The Russian Connection

Question: What is the common thread between the just-ended Russian presidential elections and the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas by Chelsea?

Answer: Besides the obvious Russian connection provided by Roman Abramovich, it can be argued that both events were expected, had been planned extensively behind-the-scenes and that from now onwards business will continue as usual going forward.

Vladimir Putin has recently been re-elected as president of Russia as he convincingly won the elections held recently in that country. With protests occurring immediately after the release of results in Moscow and other urban areas and with a group of international observers proclaiming that the elections were not free and fair, Putin was naturally quick to proclaim his innocence and state that all was above board.

For those who might be unaware, Putin has always been pulling the strings of the Russian government and has merely been on a sabbatical since 2008 whilst his proxy Dmitri Medvedev sat in the seat of president and acted as such whilst receiving orders from Putin. Medvedev clearly had no real power and was merely the marionette whilst Putin pulled the strings.

Meanwhile, several thousand kilometres away a London-based football club owned by a Russian were relieving their latest manager of his duties. Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by Roman Abramovich in the wake of a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon. Rumours have abounded for weeks and months that the Portuguese manager was in the cross hairs of the Russian oligarch, apparently due to the fact that “some senior players” were not happy with his management style and wanted him out.

Similarly to Medvedev it would appear that whoever the incumbent manager is at Chelsea, that person is always just the puppet whilst this cabal of senior players seem to pull the strings and whisper directly into the ear of Abramovich.

Who are the so-called senior players? The group would seem to include John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba. This core group of players have been with Chelsea Football Club since the 2004-05 season and have seen 7 managers come and go, whilst they have all remained. Admittedly, the team enjoyed plenty of success under Mourinho between 2004 and 2007 and have the trophies in the cabinet to back this up.

However, it is curious that the blame for any of Chelsea Football Club’s recent lack of success seems to fall at the door of the manager whilst the team of players (with the notable exception of Fernando Torres) seem to escape any blame. The situation is reminiscent of Liverpool under Roy Hodgson at the start of the 2010-11 season, when the players (deliberately?) underperformed to such an extent that the Board decided to fire Hodgson and bring back favourite son, Kenny Dalglish.

The last manager before Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti lost his job having won the domestic double in his first season in charge of the club (2009-10 season), but was dismissed at the end of the following season having come second in the Premier League.

What does this all mean for Chelsea Football Club? Just like the Russian presidential election – not much. As surely as the sun rises in the east, Abramovich’s millions will prove enough to lure yet another manager to the club to begin the thankless task of trying to bring the glory days back to Chelsea. Whoever that person is, he would be well advised to befriend certain senior players as soon as he arrives.

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