Chelsea: A tale of 10 managers in 10 years (Part One)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea embraces Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Everton FC at Stamford Bridge on March 08, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea embraces Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Everton FC at Stamford Bridge on March 08, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

Chelsea’s had an interesting last 10 years with 10 different managers, here’s a deep dive into the gaffers pre-Jose Mourinho.

As Chelsea ends the second decade of the 21st century and the world is coming to terms with a pandemic that has swept the globe, club legend Frank Lampard is still the man to lead the Blues forward. The last ten years have had their ups and downs in managerial terms; there are some that are loved to this day and others that will never hold favour with fans.

Back in 2010, one of the good guys of football was leading London’s finest team and playing the type of football Roman Abramovich dreamt of when he took the club over in 2003. Carlo Ancelotti had been in charge since the summer of 2009 and would end his first season grabbing the clubs first ever league and cup double. The first game of the decade was on the 3rd of January when Watford visited Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup—it was a typical Ancelotti performance. Chelsea was 3-0 up in the first 20 minutes, going on to win the game 5-0. That victory was followed by a 7-2 Premier League win at home to Sunderland.

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It’s easy to look back now and see why Ancelotti was so loved by the Blues faithful. Having wrapped up that first ever double, the following season began the same way with a 6-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. A good start to the season dropped off in November and December and the media were soon suggesting the Italian’s job was coming under pressure. A new year though saw an improved Chelsea. A series of league wins would jump the Blues up to second place in the Premier League.

Carlo Ancelotti was fired by Chelsea following a 1-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park, and it was as sad as it was shocking. At the time, his league win percentage was third behind Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson. Ancelotti remains one of Chelsea’s finest managers throughout history. His teams played scintillating football that was very easy on the eye; something his replacement, Andre Villas-Boas, never really achieved.

After Ancelotti’s departure, Villas-Boas’ arrival was underwhelming, to say the least. He arrived having the pedigree of being Mourinho’s former side-kick, so that gave him some kudos, but Chelsea supporters never took to him as the main man. Part of the problem for AVB was that he appeared to have been put in place to try and reduce the average age of the starting XI. Sending firm favourites like John Terry and Frank Lampard to the bench never endeared him to supporters. Throughout his tenure, unrest in the dressing room over his training methodology and attitude towards the playing staff were mooted in the press. The relationship was only ever going to end in one way. On March 4, 2012, after a 1-0 defeat against West Brom, Villas-Boas was given his marching orders. The relief amongst players and supporters alike was clear to see in the games that immediately followed.

Roberto Di Matteo, Villas-Boas’ assistant, will live long in the memory of Chelsea fans. His appointment as caretaker manager following AVB’s departure was a popular one. As a former player, he could do no wrong. A 2-0 win away at Birmingham City in the FA Cup was followed by a 1-0 win at home Stoke City in the league, a steady start. The next game set him firmly on the road of notoriety. Whilst AVB’s Chelsea legacy left them floundering in the murky waters of a Champions League exit at the hands of Napoli following a 3-1 defeat out in Italy, Di Matteo’s Blues spectacularly turned the tie around at Stamford Bridge. On an unforgettable night, Branislav Ivanovich sealed the extra-time winner after the game was tied at 4-4 over the two legs. From that game on, Chelsea looked a different team.

Of course, it’s well documented that Di Matteo took Chelsea to Champions League glory in Munich. As well as that, his side defeated Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 in the FA Cup semi-final and Liverpool 2-1 in the actual final. As caretaker manager, Di Matteo must be considered the best in the history of football. After that, Abramovich had no option other than to give him the gig full time. He was only given a two-year contract though, that suggests the club were less than confident he’d be a success. That was borne out when he was sacked following a poor run of form in November. Like Ancelotti though, he’ll forever be fondly remembered by Chelsea fans, the same can certainly not be said about his predecessor.

It’s difficult to quantify just how badly Chelsea supporters reacted to the arrival of Rafael Benitez. If many thought Di Matteo’s sacking was harsh, the arrival of former Liverpool manager Benitez exacerbated that much further. It was the start of a period that would see Chelsea’s fan base become more divided than it had ever been.

Looking at Benitez’s time in charge objectively, he did his job surprisingly well in what were very difficult circumstances. He was relentlessly booed by sections of Chelsea’s stadium supporters for comments made previously about them whilst at Liverpool. From the start though, it was made clear by the manager and the Chelsea board that his time with the club would only be temporary. True to their words, Benitez left the club at the end of that season having won the Europa League and having secured Chelsea’s spot in the following season’s Champions League.

dark. Next. Why Frank Lampard is still the man for Chelsea going forward

The interim one set the 2013-14 season up nicely for the return of a special one.