Tantrums, Winning and Scolari’s Chelsea

Phil Thompson had what can only be described as a ‘bit of a paddy’ on Sky Sports yesterday, as soon as talk turned to Chelsea.  The minute Jeff Stelling mentioned Scolari taking all four competitions seriously, the ex-Liverpool man went on a complete rant, embarrassingly losing his head whilst shouting about “Chelsea always saying they’re going to do the quadruple every year.” Not that he believes every headline he reads of course, but Thompson seems to equate Scolari saying he will “try to win all four” with the Brazilian saying he will actually do it.

I mean, fair play, in the days of Mourinho there may well have been much bragging in the press about what we would do, but that’s how TSO liked it. He did after all, like to generate more headlines around himself than the players. But I’m not sure I’d agree with Phil Thompson that Luiz Felipe Scolari has said anything in the press yet that remotely resembles bigging himself up. If he’s saying he’ll ‘try’ surely that’s because that is the job he’s been employed to do, to try and win what’s there to be won?

If anything, I’d say Scolari has had the balance about right so far. He seems to have the right personality for Chelsea for a start, omitting the egotistic, attention-seeking persona of Mourinho but at the same time, much larger than life than the sour-faced, monosyllabic Grant. But the man is nobodies fool either. Gone are the days where the players’ egos are routinely massaged by the man in charge, with Scolari instead taking a more authoritarian approach. In the Brazilian’s book, the players are paid to do a job and whilst choosing to do that job doesn’t warrant excessive arse kissing from the boss, failure to do so will not go unnoticed.

Having said that, Scolari seems to communicate his expectations in a positive way to the players and I’ve no doubt he gives praise where it’s due, he just chooses not to do it via the media. When it comes to the press, he seems to talk sense and sadly for them, doesn’t rise to their baiting.

Certainly, there have been questions about Scolari’s motivation in taking the job and his naivety when it comes to the Premier League – and I’ll hold my hands up to being amongst those asking exactly those questions. But from what I’ve seen so far, he seems to be taking the job seriously and notably, with the departure of Steve Clarke potentially threatening to upset the apple-cart, the acquisition of Ray Wilkins to provide the essential knowledge of all things oppositional signals his intent almost as much as his team selection in domestic competition.

As for the football, slowly but surely Scolari seems to be making his mark as well. Gone are the painful defensive displays, with the message that we should be satisfied with holding on for a 1-0 because “winning is the important thing”. And in its place is a pass-and-move style, much more fluid and attacking, not to mention easier on the eye. Not that I’m getting carried away with the belief that we actually will win everything in sight but after a few years of a less attractive style of play, culminating in the appointment of Avram Grant’s ‘I just want to slit my wrists’ style of football, even I have to appreciate the change Scolari’s brought about.

The sight of a manager jumping up and down on the touchline because we’re not pushing forward despite already having taken the lead might well be an alien concept at Chelsea in the past, but it’s a concept I’m sure we could all enjoy getting used to.

So Phil Thompson can show himself up as much as he likes on Soccer Saturday, because having watched us for 90-odd minutes yesterday, even he was forced to admit that right now, Chelsea are getting exactly the return they deserve.

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