With seven wins from his first nine games, progressing to the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup, everything is running smoothly for Roberto Di Matteo since he replaced Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea caretaker manager. But the Italian is not the long-term solution at Stamford Bridge.
Yes, the former Milton Keynes Dons and West Bromwich Albion manager has done well to turn Chelsea’s form around following a 1-0 defeat at the Hawthorns in the Premier League; the game that proved to be AVB’s downfall. But the former holder of the quickest FA Cup final goal has yet to do anything special during his time in charge.
Roberto Di Matteo opened his caretaker account with a 2-0 victory in an FA Cup replay at Championship side Birmingham City, before beating 10-man Stoke 1-0 in the Premier League. Didier Drogba fired home midway through the second half to pick up 3 points for the Blues in what was anything but a convincing performance. At the time though, 3 points were all that mattered.
3 points were followed up by overturning a 1-3 deficit at the hands of Napoli in the Champions League. His predecessor hadn’t left Chelsea in the best of positions, but with help of a late penalty followed by Branislav Ivanovic’s extra time winner, Chelsea pulled off a surprise victory to progress to the quarter finals as England’s only remaining side in Europe.
Napoli, who looked sharp in the first leg victory, helped by some poor Chelsea defending weren’t on their game in the second leg and Chelsea deserved to go through on the night. The Italians defending was not the best at time, whilst more importantly they were wasteful in front of goal, particularly when the score was 0-0 at the Bridge.
A 5-2 victory over Championship mid-table team Leicester City in the FA Cup was nothing more than expected. However, this game marked the return of Fernando Torres who was involved in just about everything that went right for Chelsea that day. Including a brace of his own.
The Blues had a chance to hand Manchester United a favour in the title race in a midweek game in March when they travelled to the Etihad. They looked on course to do just that when Gary Cahill’s deflected effort gave the visitors the lead on the hour mark. However, the Roberto in the opposite corner won the tactical battle in the final 15 minutes as Mancini’s side came back to win late on.
A disappointing Mario Balotelli was replaced at half time and for the final 25 minutes, Carlos Tevez made his long-awaited return to spark the comeback. With help of a Sergio Aguero penalty that levelled the score, it was Tevez’s superb assist to setup Samir Nasri’s winner that handed Di Matteo his first defeat as Chelsea manager.
An out-of-form Tottenham side held Chelsea to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, before the Blues went to Portugal and recorded a 1-0 victory over Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final match.
The second leg on Wednesday night produced another uninspiring victory. A Frank Lampard penalty midway through the first half followed by Maxi Pereira’s red card before half time seemingly but the game beyond reach for the Lisbon side. However, Chelsea’s failure to put the game away lead to a nervy ending when Javi Garcia headed in an equaliser with 5 minutes to go from an unchallenged corner.
Yes, Raul Meirelese settled the tie with a great strike on a breakaway in stoppage time, but nerves amongst the home support were uncalled for by Di Matteo’s side. Benfica’s central defence partnership from the beginning of the game consisted of a central midfielder and a left back, due to the absence of four natural centre backs. One could only imagine the damage a Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney or even Papiss Cisse would have done to this defence, but Chelsea failed to convince.
Following Maxi Pereira’s red card, central midfielder Axel Witsel played more than a half out of position at right full back. A 2-1 win over this side is hardly going to put any fear into the defending European champions.
In between their Champions League quarter final matches, Chelsea pulled off a 4-2 victory over a disappointing and youthful Aston Villa side. Even then, they threw away a 2-goal lead late on before goals in the final 10 minutes from Ivanovic and Torres spared any blushes.
I cannot deny Roberto Di Matteo is getting the right results, albeit with a side that were second favourites to win the Premier League at the start of the season. At this stage he appears little more than a motivator to me. And although he did take the second strongest squad out of the Championship as runners up with West Brom (which is no mean feat), I do not believe he has what it takes to compete for the Premier League title.
1 point from 2 games against sides in the top 4 goes a small way towards trying to put my point across.