Roman Abramovich displays this old historical tendency. He fears indecision, drift – so now he is searching for his eighth Chelsea manager in nine years.
He sets up a “project” for change, paying Porto £13.3million to release Andre Villas-Boas, then panics nine months later, dumping blame on the manager and ignoring the failings of directors, middle men, the recruitment department and, most of all, the players.
The headline on this piece should be “Roberto Di Matteo on the brink” because that is the perpetual state of all Chelsea coaches.
Then, when the permanent successor is appointed, he too should be described as a man “on the brink”, even as he is grinning for photographers in the stands of Stamford Bridge.
If Abramovich were serious about holding his workforce to account he would have looked to his inner circle, and those like Michael Emenalo, the so-called technical director, who are presumably also part of any problem.
He would have evolved beyond his reductionist view that any weakness at a football club is traceable to the poor tortured soul in the dugout.
We all know this is a risible way to run an organisation. It provides shelter for time-serving execs and creates a culture of accountability for some and exemptions from blame for others.
Who, for example, spent £50million on Fernando Torres? Not Villas-Boas. On whose watch was Chelsea's best signing of the last 12 months made (Juan Mata)? Answer — AVB’s.
Chelsea’s statement yesterday spoke of the need to “make a change”. This is a euphemism for permanent revolution.
The experiment with Villas-Boas, who was the same age as Frank Lampard when he was appointed, followed the disastrous decision to sack Carlo Ancelotti 12 months after his Premier League and FA Cup Double.
The excuse was that Abramovich wanted to move beyond the old bulldozer style in favour of audience-winning entertainment.
Nobody has explained, then or now, why Ancelotti, who is managerial nobility, was thought incapable of effecting that transformation.
After a lot of asking around, Abramovich blundered in the direction in the direction of Villas-Boas, paying £28 million to replace Ancelotti and his team.
That included pumping money into the transfer market for managers in the form of the compensation to Porto.
The studious, intense AVB arrived from Portugal certain he had a mandate to dismantle the old Chelsea functionalism and replace it with something more uplifting.
Maybe he did, but the brief expired when he struck a run of three wins in 12 league games and the old ghouls massed against him.
He was sycophantic in support of John Terry over the Anton Ferdinand alleged racism incident and seemed to want to take on Frank Lampard, identifying him as the biggest block to progress.
In other words he created enemies without crushing them: a serious error, as the more Machiavellian Jose Mourinho might have told him.
The sinister silence favoured by Abramovich himself lent itself to uncertainty, first, then instability when it became apparent that senior players were becoming disruptive and defiant.
There are plenty of ways to get rid of a manager beyond complaining to the owner, among them drawing at home with Birmingham City in the FA Cup and losing at West Bromwich Albion.
These are acts guaranteed to bring the whirr of chopper blades above Chelsea’s Cobham training ground.
For Abramovich to think the manager is always the problem, he would have to think it normal that the left-back shoots the intern with an air rifle, the captain is charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (an allegation John Terry denies) and a smoke grenade is thrown inside the training ground (as it was on Friday).
Watching Abramovich’s stewardship, you wonder how he made a cent in business. He seems intent on vandalising his own £700 million-plus investment while ignoring the real oversights.
It beggars belief, for instance, that they should have spent £90 million on Torres, David Luiz and Ramires while also missing the target with the likes of Romelu Lukaku.
Below a conventional corporate upper tier (Ron Gourlay, the chief executive, and Bruce Buck — the chairman) — Abramovich listens to overlapping circles of confidantes, few of whom are serving him well.
Some very capable people carry on with their jobs as best they can but there is always the sense that real power is an invisible force that is always ready to sweep the foundations away.
By any measure Abramovich is an autocrat in a world not built for the expression of extreme personal whims. A close ally of Vladimir Putin, he applies comparable impatience and intolerance to his sporting empire.
Those who can hide their mistakes and display unconditional obedience survive. The front-of-house stooge — the manager — picks up the tab whenever things go wrong.
The awkward squad in Chelsea’s dressing room will be feeling very smug. Another victim is chalked up.
But there is a deeper problem for them and their capricious owner. You look at this Chelsea side now and see a lack of players good enough to mount another title challenge.
With a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Napoli, Abramovich’s Champions League dream is receding.
In management circles, the deal has long been clear: take the Chelsea job, watch your back and wait for the dismissal cheque.
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