Roberto Di Matteo: Like All Chelsea Managers, He Was Sacked From The Start
Roberto Di Matteo's brutal sacking—another insight into the heartless world of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich—may have been unfair, but it was certainly not a surprise.
After losing his last two games, the same as Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and only picking up two points out of a possible 12 in his last four Premier League games, Di Matteo's time was up at Stamford Bridge.
His team had only won two of their last eight matches, and after losing 3-0 in a lacklustre performance away to Juventus Tuesday night, face the prospect of failing to quality for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time in their history; a rather embarrassing landmark considering their status as current European Champions.
And of course, with the excuse of a bad spell, it was always inevitable that Abramovich would take any opportunity he had to dispose of Di Matteo.
The only surprise perhaps in the days leading up to his sacking was that there wasn't a single journalist dressed up as a pork chop asking the former Blues boss if he was facing the sack.
But besides the simple excuse of a bad run of form, there were some legitimate reasons for Chelsea to get rid of Roberto Di Matteo.
It could well be the case that Abramovich and the Chelsea board did carefully consider their decision to sack Di Matteo, and with that in mind, here are four possible reasons why the Blues came to the conclusion they did regarding their manager.
Despite their brilliance on several occasions, Roberto Di Matteo was never able to unlock the best out of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar dos Santos, the trio dubbed "Mazacar" by Chelsea fans.
Of course, all three have excelled at times this season, but often they haven't clicked into gear when it's mattered most.
Juan Mata has been a beacon of creative consistency for Chelsea in the Premier League this season, with four goals and six assists from 10 games, as well as 26 goal-scoring chances created for teammates.
But in those recent must win games when the pressure has really been on the Blues, Mata has faded into obscurity. He managed to go 90 minutes without making an impact in that fateful defeat to Juventus on Tuesday, and also failed to influence proceeding in that damaging loss to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.
In the draw at home Liverpool, the assist for John Terry's opener was his only contribution, while in that key game away to Shakhtar Donetsk back in October, his inability to create chances with the ball contributed to his team's 2-1 defeat.
While the same goes for Eden Hazard, who has been sparkling when the pressure's been off, but has been sub-standard in the must-win matches.
He was particularly poor in the home defeat to Manchester United, despite the red cards, and while he's been more consistent than Mata in recent games, his impact to the team has been slightly more wasteful than clinical—for a player who scored 20 league goals last season. His record of three this term from 29 shots is clearly something that needs to be addressed, but from an outside perspective seems to have gone unnoticed by Di Matteo.
As for Oscar, how he can score four goals in five games from just eight shots in the Champions League this season, but failed to find the net from 18 shots and ten matches in the Premier League is perplexing.
Given his impact in Europe, why Di Matteo didn't try to unlock more from Oscar in the league is baffling, and is probably one of many reasons which led to his departure.
When an Italian manager wins the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the same season, one would think it's due to his tactical genius.
But Roberto Di Matteo has proved, at the highest level anyway, that he isn't the most astute coach tactically.
In the defeat to West Brom for example, Di Matteo tried to bypass the opposition's strong holding two of Claudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu by attacking down the left wing, especially considering right-back was the Baggies weak link with the inexperienced Billy Jones.
The big and obvious flaw in his plan however was that by playing two attack-minded players on the left, Victor Moses and Ryan Bertrand, Di Matteo had left his team exposed on the flanks.
He presumably thought ahead of kick-off this wouldn't be a problem, as most of West Brom's attacks and goals have come from the centre, an area covered by the two holding midfielders Oriol Romeu and John Obi Mikel.
But what he didn't bank on was West Brom's technical ability in being able to attack down one side, and quickly and accurately switch the play across in all areas of the pitch, stretching Chelsea's limited defence.
That's what ultimately cost the Blues, and was most visible in the opener for West Brom which made Chelsea's battle at the Hawthorns all the more uphill.
And as seen most recently in the 3-0 defeat to Juventus, Di Matteo's inability to cope with teams who play a 3-5-2 formation has cost his side on numerous occasions this season.
Having been match-fit for two months after an injury at the start of the campaign, Marko Marin has seen just 20 minutes of competitive action for Chelsea in all competitions this season.
On the bench seven times in the 12 games he's been available and used just the once, the £7 million outlay on the German appears very questionable, and it's safe to say Di Matteo has not used the investment he was given wisely.
Especially considering he played another £7 million summer signing, defender Cesar Azpilicueta, at right midfield in that 3-0 loss to Juventus.
Azpilicueta made his name at Marseille for his ability as a tough-tackling right-back, and his use as a winger against Juve was a waste by Di Matteo, as proven by the Spaniard's failure to have a shot on goal, create a chance, put in any accurate crosses or even hit many forward passes.
Marin, a natural winger, would've been a much more useful option, even if he hasn't featured much for the Blues. At the very least, his pace and dribbling skills could've caused some problems for Kwadwo Asamoah on the left, a player who for all his strengths is slow to make tackles and struggles against speedy opponents.
Azpilicueta and Marin aside, there's also the problem of Daniel Sturridge.
With Fernando Torres never likely to regain top form and no other central striker in the Chelsea ranks, this could have been the season for Sturridge to given the chance to prove whether or not he's good enough to play centrally.
But Di Matteo has preferred to stick with Torres, who has started all 12 league games and yielded a return of just four goals.
And where Torres hasn't played, Di Matteo has preferred to stick Eden Hazard up-front.
A frustrated young striker, a lack of penetrating forward options, a psychologically heavy goalscoring burden placed on the midfielders, and the failure to have a player who can make the difference when it matters most.
While Sturridge might not have been Chelsea's saviour this season, as Abramovich's axe has proved, it wouldn't have hurt Di Matteo to at least give the England striker a chance.
Any spark Roberto Di Matteo may have had last season in guiding Chelsea to an historic European and domestic double clearly disappeared.
In the two trophies the Blues could've won already this term, the FA Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup, Di Matteo's side showed virtually no determination.
When a player is determined to win they'll often track back, ensure all holes defensively are filled, make tackles wherever possible, join the attack at any opportunity and always make sure they are available for a pass.
A player's determination often lies in how motivated they are, which usually stems from the manager's preparations in the days leading up to the game.
Di Matteo clearly failed to motivate his players enough to win those trophies, and has arguably failed to do so in the last three matches—the draw at home to Liverpool, and the defeats away to West Brom and Juventus.
And at various other points this season—the draw with Swansea City, the fortuitous League Cup win over Manchester United, the narrow win over Stoke City, the draw with Queens Park Rangers—Chelsea again have looked lethargic and lacked a cutting-edge.
Perhaps Di Matteo rested on his laurels slightly with the two historic titles last season and that blistering start this campaign.
Either way, his failure to really spark the Chelsea team into action since that swashbuckling 4-2 win at Tottenham Hotspur has ultimately led to his downfall.