Alex Chick

Robbie, Rafa, Pep – Do managers even matter?

There wasn't much to say about Chelsea sacking Roberto Di Matteo, except: "Yes, that's what they do."

The statement announcing the manager's departure contained no pretence that this was a difficult or gut-wrenching decision.

Here's what it said: "The team's recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the Board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season."

In other words, the way to spice things up heading into the busy Christmas period is to change the manager.

A switch in the dug-out might be just the thing to jolt them out of their autumn slump.

And so the appointment of Rafa Benitez comes as little surprise. Here is a man to supply some steel and organisation; a man capable of making an instant impact.

He may be just a quick fix, but that is all Chelsea require.

Based on recent history, it is impossible to conclude that Chelsea have any interest in securing a top-class manager for the long term.

Of course they want Pep Guardiola, but that's because he's something to be lusted after, like a Fendi handbag - not because Abramovich would be willing to build the club around Guardiola's methods.

Many clubs talk about 'projects' - but how many actually have a meaningful one? Not many.

And in the few cases where a true project does exist, it outlives mere managers.

Barcelona weren't exactly bore merchants pre-Guardiola under Frank Rijkaard, were they? And Tito Vilanova has changed their style of play how much, exactly?

Or look at Swansea, whose passing football philosophy has been handed from Roberto Martinez to Paulo Sousa to Brendan Rodgers to Michael Laudrup.

Managers alone cannot do it - there needs to be the will and the structure throughout the club for high-minded ideals to become any more than that.

Benitez and Guardiola are clearly managers with strong convictions, but they can only influence Chelsea as much as Abramovich allows them.

In any case, it's not that they don't have an ideology. It's that it seems to be doing OK despite their ridiculous board room behaviour.

That ideology is pretty simple - win stuff. And here's the money to go and do it.

For all the chaos Abramovich has wrought, under his ownership Chelsea have won three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League.

So who could possibly say he is a bad owner? Much as the hire 'em, fire 'em mentality might offend us for its short-sighted impulsiveness, it is hard to question the results.

And who said managers mattered anyway?

Abramovich has just appointed his ninth gaffer since buying Chelsea in 2003.

In the same time, Palermo's lunatic president Mauricio Zamparini has changed the manager 20 times. Twenty.

Since the start of last year, Zamparini has sacked Delio Rossi (twice), Serse Cosmi. Stefano Piola, Devis Mangia, Bortolo Mutti and Giuseppe Sannino.

Gian Piero Gasperini has been in place all of two months, and on Monday Zamparini gave him a vote of confidence (the customary prelude to the chop).

Throughout this mayhem, they have won promotion (in 2003/04) and stayed in Serie A ever since - finishing in the top half six seasons out of eight.

Perhaps the coaches were unimportant. Perhaps it was the sparkling players of recent seasons - Luca Toni, Fabrizio Miccoli, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore - who were responsible for the club's success.

Likewise, isn't it just possible that the keys to Chelsea's past success were Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole? And the keys to the future are Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Ramires? Maybe it's just the players that matter?

Granted, believing coaches are irrelevant represents scant justification for constantly changing them.

If anything, you would just bring in a guy to put out the cones at training and forget about it.

If Zamparini and Abramovich are on to something - coaches don't matter - they are on to it for the wrong reason.

The fact they have spent so much time and money sacking people suggests they really do think a rom-com character - the perfect man is out there somewhere. Although unlike the rom-com, they won't find him in the place they least expect - they won't find him at all, since he doesn't exist.

What would make Abramovich think Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez, Pep Guardiola or anyone could revolutionise Chelsea into a stable, attractive squad chock full of home-grown players?

It's impossible for any Chelsea manager - after all, he's working for Roman Abramovich.

Alex Chick - @alexchick81