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Is Zola ready for The Bridge?

G Zola Pic

“We welcome Gianfranco Zola as the next manager of Chelsea Football Club”. For most Chelsea fans this is a statement that would be music to their ears.

Zola, the player voted by the fans as Chelsea’s greatest, could be in a position to take out the top job at the bridge come this summer. There is no question that his heart still belongs to Chelsea, “Chelsea is in my heart. I hope one day I will get the chance to be manager there”, Zola stated recently. His charisma and charm has certainly played a part in his reputation with the fans and will no doubt be the driving force for his plea to get the top job at Stamford Bridge.

Current interim manager Rafael Benitez has endured a rocky start with the Blues, losing the club’s place in the Champions League and the World Club Cup. It is no secret that Chelsea fans have been disappointed about his selection and have been quite brutal about expressing it. Jeers and chants have been consistent on both home and away games throughout his tenure, something that has not been seen at Stamford Bridge for a long while. It certainly does not help that the previous manager that was deposed was Chelsea’s own and was much loved by the fans.
Though results could definitely sway the opinion of most supporters, wins will be the only thing that can aid him to exchange the “interim” tag for a permanent one at the end of the season. Unfortunately for Benitez, his term has been quite disappointing. The home record has been abysmal and he has failed to get the best out of Fernando Torres, who many believe is the main reason why he was hired because of his ability to get the best out of the striker.
If things do not go as planned for Benitez,  Abramovich would therefore need an appointment that will repair the tarnished image of the club to its own fans. The hiring of another Stamford Bridge favourite would be a boost to the spirits and get the fans enthusiastic about the club again. Right now Zola seems to be that candidate.

It is no secret that he was a magic player for the Blues, but brilliance on the field does not necessarily mean brilliance as a manager. In today’s world, the big clubs need managers who have a number of qualities. They need to be great man managers with the ability to handle the egos at the club, they need to be able to control the dressing room, be innovative and tactically capable of changing a game and of course, be able to handle the press.
Some people consider the Chelsea job as one of the hardest in the world purely because of the demanding owner. At present the club is experiencing a ‘changing of the guard’ and the club requires a manager that can handle this transformation. Zola is not capable of this. Different managers are needed for different situations. The next manager needs to be head strong and also someone who is capable of building a team around the current crop of young players that the club has spent money on in the last three years.
Zola’s experience is very limited, he led West Ham in 2008 just narrowly surviving relegation before eventually losing his job in 2010, and he only won 28% of the eighty games he coached at Upton Park. He then coached the Italian Under 16’s national side between 2011-2012, which then led him to his current post at Watford. The Hornets are sitting in 6th place in the championship and are dazzling fans with their eye catching performances of one touch football and goals. The past ten managers at Chelsea have had mixed credentials, each one of them though has dwarfed Zola’s.
His style of coaching has still not been determined. Due to his lack of experience, it is unknown whether his brand of football is more Italian, which centres on a strong back four and midfield or the English way of speed, over the top balls and target men. This aspect alone will be crucial for his success at Stamford Bridge because of the owner’s wish of playing ‘sexy’ football accompanied with trophies.
Furthermore with the current player’s on Chelsea’s roster would he have the type of players he wants for the transformation of the team? For Zola to succeed he must have the full support of the club and full knowledge of his vision. This is something that is developed through experience and wins.
At this point of time, Zola is still a work in progress. He has enjoyed some success but not enough to revel. His successes are quite undersized in the grand scheme of things. He needs to develop his own brand of play and he needs to prove that he can win matches on a consistent basis, win a trophy and learn to control a dressing room.
Zola himself believes that he is not yet ready to coach at that level previously stating, “Let’s put it this way, one day I would like to be good enough to manage Chelsea. It is in my heart”. He has always been known for his humble nature and he knows that he is not experienced enough to coach at a big club at this moment.
Chelsea fans must not be clouded by the charisma and aura that surrounds Gianfranco Zola. His glorious career as a footballer was one thing but as a coach could be a different story.

There is a lot on the line here for him, his reputation as Chelsea’s greatest player could very much be tainted by a short and painful tenure as manager. The fans need to understand the bigger picture. For Abramovich, another impulse hire is dangerous. Whoever sits on the Chelsea hot seat next needs to have a solid foundation, staff, style and of course stability.
There is no doubt that the appointment of Zola would be a great choice to repair the clubs image with its own fans. But from a managerial perspective it would be a disaster and would not signal anything new at the Bridge. The other candidates such as Simeone, Klopp and dare I say Mourinho are plainly more capable and experienced in handling Chelsea. Zola is not incapable of taking on the top job at Chelsea but at this moment he is simply not ready.

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