Paul Parker

Di Matteo must get a grip of Chelsea dressing room

Roberto Di Matteo's reluctance to deal with dissent in the Chelsea dressing room is both surprising and worrying for his future at the club.

After Saturday's 2-1 defeat at West Brom, it was very surprising to hear him admit it was "not the first time" angry words have been exchanged between him and the players.

He justified his view by saying: "It's important that we communicate with each other, and the players express themselves."

But this was not communication - it was a free-for-all.

When I played, of course there were occasional flare-ups. But these were the exception rather than the rule, and if you stepped out of line you got quickly slapped down instead of being encouraged to do it again.

If you made a mistake and the manager tore into you, you just had to sit there and take it.

At all of my clubs, there were senior players who would speak up and voice different opinions, but they did it in a controlled, respectful manner.

When I played for QPR, we had Peter Reid, Ray Wilkins and Trevor Francis who would put the players' point of view across - at Manchester United there was Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Brian McClair.

Communication is important - Di Matteo has got that exactly right, and all good managers listen to the players.

But his comments suggest the players are over-stepping the mark, and he is merely encouraging greater discord.

When you look at the influence player power has had over Roman Abramovich in the past - contributing to the departures of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas - the last thing Di Matteo needs is players who think they can take him on.

It was a bad day all round for Di Matteo, who paid the price for resting five first-teamers against a very good West Brom side.

You would think he would have been determined to put one over the team that sacked him, but instead he underestimated them.

Yes, he can point to last week's internationals or tonight's Champions League game against Juventus, but there's no doubt that everyone at West Brom would have had a huge boost when they saw the Chelsea team sheet.

That defeat makes it even more important that Chelsea stop the rot with a result at Juventus, but that is easier said than done.

They have just come off a 49-game unbeaten run in Serie A, and although Italian football isn't what it once was, they do look like potential Champions League winners.

Lose tonight, and Chelsea's fate will be taken out of their own hands. If they get knocked out of the group, that could spell the end of Di Matteo. You certainly wouldn't bet against it.

Given the way his side won the Champions League last season, Roman Abramovich should know that there is a lot of luck and uncertainty in the competition - and nobody can guarantee success every year.

Manchester United have failed to get through the group stage twice in recent years, but that has not stopped them being one of the more consistent contenders over the past 15 years.

Having got a lifetime's worth of good fortune in winning the competition last season, Roman Abramovich should be able to deal with some disappointment without sacking yet another manager. But I wouldn't bet on it.