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No doubt: Chelsea needed to move on

Chelsea
Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea on Sunday.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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The story of the weekend is clearly Andre Villas-Boas. And let’s get it right out of the way: He deserved to be sacked by Chelsea.

Over the short time Villas-Boas was at the club, he made several bad decisions out of inexperience. He made poor choices on his relationships with his players, showed a lack of knowledge with certain tactics, and his game management was poor. He came in with a big reputation, but he’s still a young man. In the end, Chelsea is a big job - it’s for experienced managers, which he just is not yet.

It was a big gamble, and I think it flopped because he is simply too young. He has had success, but it came in a less competitive league. Winning in Portugal is not like winning in Germany, Italy, Spain or England. Learning that lesson has been a costly mistake for Chelsea.

The cracks began to show at Old Trafford. There was a point in their game against Manchester United where you got the sense that United could run the score up as they did against Arsenal. I think the players have to look at themselves, too, but it was in that game that Villa-Boas first started to look like a man alone on a desert island.

Speaking of the players, they do have to look in the mirror. I’m not just talking about Fernando Torres. I’m talking about everyone. But, a lot of people have talked about the “old players” on Chelsea, and suggested they were somehow conspiring against Villas-Boas. That’s nonsense.

John Terry and Ashley Cole are 31. Frank Lampard is 33. These are not ancient guys and are men who would have given Villas-Boas another couple of good years. Instead, as soon as he took the job, he signaled that he wanted to rid these core players. Naturally, the players’ reaction was to prove him wrong – as mine would have been. Instead of letting them show they still had it, he isolated them. That was wrong.

Remember, Chelsea had been very successful. This core group had led them to titles and to regular play in Europe. But after Villas-Boas, they are now fighting to qualify for Europe next season. That’s shocking, given the talent they have, and it shows you how badly Villas-Boas handled the club. If anything, with Daniel Sturridge coming through, they should have been stronger, not weaker.

I look at the team Arsene Wenger took over when he joined Arsenal. Tony Adams, Steve Bould, David Seaman and Lee Dixon were some of the hardest, most established players in the league. Adams had openly questioned Wenger’s appointment at the time, but in his second year, and on these “old players’” backs, Wenger had won the FA Cup and the Premier League. Wenger knew not to change the chemistry of a solid club; instead he treated them like men and professionals. That is the direction Villas-Boas should have taken but did not.

One of the biggest mistakes Villas-Boas made was how he handled Nicolas Anelka and Alex after their transfer requests. I was in a situation like that at Newcastle – when Ruud Gullit sent Robert Lee, Alan Shearer, Stuart Pearce and John Barnes to train with our kids. I cannot think of four better professionals, and that kind of treatment left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Everyone felt disrespected, and the club never recovered from it.

POLL

  • Who was the best Chelsea player against Bayern Munich?
    • Didier Drogba
    • Petr Cech
    • Frank Lampard
    • David Luiz
    • Juan Mata

Can Roberto Di Matteo turn things around? I honestly think you or I could go in with that group and turn it around. That squad has a lot of pride, and all they need to be given their freedom. Treat them like grown-ups and they will perform and win trophies. I think we will see Chelsea now go on a run, and the teams that must be devastated are Arsenal and Napoli. If I’m on those teams, I would have been hoping Chelsea would have held off on making the change.

I do think Villas-Boas will return to managing a squad soon. In fact, by the time you read this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Claudio Ranieri is out of a job at Inter Milan with Villas-Boas in his place. Villas-Boas will also come out of this better and stronger, even though I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way to him right now.

You can follow my Twitter feed, @warrenbarton2, and ask me questions via the @FoxSoccer. I’ll do my best to answer them here each weekend and on the air. Please join me and the gang for Champions League this week, and thanks as always for reading.

Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.

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