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Goodbye, Avram Grant

This was a long time coming, and definitely the right move by chief executive Peter Kenyon. Grant was sacked today as manager, not even a year into his four-year contract. Kenyon and Bruce Buck, the club’s chairman, said that Chelsea’s performance this season was “simply not good enough”, and they’re right. As a big club in England, you basically have a one-in-four chance to win a trophy, and Chelsea won none of the four competitions they entered (FA Cup, Carling Cup, Champions League, and Premiership).

The Israeli manager did a decent job after replacing The Special One at Stamford Bridge. His managerial record (26-8-3) was statistically fantastic, there’s no doubt.

But let’s get something straight. He didn’t get it done in the big games, when it matters the most. I could pick a starting XI from Chelsea’s roster to beat the Sunderlands, the West Hams, and the Middlesbroughs of the world. That’s not difficult. He inherited the squad that Mourinho had built — one that won back-to-back league titles — and as Ty, my fellow blogger here and at his own site, said, had the added benefit of a healthy Michael Ballack.

His team didn’t even show up to play in the Carling Cup final against Tottenham. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Barnsley — BARNSLEY. Grant was outcoached in the Champions League final earlier this week, which I firmly believe now upon further reflection although I didn’t think that was the case immediately after the game. He always allowed the opposing manager to make the first move in a game and then tried to counter it, even though the best managers have proven that they are the ones who dictate how the game will be played. He repeatedly took off his best player/s in games, whether it was Joe Cole, Salomon Kalou, or whoever. His one major purchase in the January transfer window, Nicholas Anelka, barely had a role in Chelsea’s first team despite scoring goals left and right at Bolton with very little talent around him.

Grant has no qualifications on his résumé that would indicate he had the experience and ability to lead one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Sorry, managing Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa isn’t even close. Managing Israel’s national team isn’t even close. Israel didn’t qualify for either of the two major tournaments (Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006) they wanted to enter during Grant’s tenure. Being the technical director or director of football, whatever you want to call it, at Portsmouth for one season isn’t even close.

Let’s be clear. The only reason Grant got this job in the first place was because of his close friendship with Roman Abramovich, the club’s owner.

As soon as Chelsea lost the final on Wednesday to Manchester United, who has, without exaggeration, the best manager in the world in Sir Alex Ferguson, you always knew Grant was going to get his walking papers. It was just a question of when, and we got the answer today.

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  1. AlexinIsrael

    May 26, 2008 at 1:17 am

    My issue about Grant’s sacking is not that it took place: everyone include Grant had always said that his presence at the club is at the club’s discretion, and that he could be released at anytime.

    What riles me is the manner by which he was let go: the club went through the motions of making it seem as if Grant was being given time to build/rebuild the team. They publicly denied using winning trophies as benchmarks for Grant; they signed him to a 4-year contract; even in his last press conferences they allowed him to speak about team’s plans for the next season.

    The club built up false expectations of a long-term movement and deliberately let them down now – that’s my beef.

    With that, it’s hard to get angry with Abramovich: he did a great philanthropic deed by allowing a virtual unknown like Grant to lead such a high profile team. Grant’s success in such a public arena brought great pride and credit to Israeli sports and Jewish sportsmen.

    In spite of this club decision, I’m still happy Grant got this rare opportunity and that he will continue to bring class and success wherever he goes.

  2. m2fc

    May 25, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    wow, lots of diatribes. done is done, can’t argue the ‘what ifs’.. and it seems everyone echoes that…. chelsea did not fall
    we’ll find out next season if Chelsea made the right move.
    will money win over intellect?

  3. Kartik

    May 25, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Again I would argue if you looked at Grant’s work with the Israel National Team and actually watched some of those games as I did, you would not question what sort of resume or tactical savvy he has.


    Again he outfoxed Fergie on two occasions. Has it ever been argued that Alex Ferguson has over whehming talent and somehow until this year has had a remarkable run of not fulfilling his teams potential in European competitions? Should I argue for his sacking based on that? Should Wenger be sacked for not taking Arsenal to the CL finals the last two seasons. Of course not.

    England is now becoming more and more like Italy and Spain as I mentioned above with these quick fixes demanded by owners at large clubs and a rotating door at manager. Part of the PL’s success has been the consistency of its managers and product. Roman’s continued meddling with Chelsea threatens that.

  4. Michael

    May 25, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Difficult question to answer.

    If you’ve followed my articles here or at my own site, you’ll have noticed that I’ve never, ever been high on Avram Grant. He stumbled into this job by being close friends with Abromavich, not through an impressive managerial resume. I’ve criticized him for his tactical naivety, not just in the CL final, and for his personality and demeanor.

    If Terry hadn’t slipped, then yes, Grant would’ve won something, a major trophy at that, and my arguments against him would’ve obviously been diminished and I would’ve had to give him credit. But the fact of the matter is Terry DID slip, and Chelsea DIDN’T win, and didn’t win any trophies this season after winning at least one every year under Mourinho. Is it fair to Grant that Terry slipped, no, but life isn’t fair — that’s what happened, and Grant didn’t win anything.

  5. LemmusLemmus

    May 25, 2008 at 7:48 pm


    would you have written a similar article if Terry hadn’t slipped and scored the penalty?

  6. Simon Burke

    May 25, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Hmm i meant to say 2-0 loss to United- poor English on my part but again i ask you to take back Grant doesnt win the big games – Arsenal, united and Liverpool .
    He won them …

  7. Tomas Rose-hickey(formerly alex hleb)

    May 25, 2008 at 12:20 pm


  8. HU

    May 25, 2008 at 11:46 am

    A wonderful decision!

    Winning 70% of games and losing the EPL and the Champions League to a team many consider one of the greatest in British history is not good enough for Chelsea. Grant should have set the standard and had his team be the greatest in British history. Eight months was enough. He did not achieve and so deserved to be sacked.

    Of course, Im mocking. You acknowledge the skill of Alex Ferguson, even calling him the best manager in the world, and then say the opposition manager should be fired for not out-witting his self-styled greatest ever team.

    You have yourself in a dilemma. You have who you call the best manager in the world with his greatest ever team, one of the most accomplished teams in British history, and then you say the manager of this team’s closest opponent should be fired for not handily defeating them.

    Here is something I wrote last month. Its a little outdated by the point is made and I am yet to see a well argued counterargument that makes use of the evidence. Essentially I ask for people to judge a manager on results.
    You can see the full article on:

    My problem with the Grant slaggers is that their argument against the manager is wholly imbecilic, preposterous, moronic. It makes as much sense as a call for Kleberson to return to Man Utd. That’s dumb, you say: “Kleberson was useless. He did nothing.” I know. Its baseless, and so is your case. Just look at the evidence.

    Honestly, listen people! The way we can judge a manager is on his results. If a manager’s winning percentage resembles the Mendoza line then he is probably not doing his job too well. If a manager’s winning percentage identically resembles over a long course of time and across the same tough competitions the winning percentage of someone often referred to as the “special one”, then he is probably doing a good job.

    Avram Grant’s winning percentage at Chelsea is identical to Mourinho’s. Grant’s Chelsea have played 51 games, winning 69% of games so far. Mourinho won 131 of 185 games (70%). This leaves us with a simple scenario: Either a post-Mourinho manager on Chelsea is useless and players can simply win 70% of games, or the post-Mourinho manager, Grant, is doing a good job. Wait, we can build this further. If Chelsea’s winning percentage changed zero after Mourinho left, does this mean Mourinho was in effect irrelevant and the players carried the team? “Of course not, you idiot.” But why are you now calling me an idiot? Think. Is it because you know truthfully that players need management to really achieve success? Yes, it is, isn’t it.

    But we’ll dig this further. Chelsea are in the Champions League final. Have they done this before? No. Does this mean the players on their own can actually do better without Mourinho, in which case the commentators attacking Grant are in effect calling Mourinho irrelevant, or is Grant doing a good job?

    Hold on a minute, a Grant basher can say, your argument, HU, is utterly dumb: “I’m not saying in any way that a manager is irrelevant. I’m actually saying the opposite, that managers can be so good that they can influence players long after their departure. Mourinho was Chelsea. He was more than relevant to the team. He was a great manager. Grant’s Chelsea are simply sucking the string from Mourinho while slowly decomposing at the hands of an incompetent manager.”

    This argument would hold if it had one simple thing backing it up: any evidence. And do you know what it does not have: any evidence. I said it before and I’ll say it again. Grant’s winning percentage at Chelsea is identical to that of Mourinho. Let me make it very clear: a team being held together by strings over the course of a long period of time, a season, progressively gets worse. Grant’s Chelsea have been no slow decline, no end of season softening.

    Instead, what has there been? Consistent winning. In the EPL, Grant’s Chelsea have played 30, winning 21. They have recorded the exact same number of points as Manchester United. In the Champions League, Chelsea are in the final for the first time in history.

    So there has been no decline, so no evidence indicative of string sucking. So what does this mean: Mourinho is average or Grant is good? Its certainly not the former. Mourinho is one of the best manager’s alive and I need not give evidence supporting this. Everyone knows it. So Grant is good.

    One more thing, you say, “Grant is useless at tactics? Shevchenko for Lampard in the 117th minute; Essien at right back. He’s riding his luck.” Listen, when you have to resort to pinpointing 117th minute tactical decisions because you have no evidence in the form of results, then you know the true value of your argument, and it is about as valuable as an argument as George Weah’s cousin was to Southampton as a player. Football, soccer, whatever, is about results. If you honestly cannot make a case based on results over a long sample size, the course of a season, in the two most difficult club competitions in the world then you surely must re-evaluate your argument.

    And another thing, you say, “Grant does not have his players motivated for big games.” Really? Look at the last few weeks. Chelsea beat Manchester United in a major EPL matchup, then a few days later beat Liverpool to secure a spot in the Champions League final. This team is motivated for big matchups.

    Grant’s results are clear for all to see. There has been no slow decline at Chelsea. Grant has the same winning percentage as Mourinho. Grant’s Chelsea are challenging for the EPL championship. Grant’s Chelsea are in the Champions League final. Grant’s Chelsea have results from big games. All I say is: argue with the facts.

  9. Michael

    May 25, 2008 at 10:32 am

    And “Grant opened with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford???” What are you talking about Simon, they lost 2-0 in that game..

  10. Michael

    May 25, 2008 at 10:31 am

    **Second leg of the CL semi-final, sorry.

  11. Michael

    May 25, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Yes, I did say Terry should have a say in Chelsea’s game-day mindset. He knows the players at Chelsea better than Grant and their skill levels and respective personalities.

    Yes, I do play soccer, and I never said the captain should TELL the manager how the team should be picked, but the captain and manager should commiserate before the game on tactical strategies and decisions, and yes, that includes the lineup and formation.

    No, I won’t backtrack on my comments that he didn’t win enough of the big games. He beat a Manchester United team that didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo and was resting other players in preparation for their second leg of the Champions League final, whereas Chelsea was forced to play their full team because they needed the points. Yes, the Carling Cup final was a big game. They only beat Liverpool because of Riise’s own goal at Anfield — I guarantee you Liverpool would’ve advanced if it was 1-0 going back to the Bridge.

  12. Simon Burke

    May 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

    oops – and Arsenal!

  13. Simon Burke

    May 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Agreed Ivan – most wrote Chelsea off at the stage Maurinho was let go and Grant opened with a 2-0 win at OT. He proved everyone wrong. There has been a miedia outcry in England laughing at Chelsea for this decision as I expected there would be. Grant in the last few weeks has produced big results – across the season with a team of “we’re all leaving’s” he has done something remarkable.
    As for them not being more attractive under Grant, I’d say they were about the same – but look at what he had – a defensively minded long ball team that hoofs it to Drogba. He at least got them playing crosses for Ballack. With a Summer of actual signings he may have changed things further – all speculation of course.

    Michael did you say that Terry as captain of the club should have a say in how its run? Do you play football – have you ever gone up to the boss and said I want us to sign this fella, cna you play Anelka on the wing today…
    Rafa doesnt take any of it from Gerrard – Capello doesnt even rate captains. I highly doubt Rio voices his thoughts over those of Sir Alex.

    End of the day Chelsea are run by a maniac who can do what he wants and has. All these players who are ‘going to leave’ will see what money the will make when they go elsewhere – not easy to find those Chelsea wages in Serie A…
    Some of these players wont be leaving, they are going to be pushed.

    Michael care to backtrack on your comment of he never won the big games? Despite beating Liverpool and United in the same 5 day period and coming from behind to beat Arsenal and being ONE inch away from winning the CL on 3 occasions (Drogba/Lampard/Terry).
    What were the big games ? Wigan – the Worthless Cup final? No its United/Chelsea and Liverpool.

  14. Ivan

    May 25, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Kartik I agree whole heartly that Grant is no idiot. I think a lot of his critics think he is some bloke Roman picked off the street. I respect most of those who have got to the heights of football greatly, what happens day in day out on the training pitch i do not know so i always find certain criticism of team selection and tactics a bit harsh. However saying that i think he always going to struggle with the media and the environment in the PL. And because of that i think it’s the right decision for both parties.

    Michael, i didn’t direct my comments about Clarke or Cate towards yourself specifically, but that’s what comes across with people of similar opinion to yours. If your saying he got out coached based on the lottery of a penalty shootout i find that very very harsh indeed (Ferguson hadn’t won a penalty shootout up until that game against Chelsea i’m pretty sure). Anelka is a professional you don’t get paid that amount of money and complain about taking a penalty, Anderson/Belletti (a Grant sub) didn’t! And Terry, well obviously he was hitting them alright in training and he hit the BAR after he slipped so again… your nit picking…imo I’m surprised at the lack of criticism directed at that half arse professional Drogba.

    TBH i don’t find a problem with Essien at RB. It splits a lot of fans and writers. Makelele has played very well since Grant opted to play him in front of the back four. I think people have forgotten that when Essien was in the midfield before and just after the ANC he was not his commanding self. So much so he was left out of the team for Ballack and Lampard. Belletti against Ronaldo, i think that is a disaster waiting to happen. Belletti is great at going forward but can’t defend to save his bacon. I could see reason for Ferrira at RB (cause he has played well againt Cronaldo in the past) but again i just feel if Grant was to tinker with his team selection people would jump all over his back if the result was negative. And once again i can’t see where you can fit Anelka into a team when people are wanting Essien in midfield as well…

    In the end the results speak..Grant won nothing however some thought Chelsea would crumble behind Arsenal and Liverpool when Mourinho left and they havent. The transfer window will be mighty interesting…

  15. Sanjay

    May 25, 2008 at 5:13 am

    Usually, I’m not able to agree with Kartik on any issue, but, I am glad to see that kartik agrees with me as far as Avram Grant goes.
    The simple fact is that Grant should have been given a chance for just taking the club where they have never been before-to the champions league final!

  16. Kartik

    May 25, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Any manager that got Israel as close to World Cup qualification out of UEFA as Grant did is an outstanding tactical manager.

    He absolutely outclassed Dommenech in both Israel/France games in 2005.

    You see Israel post Grant, a 3-0 humbling against a Beckham and Rooney less England at Wembley. (Although that scoreline will look favorable when compared to what England will do to my helpless Yanks on Wednesday. We are going to look like the war criminal placed in front of a firing squad. Same for the Spain and Argentina games. I would be shocked if the US scores a single goal in those 3 matches)

    Now on to Chelsea. You want a shrewd tactical move? Finding the room in the midfield for Ballack and Lampard to play together something Mourinho was clearly incapable of doing. Another shrewd move?
    Using Anelka down the flank even though he doesn’t like it, because that gave the Blues some pace and skill on the ball out wide.
    He out-managed Fergie twice in a three week period.
    His sacking is plain criminal: Roman A. is turning the EPL into the dreaded Serie A/La Liga syndrome of sacking managers at top clubs every year.

  17. tyduffy

    May 25, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I defy the Grant supporters to name one astute move that Grant made over the course of his tenure. He was no luminary. He did what an average football manager should have done with the talent at his disposal. And, he did so in a peculiarly negative way by shutting up shop (see the 10 1-goal victories Chelsea had).

  18. Dave M

    May 24, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Avram Grant was very successful at Chelsea. They were tied on points with ManUtd when he took over (iirc) and would have ended tied at the end of the season but for the late Bolton goal that came after it was clear United had clinched. He was 5 points behind Arsenal (and they had a GIH) and he ended 2 points in front of them.

    …the problem was not results. Trophies would have saved his job, but without them, Chelsea need to decide who has the charisma to retain their star players and draw new ones to play for the club. Avram Grant simply is not that man. He does not inspire that kind of excitement.

    I think it’s a harsh result for him, but understandable for the club. The real question is why he was put in charge in the first place.

  19. Michael

    May 24, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    One correction: In the second paragraph of my last comment, change “Mourinho managed” to “Grant managed”.

  20. Michael

    May 24, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    First Simon, than Ivan:

    Simon, it doesn’t matter the style that Mourinho played. Sure it was boring, but the fact of the matter is he won at least one trophy each year he was at Chelsea and won back-to-back league titles. They didn’t get off to a good start this year, but neither did Manchester United, if you’ll remember. Mourinho’s assessment was spot-on. According to you, Grant almost won the league. He almost won the Champions League. Newsflash: Almost doesn’t count for anything!!! Almost isn’t actually winning. Not only that, but Chelsea’s style of play under Grant was no more attractive and no more free-flowing than under Mourinho, so give me a break.

    The same “muppets” Mourinho managed were the cornerstones of the Chelsea teams that won all those trophies, so don’t give me that. Drogba was the best center forward in England after Thierry Henry under Mourinho, Terry has always been one of the top two or three center backs in the league, and Lampard is good for 20 goals a season.

    Terry, as the captain of the club and having far more tenure there than Grant, should and does have a say in how the team should be run.

    Ivan, I never once gave Steve Clarke or Henk tan Cate any credit whatsoever in my article. I do think he did get outcoached in the final though. Ferguson brought on Nani (scored), Anderson (scored), and Giggs (scored) (all in the penalty shootout), while Grant opted to bring Anelka on without him even warming up by his own admission. Anelka was also used 7th in the shootout, behind a center back??

    You talk about how he told Essien to move up and push forward in the second half. Fine, but Essien was burnt badly by Ronaldo on the first goal. Essien isn’t a right back and was badly positioned, yet Grant could’ve used more experienced guys like Ferreira and Belletti at that position and Essien instead of the ancient Makelele.

    I see your point about Anelka, but let’s face facts. You don’t spend that much money on a player to sit him on the bench for 85 minutes in any given game and then play him wide left when you do bring him up. If you’re going to bring in a guy of his caliber, you play a straight 4-4-2 with him and Drogba up front, or play the 4-3-3 and sit Drogba, who showed he didn’t even want to play for Chelsea towards the end of the year. You can’t not play Anelka after spending that much money on him, it doesn’t make any sense. Tactically, the squad could’ve been altered to accommodate Anelka, but Grant continued to be stubborn and play his cautious style.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Grant is an idiot by any means. I’m just saying he doesn’t have the CV to manage a club as big as Chelsea, not at this stage of his managerial career. He hadn’t even managed in England, much less in the Premiership, much less a “Big Four” club, before being appointed by Abromavich. He’s a smart guy, one better suited to going upstairs like he did at Pompey.

  21. Ph0BoLuS

    May 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I for one am sad to see him go..I liked the guy and I wish the club would’ve given him another season before getting rid of him…I hope he gets a staff job or something of that nature…

  22. Ivan

    May 24, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    One thing that gets on my tits are people who blame Grant for failures yet give credit to the players, to his assistant Clarke who can’t even get a job in the championship or Cate who is hated by the players. I’d agree it’s the correct move for Chelsea to go forward. I think tactically (viewing from the surface) Grant is fine. The thing he lacks is the charisma, the motivational skills and the ability to win over armchair journalists. He didn’t get “outcoached” in the UCL final. That is rubbish spouted by people from WSD. How so? They dominated the second half, hit the wood work a couple of times and not for Terry’s miss penalty who knows? He won nothing. Ferguson’s team were exceptional in the first half BUT grant rectified the problem in the second half. He didn’t make subs immediately but made the instructional move telling Essien to push UP the field.

    On to Anelka, let’s be honest here Anelka was bought for a direct replacement for Drogba (in ANC i presume) because Sheva and Pizarro weren’t up for it. He wasn’t bought to pair Drogba upfront THIS SEASON. This team has played 4-3-3 for the last few seasons and only under the Sheva experiment when they had a whole preseason converted to a 4-4-2. And in any case if you play Anelka who do you exactly drop? Those most critical of Grant’s tactically analysis don’t even attempt to understand his decisions. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong especially when they turn out to be wrong then people jump up and down twice as much as when they turn out to be right.

    Grant might not be a great manager (like Gerard Houlier perhaps who as the technical director of France was phenomenal but his career as a manager put people have questioned), i’m not arguing that but those who think his some sort of idiot are deeply mistaken. The bloke has been in football since he was 18 at lower levels and the highest levels (the Israel job isn’t lower level, in a difficult group he remained unbeaten if remembered correctly and as TD your responsibilities are as important as the manager LOOK at Italy and Spain where this position has been employed for years and years and now the PL is beginning to do the same (West Ham hired Italian Nani as TD).

  23. Simon Burke

    May 24, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    PS) He beat Arsenal and United and Liverpool Michael – the big games – one CL semi, the other 2 in the league. They are big games , he won them. He lost other big games, so did Wenger and Fergie.

  24. Simon Burke

    May 24, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Terrible assessment .
    You inherit a squad that WAS DOING BADLY from a manager that played DIRE FOOTBALL.
    You take them to an inch of winning the Champions League, against all odds of nearly winning the Premiership and then are sacked.

    Remember – he was managing muppets like Drogba, Terry and Lampard who all think they are bigger than the club and have a right as to how they think it should be run. Good luck to him, he has taken horrible abuse from media and supporters alike. We’ll see what replaces him , probably Hiddink – perhaps Rijkaard. No-one else in my opinion.

    terribly treated by a classless club that sends up its parasite, Peter Kenyon to collect a medal from Platini. Dreadful dreadful club. Chelsea fans , no offense but would you have sacked him ?? I think he won a lot of you over in the last few weeks – and Chelsea fans, werent you embarrassed to see Kenyon collect a medal. I am a gooner and had someone horrible like that Russian Ushmanov gone up and collected a medal ahead of Cesc and co, i would be mortified.

  25. tyduffy

    May 24, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I agree with your assessment Michael. He got Jose Mourinho’s squad and a healthy, resurgent Michael Ballack. It would have been hard for him to do badly.

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