that the effects of time are catching them up faster than they can ever hope to outrun them.

Until their playing staff is completely overhauled and the process is not halted at the first sign of trouble, then Chelsea will forever remain a spent force. Unfortunately for them, under Abramovich at least, it seems such an overhaul is a long way off yet.

He may as well give John Terry the job himself.

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