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Pre-Match Thread Southend Seek To Add To Scolari's Woes


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Don't panic on the first line, you haven't got the day wrong. This is for tomorrow's paper!

Six months ago, who could have believed that Chelsea would see tonight’s trip to Southend as anything other than a formality? For just a brief period at the start of his reign, Luiz Felipe Scolari appeared to have created the side that Roman Abramovich had always wanted. A team packed with flair and pace that dared to attack and keep attacking until the final whistle blew. Rival supporters and neutrals will no doubt rejoice at the dramatic decline of the London side, but there is something a little sad about the missed opportunity to create something special at Stamford Bridge. Watching Chelsea grind out results was painful, but who would have begrudged them their glory if it had been achieved with the verve of those early days?

Perhaps Jose Mourinho understood Chelsea’s predicament better than anyone. He understood that every opponent would raise their game against them and he knew that the concept of the team was more important than the pride of individuals. There would have been no pre-match row with Nicolas Anelka, as alleged in one UK tabloid yesterday, because there would have been no Anelka. If he’d have had his way, there would have been no black moods from Michael Ballack because he wouldn’t be there either. Mourinho’s clear ideology and leadership was the principle reason for Chelsea’s success.

But that success wasn’t enough for the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge. They wanted marketable superstars, t-shirt sales and increased Asian revenue streams and, with the greatest of respect, you just don‘t get that from Ricardo Carvalho. They forced Ballack and Andreiy Shevchenko into the squad on enormous wages. They undermined Mourinho with a Director of Football and then forced him out altogether. His departure left a power vacuum that was eagerly filled by self-important, conflicting factions from across the club. Now Chelsea reap the whirlwind.

Scolari has inherited a squad of powerful personalities, many of them belonging to ageing bodies and he’s not allowed to replace any of them. I’ve watched him shrug his way through numerous press conferences as he is pushed on potential signings. His answer is always to, “ask Peter Kenyon.” He is head coach of a club with a hopeless youth system, with a scouting team that has been stripped bare and an owner who has severed the umbilical cord of cash. Lifting and buoying the players is his only hope, but confidence is rock bottom and there are murmurs of discontent from all corners of the club. I’m told that the first team squad have just had their matchday ticket allocation halved so that the club can fit more high-paying corporate bottoms into the stadium and they’re not amused.

I didn’t believe that Chelsea were in trouble until I saw their capitulation at Old Trafford. The inertia that carried them through the second half of last season is gone and, without clear leadership, the club is fraying at the edges. The gulf in class between their squad and Southend United is still so vast that they should win tonight’s clash comfortably, but if there is another surprise, if Peter Clarke can muster up another exploitation of Chelsea’s defensive shortcomings, the shockwaves will be seismic. The only weapon that Southend have at their disposal is their unflinching bravery, but if Chelsea can’t match them in that department then their technical superiority will mean nothing. This could be an interesting night.