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The Blues will never return to the top of English football as long as their owner fails to challenge the unhealthy level of influence senior players wield in the dressing room

COMMENT
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

The default response of Roman Abramovich to an indifferent series of results is always to reach for the red button and eject another manager.

Like a Bond villain, his fingers get itchy and he can’t help himself from removing the most obvious obstacle to improved circumstances for Chelsea, his fiefdom for the last nine years.

While Andre Villas-Boas has not received the same tidal wave of sympathy that followed the dismissal of his double-winning predecessor Carlo Ancelotti on the final day of last season, there is no shame for the Portuguese in becoming, after Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Ancelotti, the sixth casualty of Roman’s empire.

The Portuguese has made mistakes and his dictatorial approach has not gone down well with players used to being more influential than is healthy for any group of players at a marquee club.

But his time will come again. He is too young, ambitious and analytical not to be a managerial success at another club. For now, we will miss his exotic football terminology, touchline gymnastics and mangling of adjectives.

For Abramovich, the holy grail has always been to rub shoulders every season with Europe's high every season in the Champions League. Not merely the pre-Christmas group stage, either. That is the minimum objective.

The oligarch wants his club to build an era-defining dynasty like Barcelona and it was the very real threat of competing in the Europa League next season that would have been the prime factor behind Villas-Boas' dismissal.

Frankly, the team he put together was not up to much. To be languishing three points behind fourth place after more than two-thirds of the season and teetering on the brink of elimination from the Champions League following that horrific defensive display in Napoli 12 days ago borders on a dereliction of duty.

Time in charge Managers under Abramovich
30 months
Mourinho
8 months
Grant
7 months
Scolari
3 months
Hiddink
23 months
Ancelotti
9 months
Villas-Boas
Yet that does not take into account the unique circumstances at Stamford Bridge, where Villas-Boas was charged with simultaneously introducing a more expansive playing style and keeping Chelsea in the hunt for honours while the spine of the team that has won three league titles in the Abramovich era aged before his eyes.

The problem of the Stamford Bridge managerial merry-go-round is that the players are so used to surviving the senior coaching staff that they regard the manager’s authority as forever compromised.

How can they give the man in the dugout absolute respect when they know he is always a patchy run of results away from the boot?

At Chelsea, more than any other big club, the senior players hold sway. They saw off Scolari and Grant, certainly, and have now done the same to the man hired at the cost of £28m last summer.

The dilemma of easing out the old guard is not eased by axing Villas-Boas. It is actually more difficult.

John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien are feted by the fans. They are regarded as legends, permanent fixtures whoever picks the team.

Yet the manager, the public face of the club, is a diluted, albeit extravagantly rewarded, figure who is a sticking plaster for the team’s ills, not the permanent medicine he should be.

Perhaps Abramovich would be better off allowing the old guard to pick the team and their own personal retirement dates.

Or even better, dispense with the idea of a manager altogether and select the team himself from his luxury yacht.

While the owner continues to change manager more often than most of us buy a new pair of socks, Chelsea will always be operating with one hand tied behind their backs.

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