Chelsea’s Champion’s League contention was left hanging in the balance after Tuesday night’s defeat away to Juventus - placing Roberto Di Matteo's job on the line, and he knew it, even if he did not know his firing would be so swift.
Chelsea now sit third place in Group E with their fate out of their own hands – even if they sink Nordsjaelland in the final fixture of the group stages, they would need Shakhtar Donetsk to beat Juventus in order for the Blues to progress.
Di Matteo made a huge call deciding to start the game without a recognized striker in his starting line-up – he dropped the misfiring Fernando Torres after his poor performance in their 2-1 defeat to West Brom last weekend.
"I'm responsible for the result. I'm responsible for the performance. It's a negative evening for us,” conceded the Chelsea manager.
Chelsea were flying high after making a strong start to the season but have now fallen down to third in the Premier League table, after being the leaders for a number of weeks.
Although he took the Blues to the heights of Champion’s League success just six months ago the Italian boss and former Chelsea midfielder was only offered a short-term contract extension, fuelling rumours that owner Roman Abramovich is lining up former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola as Di Matteo’s replacement.
Now, with his Chelsea side faltering domestically, winning just one of their last five games in the Premier League, the manager also had the backlash of his European slide to answer.
“If anyone has to take the blame, it's me. I selected a team I was convinced was the right team to win against Juventus, or get at least a draw, so the blame belongs to me."
Stamford Bridge has becoming a revolving door for both superstar managers and players since the takeover by Abramovich - managers come and go and a poor run of results is more often than not the catalyst for their dismissal.
No one really expected Di Matteo to achieve what he did with Chelsea last season – he was seen by nearly everybody a temporary solution to the problem left by the void of his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas.
Could it have been that the lack of expectation he had on his shoulders upon taking the reigns was perhaps what gave him the freedom to experiment with what he had?
Since he took the job permanently the pressure quickly mounted due to the amount of money he spent bringing players in and making alterations to his system, he became under more scrutiny than ever before, but Chelsea have no time for experimentation; results matter most.
In his post-match comments he admirably took the blame himself, rather than stick it to his players. Right to the end he remained dignified, and he will surely forever hold the respect and gratitude of Chelsea fans.
image: © aromano