Chelsea should sack Torres, not Di Matteo

Updated 22 November 2012
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Chelsea should sack Torres, not Di Matteo

BUYING AN ITEM of clothing that didn't suit us or a gadget that didn’t do what we hoped is a mistake many of us make. But not many of us lose our jobs over it.
Roberto Di Matteo was a brave man for making it clear to all of Europe that his boss, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, made a 50-million pound mistake in the shape of super-flop striker Fernando Torres.
Dropping Torres to the subs' bench for a Champions League game Chelsea couldn't afford to lose was a damning statement on the Spanish international. It was also a necessary one, because Torres has consistently failed in nearly two years at the London club to do what was promised on the packaging: score important goals.
Rather than absorb Di Matteo’s message, Abramovich shot the messenger. Di Matteo is out, abruptly shown the revolving door at Chelsea that has now swallowed eight managers in nine years.
Abramovich can argue that chopping and changing so frequently has worked. Since the billionaire bought Chelsea in 2003, his players have won one Champions League, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the lesser League Cup twice.
That's far more silverware than London rival Arsenal has snagged in the same period, despite having loyally stuck to just one manager, Arsene Wenger. In England, only Manchester United has been as successful as Chelsea in the Abramovich era.
But turning a club that hadn’t been English champions since 1955 into a European football force has cost the Russian a monster chunk of his estimated $12 billion fortune. How larger might the return on his $1 billion-plus investment in Chelsea have been if his players had had a steady pair of hands to guide them, like Alex Ferguson's at United?
Chewing so wantonly through managers, including proven winners Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, not only makes Abramovich look indecisive but spoiled by his riches, too, like an insouciant monarch who takes one sip of champagne but then demands that the rest of the bottle be poured away and another be opened.
Chelsea's statement — the club must have it permanently handy on a computer hard drive by now, with just the name left to fill in — that announced the departure of Di Matteo on Wednesday less than 12 hours after the reigning European champion lost 3-0 to Juventus said, “recent performances and results have not been good enough,” which is true.
But Di Matteo didn’t let down Chelsea. You can't say that of a manager who guided the Blues to the Champions League title, the trophy Abramovich so coveted, just six months ago.
He was let down by an owner who can't decide what he wants and by players who haven't been earning the fortunes Abramovich pays them.
Torres, not Di Matteo, should have been the first to go and put up for sale, like a change of mind on eBay: “Purchased in haste; never really fit; seems in OK condition; no guarantee.”
It's not merely that Chelsea has had a paltry 19 goals in 86 appearances from Torres since the club paid a British-record transfer fee to Liverpool for him in the winter sales of 2011.
It is not just that Torres has subsequently failed to score against Liverpool in five appearances in Chelsea blue, most recently in a 1-1 draw on Nov. 11. Nor is it simply that he didn’t score at all for five months from October 19, 2011, to March, 18, 2012, or that he made Chelsea wait for 14 games before he scored his first goal, as a substitute against West Ham.
It's that too few of the few goals Torres does score for Chelsea actually matter. Even his most notable goal, in injury time in Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal last season, was a stocking-filler, because Chelsea was already through to the final on the away-goals rule when Torres' strike knocked down the European champion from Spain for good.
He did score a hat trick, his only one for Chelsea, last season against Queens Park Rangers. He also scored and won a penalty in a 2-0 league defeat of Newcastle early this season. But, all told, Torres' highlight reel of match-defining goals for Chelsea is a disturbingly short movie, not a feature film. He has never been the consistent game-changer for Chelsea it badly needs now that Didier Drogba, who so often was the difference for the Blues, is playing his final years in Shanghai, China.
By not starting Torres against Juventus, fielding him for just 20 fruitless minutes when the Italians were already ahead 2-0, Di Matteo made clear that his patience was gone. That’s not what he actually said, of course. But faced with the choice of starting Torres or playing with no recognized striker, Di Matteo chose the latter.
For Torres, that verdict could hardly have been more damning. Without a trusted scorer like Drogba was, like Robin van Persie is for Man United or Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Paris Saint-Germain, Di Matteo’s team had no one to aim for up front on Tuesday night.
Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar, none of them strikers but handed the job of scoring against Juventus, are plenty quick and crafty but were too small to pose any true physical challenge to the Italian defense. They disappeared like Smurfs amid the giants in black and white jerseys.
There has been ample amateur psychology about Torres, about how his reported 50-million pound price-tag overburdened him with expectation and that he only needs time, a string of confidence-restoring games and a playing system which suits him to rediscover the goal-scorer within, the scorer he was at Liverpool.
Whatever.
Enough is enough.
Di Matteo couldn’t turn Abramovich’s expensive purchase into a feared match-winner and so he, not the mistake, is gone.
But neither will the next guy.


LeBron James' last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win over Pacers in Game 5

James pushes the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 26 April 2018
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LeBron James' last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win over Pacers in Game 5

  • James' 3-pointer buzzer beater puts Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs
  • James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists.

CLEVELAND: LeBron James hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, a crowning moment for another brilliant performance, to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Game 5, putting the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Moments after blocking Victor Oladipo’s possible go-ahead driving layup, James caught the inbounds pass, took two dribbles and dropped the winner over Thaddeus Young.
As Cleveland’s sellout crowd exploded, James hugged rookie teammate Cedi Osman before jumping on the scorer’s table to celebrate another of those moments that will define his career.
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and went 15 of 15 from the line.
Kyle Korver added 19 points and Cleveland’s much-maligned defense tightened just in time as the Cavaliers seized their first lead in the first-round series after being down 1-0 and 2-1.
Cleveland can close out Indiana with a win Friday night in Indianapolis.
Domantas Sabonis scored 22 points, and Young had 16 for the Pacers, who battled back to tie it 95-all on Sabonis’ 15-foot jumper with 33 seconds left. Indiana, which held Cleveland without a field goal for more than seven minutes during their fourth-quarter rally forced James into a turnover and had a chance to re-take the lead.
Oladipo, who shot just 2 of 15, drove the left side and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block on a play reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Oladipo’s shooting woes continued. He’s only 12 of 50 from the field in the last three games. He scored 32 in the Pacers’ Game 1 win, but the Cavs have been double-teaming him ever since.
The third quarter has been a major problem for Cleveland all season. The Cavs had tried everything to try and shake things up after halftime, even doing layup lines at the break in Game 4 like a high school squad.
Turns out, all it took was some defensive intensity.
Down by seven at half, the Cavs swarmed the Pacers in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes and holding Indiana to one field goal over the first 6:52 while opening with a 19-3 run.
Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 in the third, when the Pacers shot just 5 for 16 (31 percent) and committed seven turnovers.
The Cavs were again without starting point guard George Hill, who missed his second straight game with back spasms.
DWYANE’S WORLD
James had enough to worry about with the Pacers that he didn’t want to discuss close friend Dwyane Wade’s future.
Miami’s star is mulling retirement after the Heat were eliminated Tuesday in Philadelphia. James spent four years playing in Miami with Wade, who began this season with the Cavs before being traded.
James said that following his last game against Wade he told him, “’If it’s like our last time going against each other, then it’s been everything and more.” James wants to wait for Wade to make his decision and will then “give a more in-depth analysis of his career if he decides to hang ‘em up.”
TIP-INS:
Pacers: Following Lance Stephenson’s aggressive, wrestling-like takedown of Jeff Green in the waning moments of Game 4, coach Nate McMillan said he reminded the fiery forward to be careful. “The officials are going to be watching that, Lance knows that and there are some times where I think they (the Cavs) are taking advantage.” ... Dropped to 2-12 in their last 14 games in Cleveland. ... James’ triple-double in Game 4 was the sixth against Indiana in the playoffs. James has done it to the Pacers three times.
Cavaliers: With his 21st 40-point game in the playoff, James tied the logo — Jerry West — for the second-most all-time. Michael Jordan scored at least 40 in 38 postseason games. .... Hill’s back has improved in the past few days, but he didn’t look close to playing while sitting stiffly in his locker-room chair before the game. ... Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown sat courtside.
UP NEXT
Game 6 is Friday night at Indianapolis.