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Cold Shoulders
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Cold Shoulders
The following is an article written by Ian Darke, broadcaster extraordinaire for ESPN, discussing the recent nuanced changes in several different footballing climates.  From Mourinho to Roman, Landon to Jurgen, Ian discusses the pulsating riffs and developments of European and US football.

It is becoming hard to report the soap opera at Chelsea while keeping a straight face. Try not to laugh when I tell you that trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich wants a return for Jose Mourinho or Barcelona's Pep Guardiola as his next manager.

There is no sane reason either man would want to enter the Stamford Bridge vipers nest, other than a financial deal of Wall Street proportions. Both men are likely to find any Chelsea offer only marginally more tempting than a glass of wine laced with arsenic.

Abramovich has gotten rid of seven managers in nine years, including three of the best coaches in the world in Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Big Phil Scolari.

Andre Villas-Boas, who took the job only last summer, has been axed seven months into his first season. Despite his success at Porto, he was in too deep, too soon, and his poor tactics and man-management skills left him with a near-mutiny on his hands from players who found him arrogant and aloof.

Leaving out Ashley ColeFrank Lampard and Michael Essien in the Champions League tie at Napoli and then losing it was like signing his own pink slip. AVB's petty and cruel decision to omit the out-of-favor Nicolas Anelka from the team Christmas party also alienated key players.

Yet those stars and a few other old guard-types such asJohn Terry and Didier Drogba might find their days numbered, as the owner seems to be tiring of the player power that made AVB's reign so fraught.

Chelsea needs a year of transition and rebuilding, but Abramovich will not tolerate even a season without success (ask Ancelotti, who was fired a year after winning a league and FA Cup double). Abramovich has now paid $102 million dollars in compensation to sacked managers during his tenure, which is, of course, plainly ridiculous.

So what does he have to offer the men at the top of his shopping list? Would he be prepared to learn a little patience, give a new man room to manage? Not on all the past evidence.

Neither Mourinho, who fell out badly with the owner in his first spell, nor Guardiola would go near Stamford Bridge without assurances of total control.

It is reported the "Special One" has rather more cordial relations with the Russian nowadays, but it surely would be very hard for him to go back over old ground, even if he does hanker for a return to England.

Guardiola, meanwhile, will reflect that he would be leaving behind Lionel MessiAndres Iniestaand Xavi for an aging Chelsea side in need of drastic surgery. Who knows, perhaps the challenge might appeal to him at this stage of his brilliant career. It seems unlikely.

Of course, all Abramovich wants is a tactically superb manager who can unite the dressing room, and win the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and league cup while exuding charisma and playing sexy football. The right candidate will be paid a fortune … and probably last about two years if he is lucky.

After that shocking win in Italy, there is every reason for optimism about Jurgen Klinsmann's USA team.

Clint Dempsey is now producing such stellar performances for club and country that he might well be on the short lists for EPL footballer of the year. I watched a super-sharp Dempsey in training in Genoa on the eve of the Italy match, and he scored with just about every chance that came his way.

Sure enough, when an opportunity arose against the Italians the following night, he buried it. He followed that with two more goals for Fulham against Wolves this past weekend to take his season tally to a career-best 18.

More worrying is the fact that Klinsmann is yet to get Dempsey and his other torch-bearer, Landon Donovan, on the same pitch. An attack of bronchitis ruled out Donovan for the eighth U.S. game in succession. We were left to draw our own conclusions from the coach's terse comment: "I have moved on. We move on," Klinsmann said.

Perhaps a clear-the-air chat might be needed. Donovan is too good to go to waste.

Jozy Altidore was another big plus for the U.S. in Genoa, creating the game's only goal and generally looking much improved against the tough Italian defenders.

I also think the left-sided German-American Fabian Johnson of Hoffenheim has been a major find. He has earned only three caps but looks like he has been there forever.

Meanwhile, Michael Bradley -- nicknamed "General Bradley" by his Italian fans in Verona -- is reaping the benefits of regular football again and surely has proved to Klinsmann that his midfield nous is vital.

Yet the real heroes of Genoa were in defense, where Carlos BocanegraClarence GoodsonSteve Cherundolo, keeper Tim Howard and -- in a memorable cameo -- substitute Jonathan Spector all played heroic roles.

It was a friendly win, but a first against four-time world champion Italy and one to be cherished against classy opponents who had gone unbeaten throughout Euro 2012 qualifying. The victory will boost the U.S.'s confidence and belief in the Klinsmann regime ahead of clashes against Scotland, Brazil and Canada followed by the first World Cup qualifiers.

 Tune into the show to hear our hosts deconstruct these issues and more on today's simulcast!


Posted by Ian Darke on 03/06/2012 at 9:11 AM - PERMALINK | EMAIL | DISCUSS | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
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