When Chelsea and Jose Mourinho split company for the second time, a shudder was felt throughout west London. Stamford Bridge's most beloved manager and the direct architect of three Premier League titles was gone, but, more importantly, so was the three-year illusion of stability.
The Portuguese's return was supposed to be different; since his last match at Chelsea's helm in 2007, the Blues ran through four full-time mangers and five interim/caretaker managers—Mourinho was meant to rectify the mistakes of his first stint and write a newer, more lasting chapter in club history.
That didn't happen.
Floundering in the depths of the Premier League's table, Chelsea's board (despite winning two domestic trophies in 2014/15) concluded change was necessary and sacked released Mourinho after two-and-a-half seasons.
Based on previous history, Mourinho's sacking was an expected outcome. Chelsea have shown, since Roman Abramovich's arrival in 2003, a distinct lack of patience in regard to managerial tenure. One could make the argument that Chelsea's robust handling of managers creates an environment for success—that having a short leash keeps players and managers attentive to the club's established ambitions.
While certainly practical in theory, the application becomes untenable, if not unbearable.
A merry-go-round of incoming and outgoing bosses, philosophies and expectations induces stress. Chelsea is an attractive proposition for most managers, but to lure one of the world's coveted footballing minds—whether Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone, etc.—they would have to provide assurances.
Abramovich's club can obviously sell assurances, but they are never fulfilled.
Sampaoli Koeman Simeone Guardiola Allegri Pellegrini #CFC had no clue what they were gonna do when they sacked Mourinho. Impulsive.— ChelseaTalk (@ChelseaTaIk) January 22, 2016
Dispatching the club's greatest manager less than a year after he won the championship, one must ask if Chelsea even have a blueprint going forward. A venerable host of names are linked with the west London position after interim manager Guus Hiddink completes his task, but why would any world-class manager take the position when they know its lifespan is at best three seasons?
Many get the feeling Chelsea's decision to sack Mourinho was more impulse than anything. Recent results are still miles from respectable. Hiddink has drawn four of the five matches he has overseen in the Premier League; though slightly better from the position they were in, dropping eight of 15 points wasn't exactly what the Dutchman was hired for.
Compounded with their handling of managers, the club also have a peculiar method of using their talent. Far too often players are lost on loan, never to be heard from again (or certainly never to be featured at Stamford Bridge). Furthermore, the carousel of managers leaves far too many youth players stranded.
Mourinho wasn't one to play youngsters when he had the opportunity to play veterans, but the Portuguese had plans to introduce Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy and Bertrand Traore into his first team (along with the close-to-established Kurt Zouma)—abject results didn't allow these prospects many chances to prove themselves.
Unable to maintain a long-term manager, and seemingly incapable of integrating academy stars into their first team, Chelsea are entering one of the most pivotal years of the Abramovich era.
If, indeed, the west Londoners have no blueprint—and are flying by the seat of their proverbial pants—trouble looms. The next manager must contend with a £600 million stadium, as reported by the Daily Mail's Adam Shergold. He must also navigate the murky waters of Chelsea's loan/transfer systems, selling players he doesn't want and finding ones he does.
Who that is, and what he'll do, is a mystery to most; the most worrying part for Chelsea supporters is that mystery likely extends all the way to Abramovich's luxury suite.