Newly appointed Chelsea FC manager Roberto Di Matteo began his tenure in charge as the interim coach with a convincing 2-0 win over Birmingham to get the club to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.
With that initial test now out of the way, Di Matteo must refocus his energy and tactics into what will give the club their best chance at obtaining realistic goals over the next three months.
Here are the top eight goals Di Matteo should go after the rest of the season.
Di Matteo and the players are well aware that this is only a temporary position for the former player. Roman Abramovich and management are already openly looking for a new boss to take over in the summer.
With that in mind, Di Matteo needs to decide how he is going to approach the rest of the season.
It could either be a chance for him to make bold and daring moves that may reflect positively on any coaching jobs in the future, or it could be playing it safe and appeasing the Chelsea fans by doing what it takes to win.
Ultimately, he needs to not do what Villas-Boas did and that is stand with one foot on each side of the divide.
Create a 60-day plan and act it out without wavering.
There was no mystery about what led to Andre Villas-Boas’ sacking. His inability to manage the players was the constant looking issue that hung over Stamford Bridge as the team went on their worst run of the past decade.
The fallout from the accusations surrounding his treatment of veteran players took a new swing today as former Chelsea defender Alex spoke openly about Villas-Boas' inability to communicate effectively with his players.
Di Matteo seems to be well on his way to reversing the disorder, as after the win at St. Andrews he freely offered up that the dressing room is united.
This entire campaign has been statistically miserable compared to previous years. An inability to score has fans asking where the strikers are, and leaking goals like never before has brought the defense under question.
However, the real problem lies somewhere in between. Actually it lies exactly in between.
The midfield has been a debacle this season, not providing cover for the defensive line and not giving service to the forwards. Most of this has to do with Villas-Boas’ system and player selection, but some of the blame must fall on the players themselves.
Di Matteo needs to establish a consistent midfield that can perform and impact the game at both ends. Once they do, they will surely return back to form.
Chelsea face Napoli next Wednesday in what will be the biggest game of Di Matteo’s short tenure thus far. With the Italians coming to the Bridge on a 3-1 cushion, they are in the driver’s seat, but are by no means safe.
Just yesterday we saw Arsenal nearly pull off the impossible at Emirates as they nearly overcame a four-goal deficit to Milan. Chelsea only needed two on an Italian side that is not even at Milan’s level.
Tuesday’s victory against Birmingham may have not been of the caliber of Napoli, but Di Matteo approached it the way Villas-Boas never did. When things were not working out in a dull first half, he changed them up and immediately the Blues came to life.
He will surely establish a game plan heading into the show down, but if it does not pan out, then there is little doubt he won’t adjust accordingly—giving all the more reason why they should progress.
The way Arsenal is playing right now, it looks desperate if Chelsea are going to finish in the top four. But for all the goals on the list, this has the most future impact.
Not appearing in Champions League next season makes it increasingly difficult for the club to move forward. Top managers and players will find it difficult to justify a move to a team that will not be competing for Europe’s top prize.
Chelsea have one more match up against the Gunner’s left and will almost undoubtedly need to take the full three points to make this happen.
There may have never been a puzzle as great as the one they call El Nino. Two managers have failed beyond comprehension to get anything out of the once can’t-miss striker.
This may seem a lofty enterprise for an interim coach to have to solve something that some of the games very best cannot, but he also could be the right one by just the nature of the situation. With Di Matteo knowing this job is short term and perhaps even playing for his own future more than anything, he may just go ahead and try to work everything he can around the striker.
Tuesday’s match looked a bit like that as Torres was always the center of the attack and put in a decent performance. If he could just manage to put one away, he seems set to regain a bit of his old self.
With the pressure off him and Di Matteo, they might form a unique bond that gives each other the best opportunity to succeed.
Chelsea are in real danger of going consecutive years without a trophy for the first time in the Abramovich era. Being all but mathematically eliminated from the league and playing at a level that is a far cry from what a European champion needs to be, the FA Cup represents their only shot to keep them from yet another trophy-less year.
I understand the it is difficult to win every year, but the fallout from going two consecutive can be disheartening. Arsenal is approaching their eighth without a trophy. Liverpool was up to six before they nicked Cardiff in penalties for the Carling Cup. But the next game they were embarrassed by Arsenal at home.
It is very difficult to stay at the top of the game, but even more difficult to get back there once you dropped off. Di Matteo needs to make sure that the FA Cup remains a possibility for as long as possible to avoid what could turn into a catastrophic trend.
Whatever Di Matteo does, he must do it recognizing his role as an interim manager. He is someone who is there to see them through the rest of the season, do his best and make sure they don’t come away any worse than when he picked it up.
This is not his team. This is the team for the future manager, one that will come in and make full changes to a squad that is aging and becoming more defiant.
Di Matteo should not challenge any players or management. He should not attempt to create a buzz around himself off the pitch. He should try to deflect as much attention away from him as possible when it is positive and absorb everything that is negative.
He needs to be like a housekeeper—someone to come by in the middle of the day when everyone is gone and clean things up so they are better looking for when the family returns. Not a trace of him should remain, only results that showed he did his job.
When Di Matteo's name is brought up decades from now, he will still be remembered best as Chelsea's FA Cup legend. Only the dedicated and devout will recall this momentary blip where he took charge of the club. And this is the way it should be.
His goals should be simple, concrete and attainable.
So what do you think Di Matteo should aim for as the interim manager?
As always, leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
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