Scolari sacked: Spineless Chelsea players made Big Phil a dead man walking
Published 00:00 10/02/09 By By Martin Lipton Chief Football Writer
The end came swiftly, the knife wielded by the oligarch who has been the Invisible Man of Stamford Bridge for months.
But while Roman Abramovich flew back into the country to put Luiz Felipe Scolari out of his misery, the Brazilian had been locked in a tailspin to disaster for three months.
Scolari's fate was sealed by Saturday's miserable home stalemate with Hull, a result which underlined the decline of the relentless empire constructed by Jose Mourinho.
Where the Chelsea board had wanted signs of a response to the desperate defeat at Anfield six days earlier, they saw only a directionless, insipid and spineless side, being led by a man who did not know where he was going.
The fear, one that had been growing at boardroom level for weeks, was that Scolari's final destination would be a Champions League exit at the hands of Claudio Ranieri and fifth place - or worse - in the Premier League, a double debacle that Abramovich simply could not stomach.
Scolari accepted his fate meekly, hurt feelings cushioned by the £7.5million due under the terms of his contract.
He maintained he should have been given more time, his agent Acaz Fellegger blaming the failure to sign Robinho.
But it was Scolari's failure to react to the alarm signals that exploded in Rome's Stadio Olimpico on November 4 that made him the shortest-lived of Abramovich's four Blues bosses - and the least successful.
Chelsea flew to the Eternal City confident of sending out a marker to their Champions League rivals by crushing Roma and qualifying with two games to spare.
They left bedraggled and wretched, angry dressing-room vitriol from a furious John Terry ringing in their ears.
"We didn't show the fight and desire that's got us where we've been over the last few years," raged Terry. "We sort of strolled in, thinking we were better than them, when clearly we're not.
"You need to fight and show more determination and win the game. If it comes down to quality, then nine times out of 10 we're better than most sides.
"But if we don't fight we're going to be out-battled and then we didn't have the quality either. If we're going to perform like that we will get nowhere near the Champions League Final. That's the simple fact."
Terry's words should have been the wake-up call. Instead, Scolari slumbered as his grip on the steering wheel loosened.
Terry and Frank Lampard went in a deputation to demand a greater intensity to their work as initial grumblings of disquiet about a lax training ground regime festered.
On the pitch, too, it was beginning to slide. The Carling Cup exit at the hands of Burnley was embarrassing, before a 0-0 home draw with Newcastle and a shocking display at Bordeaux, when their set-piece vulnerabilities emerged.
Training ground rifts followed with Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba as Deco, given preferential treatment to Joe Cole, was forced to deny he was the 'teacher's pet'.
Losing, controversially, to Arsenal demonstrated that the Stamford Bridge fortress had crumbled but the problems were growing, one win in five games at the turn of the year - including being held by Southend - leading to a public humiliation at Old Trafford.
In the brutal aftermath of a 3-0 defeat on a night that saw some Chelsea fans leaving their scarves behind in disgust, Scolari sought first to question himself - and then to turn on his players.
Scolari said: "We lose everything, or we are men and we regroup. It is only this way.
The second way is dead. I am not a man for this and my players I think are not the men for this."
Yet just two days later, ahead of the replay at Roots Hall, it was different as Scolari accused some of his stars of operating at just "35-40 per cent" of the required level. It was a stance that risked a dressing-room backlash from players wondering if the 61-year-old was now seeking a lucrative pension payment.
Four straight wins lifted some of the strain, but simply papered over the yawning cracks.
From outside, it was clear that Scolari's side were one bad result away from spontaneous combustion.
The bad result duly came at Anfield, the conflagration went on public display against Hull.
When Terry, asked to raise spirits on Saturday, admitted: "We've not been good enough. We're miles away from where we were in 2004-05", it was a Groundhog Day response.
Three months on from Rome and things had only deteriorated. Oligarchs did not become oligarchs by showing patience or weakness. Abramovich spoke to Terry and Lampard out of courtesy.
Scolari was a dead man walking. Last night, for the final time, he walked out of Cobham, never to return.
Gone and unlamented.
ROMAN'S MEN: HOW THE BOSSES COMPARE
Luiz Felipe Scolari (2008-2009)
P36 W20 D5 L11
Avram Grant (2007-2008)
P54 W36 D5 L13
66.66% win percentage
Jose Mourinho (2004-2007)
P185 W124 D21 L40
67.03% win percentage
Claudio Ranieri (2000-2004)
P199 W107 D46 L46
53.7% win percentage
Scolari highs & lows in his seven months
July 8 Scolari unveiled as Blues boss but walks into a bust-up with Frank Lampard after claiming the England midfielder would be signing a new contract to stay at the club.
August 17 Superb start to the season as the "Blue Brazil"
smash four past Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge. Scolari's team look the real deal.
August 31 The first cracks as struggling Spurs take a point from the Bridge. Scolari left stunned as Chelsea board refuse to be bounced into matching Manchester City's £32million deadline day bid for Robinho, who moves to Eastlands instead OCTOBER 5 Aston Villa destroyed and Martin O'Neill admits it could have been five, six or seven as the fluent Blues give what proves to be the highwater mark of the Scolari reign.
October 26 The 86-game unbeaten home league run started by Ranieri and continued by Mourinho and Grant is destroyed by Xabi Alonso's early deflected strike for Liverpool. It is more than a blip.
November 4 Hopes of waltzing through in the Champions League come crashing down in a 3-1 defeat by Roma as Terry raps his team-mates for lacking "fight and desire".
November 12 Humiliating penalty shoot out exit from Carling Cup at the hands of Burnley raises the stakes again.
December 9 A less than impressive win over Romanian minnows Cluj ensures Chelsea's European progress but the doubts are growing on the manager.
January 3 Southend defender Peter Clarke stuns the Bridge with the last-gasp FA Cup equaliser that further underlines the case against Scolari. Now it's getting serious.
January 11 The ultimate humiliation, destroyed 3-0 at Manchester United as the Brazilian seems clueless and inept, his players lacking motivation and commitment.
January 17 Frank Lampard completes a remarkable escape act against Stoke as a joyous Scolari is buried under a mountain of blue shirts. Lampard suggests it could be the turning point.
February 1 In fact, it is the turning point into another culde-sac as Fernando Torres scores twice in a minute to effectively end their title hopes. Six days later, the draw with Hull seals his fate.
February 9 Abramovich (right) signs Scolari's death warrant at an emergency training ground summit. The Brazilian has lasted just seven months and 36 games.
Get your hands on this week's estimated jackpot of £100,000 by playing the
New Football Pools
Find out what our resident Premier League fan bloggers think - and let them know your views.
Follow every Premier League game live with our brilliant Match Tracker .