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On Roman's Rule

Our enigmatic owner continues his battle between instant gratification and the prospect of long-term evolution. In the wake of RDM's sacking, we look at both sides of the coin.

Clive Rose

In many ways, it's become our tradition. Another manager departs Cobham with his office in boxes for the umpteenth time in as many years. Much has already been said about Roberto's reign; the glorious triumph of Munich still fresh in the minds of many. Yet the pitfalls, namely the last three weeks of capitulation, were evidence enough for Roman Abramovich and his associates to terminate RDM's tenure at the helm. In the space of six months, Di Matteo will go from the greatest glory a manager on the continent can taste to sitting at home unemployed. Harsh. A decision of this gravity undoubtedly came from the top down, which once again implies that our ever-benevolent benefactor has blood on his hands. That he elected to part company with a club legend of Robbie's stature despite the furor it would invoke from the club's loyal patrons speaks volumes about the true nature of our Russian oligarch.

We want to believe that Roman shares our understanding of the clubs history; that he recognizes the role many have played in making Chelsea a resounding success. We often rationalize that, at his core, he understands the implications of certain decisions. It helps us sleep at night. Surely, he wouldn't cut ties with Robbie, a legend in his own right when you consider his playing days in Blue and his recent success as an interim manager, right? Wrong, clearly. It's high time we as fans take a bitter dose of reality and recognize the machinations that make our club so successful and so clearly misguided stem directly from our owner's fickle nature. And we, as one, have to be okay with this. There's no middle ground for us to meet. It's Roman's world, and we're just living in his grace.

The deeper concern, once again, is what reverberates from Di Matteo's departure. It's no secret that Roberto was not his first-choice manager this summer. Everyone with a pulse can track the trajectory of Pep Guardiola to Chelsea rumors, and we all agree that when Roman sets his mind on something, he tends to get it. But Robbie's success last season ultimately handcuffed Roman and company. They couldn't, in good conscience, cut ties with him when they had just reached the summit of the highest mountain- that illusive peak Roman so desperately ached to climb for years. In some respects, I feel Roman was lying in wait for this annual winter drop-off. He installed Roberto at the helm, and gambled on the pretense that Pep would change his tune after a few months of watching the season from New York, and would rush into the picture to save the day. Based on the rumors that continue to churn, that's clearly not the case.

Roman will likely be forced to wait until June to ink Pep, and his temporary fix will likely be Rafa Benitez. Fact. That Benitez comes to The Bridge with so much scorn and derision is hardly a surprise. That Roman elects to ignore the overwhelming disdain of so many loyal supporters is more intriguing. His vision has always been to put an attractive product on the pitch- underscored by the tremendous financial outlay on world-class players over the past four years. After an extended period of austerity (by his standards) Chelsea have of late embarked on a hell-be-damned approach to snapping up prodigious talent from all reaches of the globe. The early results were strong enough to suggest that everything might just work out fine. Players of technical and flair abilities were recruited and Roberto was tasked with the responsibility of getting these diminutive superstars to work together to produce scintillating attacking football. But, this desire has and will always be tethered to Roman's unwillingness to sacrifice immediate success.

Though he may want Chelsea to evolve and become a feared attacking side that relies on counters and tiki-taka possession, he refuses to budge on the notion that growth should not come at the expense of wins. Frankly, he doesn't need to compromise here. With the amount of talent we boast on paper, we should (in theory) be competitive every single time we take the pitch. Yet the reality remains that for Chelsea to become the side he desires, there will be plenty of nights like yesterday in Turin. We will lose, savagely. We will fight back from the death, and we will sometimes make it look very easy. So it goes when you're in the midst of a transition period of this variety. What's more disappointing is that fans tend to be more accommodating of such change than the owner himself. We took the last three weeks with a grain of salt, knowing that the ends would justify the means. Yet Roman didn't share that confidence.

In the end, Roberto can leave with his head high. Roman will install Rafa for the time being, hoping that we can shore up our season which presently teeters on the brink of media-portrayed chaos. Internally, Abramovich will need to figure out what matters to him more. Winning today, or tomorrow. They are not mutually-inclusive, and I suspect on some level he knows this. Yet he continues to invest his money on the promise that the right combination of ingredients will get the desired result. It's just a shame that Roberto had to make way in this process. And so it goes under Roman's rule. You never quite know where he stands from day to day.

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