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Palpable Discord - a short analysis of Chelsea managers


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Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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Hey all, 

The whole Potter situation over the past few months, discussion here (including the Sarri discussion but also rumours around the Tuchel sacking), a recent The Athletic tactics podcast about managers and how they are judged, and a book (brought up in the podcast) I read read years ago called "Soccernomics", has made me go back and have a bit of a deeper think about the Chelsea's recent history with regard to managers (Abramovich era till now).

The Athletics tactics podcast (The Athletic Football Tactics Podcast - Podcasts - The Athletic) which I quite enjoy even though the analysis is a little bit superficial and repetitive was discussing the book Soccernomics and how wages paid was a 90% predictor of league finish (something I remember seeing myself when I read the book) but then went on to add that most managers (outside of the very elite Klopp/Guardiola's/etc) don't overperform year in year out. Rather they may have 1 or 2 good (even great) seasons before reverting to mean or even underperforming.  

When the discussion around Sarri popped up (a manager who had around taken a Chelsea squad that was around the 3rd best in the league at the time to a 3rd place finish but whose sacking was justified mostly on style of play/fan discontent and the rumours around why Tuchel may have been sacked (Why was Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea? Email from ex-wife shines light on reasons Champions League winner was axed | Goal.com Australia) made me go back and have rethink about past Chelsea managers and how much of their sackings were due to poor performances vs some kind of relationship break down with the fans, players or with the board/owners. If the fans/players/board were unhappy with the manager, it makes sense they would have gotten (and did get) less patience with bad results/form as the stakeholders were already looking for an excuse to move them on anyway, 

Looking at the list of Chelsea managers on wikipedia (List of Chelsea F.C. managers - Wikipedia) and thinking about it in hindsight. More than I initially thought of the non-temporary managers (taking out Benitez, Hiddink x2, Steve Holland, as they were only interims), probably lost the fans, the dressing room or the board before results turned and probably got sacked earlier than otherwise. Mourinho x2, Scolari, Villas Boas, Conte and Tuchel would probably all fall into their category though others may do too.

I know it's a big of a chicken and egg argument, which came first, loss or fait in manager or poor results as they tend to feed into each other somewhat. However I think it's fair to say some managers are better at motivating and keeping players onside for longer than others. Mourinho famously falls out with most squads in or after the 3rd year. Villas Boas p*ssed off Lampard (generally considered a legend of the club) and most of the team (outside of Raul Meireles Raul Meireles weighing up Chelsea exit | Daily Mail Online). Scolari dropped Drogba in favour of Anelka up front and nearly forced him out of the club as well has playing very slow football the fans didn't enjoy. Tuchel had most of the attackers at Chelsea unhappy with him (Pulusic, Lukaku, Ziyech, etc) going into this most recent season.

So why talk about this, well one, I think it's interesting but two, I think it might actually go someway (not all the way, but someway) to explain why Potter is still at Chelsea despite the clear underperformance. Potter seems to be popular with the board/owner (Bohely), the players (i'm not heaing alot of discontent with him despite the club looking to make wholesale changes to the squad that will involve many senior players signing reduced wage contracts or leaving) and even the fans who most now think he should go, aren't really angry at him, more just like "we like you, but you're just not good enough". 

To be clear, I think Potter should be probably go at the end of the season (i'm not sure there is much point sacking him before then now given how little there is left for play for this season (outside of the champions league)). However when viewed from a broader perspective, I can see how Bohely may be judging him less of straight raw results and more on relationships management (and other softer criteria) than we may be as fans.

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