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Chelsea fires Roberto Di Matteo; is high level hubris at work?

Nov 21, 2012, 9:59 AM EDT

Juventus v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

It can be stunning how much our game here, so different in finance, structure and quality, also can be exactly the same as their game, over there.

At the big, organizational level, some of the very same mistakes undermine club level pursuits. And plenty of those mistakes have roots in two lusty sins: entitlement and the attached delusional expectations, and a failure to properly assign blame.

To be specific, clubs that expect to win it all are exposing a mentality that contains poisonous elements of entitlement (“We deserve more titles!”) and hubris at the highest levels (“We picked the right players, so any failure is clearly the manager’s fault … because upper management simply cannot be wrong.”)

We give you the Chelsea Football Club.

You probably know that Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was, as they say in his current country of employment, “sacked.”

Never mind that he guided the Blues to a Champions League title six months ago. And that he packaged that with an FA Cup crown. Truly, in the hyper competitive world of English and continental soccer, it’s quite an impressive haul.

Matteo, however, was not en route to a landmark campaign of achievement in the 2012-13 campaign – so in the owner eye’s he is clearly unfit to lead the collection of blue chip Blues.

Only, let’s look at this collection:

As the excellent Gabriel Marcotti points out in this piece, the problem isn’t Matteo, it’s the men he’s coaching.

Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge as the top pair of strikers? Hmmm. As Marcotti says, “That was not Di Matteo’s decision; somebody further up the food chain needs to take ownership of that.”

And then this from Marcotti:

Thinking that four central midfielders — one of them somewhat limited (John Obi Mikel), one of them a recycled wide player (Ramires), one of them 34 (Frank Lampard) and one of them just turned 21 with little experience (Oriol Romeu) — could be enough to see you through the campaign was equally silly. And equally not down to Di Matteo.”

Spot-on.

High-level hubris and the inability to recognize that every coach cannot win every title every year – after all, clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, etc., are pretty good, too – is a poor starting point for organizations anywhere.

  1. dfstell - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    I kinda look at it as how nature keeps some of these super high-spending teams in check. It’s like the Yankees and Red Sox in baseball…..if they were also well run and were willing to have a down-year to retool/rebuild, they would be REALLY scary.

    Same with Chelsea. With the resources they have, they should be scarier than they are, but they do things like overspend for players who don’t quite fit and fire managers way too often.

    It’s almost like the Greeks thinking about tragic flaws: great man, but was overcome by hubris/greed/impatience/etc.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      Hmmm. A very insightful and thought-provoking comment. And “greed” is a great word to roll out here … wish I had used that one.

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