Saturday, May 24, 2008

Goodbye, Avram Grant

This was a long time coming, and definitely the right move by chief executive Peter Kenyon. Grant was sacked today as manager, not even a year into his four-year contract. Kenyon and Bruce Buck, the club's chairman, said that Chelsea's performance this season was "simply not good enough", and they're right. As a big club in England, you basically have a one-in-four chance to win a trophy, and Chelsea won none of the four competitions they entered (FA Cup, Carling Cup, Champions League, and Premiership).

The Israeli manager did a decent job after replacing The Special One at Stamford Bridge. His managerial record (26-8-3) was statistically fantastic, there's no doubt.

But let's get something straight. He didn't get it done in the big games, when it matters the most. I could pick a starting XI from Chelsea's roster to beat the Sunderlands, the West Hams, and the Middlesbroughs of the world. That's not difficult. He inherited the squad that Mourinho had built — one that won back-to-back league titles — and had the added benefit of a healthy Michael Ballack.

His team didn't even show up to play in the Carling Cup final against Tottenham. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Barnsley -- BARNSLEY. Grant was outcoached in the Champions League final earlier this week, which I firmly believe now upon further reflection although I didn't think that was the case immediately after the game. He always allowed the opposing manager to make the first move in a game and then tried to counter it, even though the best managers have proven that they are the ones who dictate how the game will be played. He repeatedly took off his best player/s in games, whether it was Joe Cole, Salomon Kalou, or whoever. His one major purchase in the January transfer window, Nicholas Anelka, barely had a role in Chelsea's first team despite scoring goals left and right at Bolton with very little talent around him.

Grant has no qualifications on his résumé that would indicate he had the experience and ability to lead one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Sorry, managing Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa isn't even close. Managing Israel's national team isn't even close. Israel didn't qualify for either of the two major tournaments (Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006) they wanted to enter during Grant's tenure. Being the technical director or director of football, whatever you want to call it, at Portsmouth for one season isn't even close.

Let's be clear. The only reason Grant got this job in the first place was because of his close friendship with Roman Abramovich, the club's owner.

As soon as Chelsea lost the final on Wednesday to Manchester United, who has, without exaggeration, the best manager in the world in Sir Alex Ferguson, you always knew Grant was going to get his walking papers. It was just a question of when, and we got the answer today.

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