The Enemy Within: Why Chelsea Could Do Worse Than Plan For Life After Drog
For Luis Felipe Scolari, life in the Premiership has become a challenging enterprise. After a golden start to his career in England, the clouds have slowly started rolling in. Defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as unconvincing results against West Ham and Newcastle have seen them off the pace in the league.
While in the Champions League—Scolari's main target-Chelsea finished an unconvincing second, in a group they really should have won, and now face a tricky tie against a resurgent Juventus side.
Worse for Scolari, much appears ill in the Chelsea camp-a camp which was harmonious and united under Mourinho- very cornerstones of his success. Rumours of player discontent because of dissatisfaction over training methods, unrest because of preferential treatment for Deco and disagreements over transfer funds have undermined the favourable opinion in which Scolari was held.
Perhaps worst of all for Scolari was the details that emerged this week of a feud involving Didier Drogba and the rest of the squad, who have tired of the star striker's continued complaints about life at Stamford Bridge.
The problem is, that Drogba is a striker from the top drawer, whose very presence on the pitch gives Chelsea another dimension altogether.
Though Anelka has been prolific, in the tight matches-especially against the bigger teams, his predatory skills and sly movements are often not enough. Whereas Drogba's sheer physical dominance not only bullies defenders into submission but also distracts them enough to provide space for his team-mates, and often it is this which wins Chelsea those even matches.
Yet what Scolari must weigh up is whether Drogba's qualities as a striker on the pitch make up for his continual complaints about life at the Bridge, his isolation from his team-mates and the disruption he is causing throughout the Chelsea squad.
In this case Scolari perhaps could look at Sir Alex Ferguson as an example of what course of action he should take next.
In 2006 Ferguson took an incredibly bold decision, deciding to sell Ruud Van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid.
In terms of playing ability, Van Nistelrooy was still in prolific form (form which has yet to abate at Real), but in terms of overall contribution, Van Nistelrooy was becoming a nuisance. He began to act petulantly, often talked down to his younger team-mates, and contributed less to the team.
This case turned out well for Ferguson, his teams play became less dependent on Van Nistelrooy, and allowed the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo to become the focal points of the attack—through which both they and United have thrived.
Perhaps this is the point that Scolari has reached with Drogba. Undoubtedly the man is a world class striker, but his actions off the pitch are beginning to impact his effectiveness on the pitch. If Scolari were to sell him, the benefits could be threefold.
Firstly, it rids the squad of a player who is damaging morale and team spirit. Secondly, it provides money for Scolari to spend on players of his own choice-Drogba will not be short of suitors. Finally, perhaps most importantly, it will send out a statement of intent for Scolari, that such behaviour will not be tolerated and above all that Scolari is not to be underestimated.
Though they would miss him on the pitch, it is off the pitch that Drogba is doing the most damage these days. But both Scolari and Chelsea in this instance could do a lot worse than start planning for life after Drog.
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