“Could it be – could it actually be, perchance – that there is something wrong with Chelsea?” – Simon Barnes

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Luiz Felipe Scolari has been dismissed as manager of Chelsea Football Club with immediate effect. The Chelsea board would like to place on record our gratitude for his time as manager. Felipe has brought many positives to the club since he joined and we all feel a sense of sadness that our relationship has ended so soon. Unfortunately the results and performances of the team appeared to be deteriorating at a key time in the season. In order to maintain a challenge for the trophies we are still competing for we felt the only option was to make the change now. The search for a new manager has already started and we hope to have someone in place as soon as possible.” – Chelsea statement.

Runner-up: “I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked for Chelsea and in English football. It was a very valuable experience. I am sorry that my time with everyone could not last longer. I wish Chelsea luck in the three competitions they are participating in. I want to take the opportunity to inform that I will keep living in London. I will respond to the media soon.” – Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Today’s overview: One story dominates today with seemingly every football columnist laying into Roman Abramovich and Chelsea following the sensational sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

First up, there is a wide variety of opinions on who will take over. Dominic Fifield in the Guardian reveals that “The search for a fifth manager in as many years has begun with the club wanting a quick appointment, most likely someone currently unemployed and considered a ‘firefighter’, to be taken on initially on a short-term basis. If the appointment proves successful the candidate would have a chance to earn a longer deal.” Gabriele Marcotti (The Times) picks out the likely candidates for the “poisoned chalice.”

The lead story in The Sun, written by Ian McGarry is that “Chelsea want Carlo Ancelotti to replace axed Phil Scolari. SunSport understands the AC Milan boss had already been lined up to take over from Scolari this summer.” Sensationally, Jason Burt in The Independent refuses to rule out Avram Grant returning to the Bridge although Gus Hiddink is the most likely man for the job, if Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail is to be believed.

Matt Hughes in The Times also believes that “Chelsea are searching for a short-term managerial appointment to salvage their season by qualifying for the Champions League after Luiz Felipe Scolari was suddenly dismissed yesterday. Frank Rijkaard and Roberto Mancini are the leading contenders as Chelsea focus on finding a coach who is available to start at Stamford Bridge immediately, but several other permutations have been discussed as they seek to fill what has become one of the most difficult jobs in football.” In a seperate article, Hughes claims that “Luiz Felipe Scolari’s crime was to lose the boardroom rather than the dressing-room.”

Simon Barnes (The Times) lays into Chelsea with an excellent article that is a must read this morning. “Chelsea sacked Scolari because they thought there’s something wrong with him. But all the evidence points the other way. Scolari is a good manager. Could it be – could it actually be, perchance – that there is something wrong with Chelsea?” In the same paper, ex-Chelsea forward Tony Cascarino writes “Scolari came up short tactically and that is what cost him. Chelsea started the season well but they were like a boxer who goes on a winning run and looks great until he meets a hard-punching opponent who exposes his weakness. And then he gets floored regularly.”

Paul Hayward (Guardian) sums up the absurdity of the sacking, “Scolari did not have time to swing for a journalist, punch an opposition player or get anywhere near a trophy. The cabaret never quite happened because a fine international manager with a good pedigree in South American club football fell into the vortex when his team were fourth in the table, just seven points behind United. That counts as a crisis these days. There is no known cure for this hysteria.”

In the same paper, Richard Williams says “English football finally took its revenge on Luiz Felipe Scolari yesterday.” And Paul Doyle writes that “Dressing-room discontent, an unbalanced squad and a lack of funds were what did for Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea.”

Martin Samuel (Daily Mail) also sticks the boot into Chelsea. “Looking at what has unfolded at Chelsea, the requirement would seem to be to win the League, while balancing a ball on one’s nose like a performing seal. Mourinho was too boring, Scolari too beatable.”

Steven Howard (The Sun) focuses on the role of Roman Abramovich. “Like most billionaires, Abramovich believes money buys everything. In business it probably does. But, despite the huge sums involved in the game these days, football is not quite like that. Human error, a penalty kick against the outside of a post on a rainy night in Moscow, can ruin the most perfectly-laid financial plan.”

Sam Wallace (Independent) also points out what Abramovich has to do. “The question that now faces Abramovich is rather more fundamental than replacing a manager: it is about replacing a whole team. This Chelsea squad has been allowed to grow old without being rebuilt. Its rejuvenation has proved to be beyond even Scolari, one of the most highly regarded coaches in world football. If Abramovich is serious about the future of Chelsea, he will first have to hire a manager, then build him a new team” In the same paper, James Lawton argues “There is no world-beating organisation at Chelsea. There is just Abramovich’s money.”

In the Daily Telegraph, Paul Kelso looks at what it will cost Red Rom. “By sacking the Brazilian just six months into a three-year contract understood to be worth £6.25 million-a-year the club could be liable to as much as £15m in compensation.  With Scolari following Avram Grant and Jose Mourinho out of the revolving door of the Chelsea managers’ office months it could take the total paid to sacked coaches in the last 16 months to £40m.”

Phil McNulty argues on the BBC website that Scolari failed “to step out of Jose’s shadow.” And this is a popular theme this morning, Kevin McCarra (Guardian) also adds that “Chelsea’s former manager was the true nemesis of Scolari and whoever takes over next will have to take on his legacy.”

Giles Smith (The Times) also picks up on the Mourinho line, “Most Chelsea fans would be happy, I think, if this was the moment we discovered that the departure of José Mourinho and his rift with Roman Abramovich was, like the death of Bobby Ewing in Dallas, nothing more than a bad dream. So, ripple, dissolve, and bring back the Special One, with a Zola/Steve Clarke backroom team seated on his left-hand side, and with Roberto Di Matteo as chief executive. Well, we can hope.”

There are some comment pieces on Portsmouth and Tony Adams. Paul Doyle claims that “The league table may suggest otherwise, but Pompey’s next manager will inherit a club in better shape than the one Adams was given.” Nick Szczepanik in The Times says that “Avram Grant remains the favourite to become the next Portsmouth manager despite the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari by Chelsea yesterday.”

Intriguingly, The Sun argue the main target for Pompey is Sven Goran Eriksson. And Ian Wright backs his old mate Tony Adams to come good. “I am convinced he has a lot more to give as a coach so let’s not waste him. One day, I’d like to see him involved in the England set-up because he could pass on so much knowledge to someone like Micah Richards.”

The Guardian have their usual European round-up, Richard Williams asks “why should David Beckham turn up the Chance to go to AC Milan? Whilst also on Serie A, Paolo Bandini waxes lyrical over Roma and Sid Lowe writes of the incredible return of Ricardo Oliveira. And taking a historical look at world football, Tim Vickery (BBC) claims that Alfredo Di Stefano was the greatest player ever.