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Why AVB leaves a Chelsea happier letting off smoke-bombs than winning trophies

The happiest people at Chelsea right now, apart from the senior clique of course, would have to be Billy Clifford and Jacob Mellis.

The reserve-team duo have been suspended for their smoke grenade incident, but escaped media scrutiny thanks to Roman Abramovich's sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.

Given the stories now emerging of how the senior players mocked AVB's timekeeping, railed against his club rules and regularly tested his authority, are the acts of Clifford and Mellis any real surprise?

Abramovich's reasoning for dismissing AVB is understandable. For all his outlay, he feels the club should be a top four cert and for all his support of the manager, the fear of the Portuguese failing to grab that final fourth place was too much for the billionaire.

But with Villas-Boas' sacking goes Abramovich's plans of bringing a new, disciplined culture to the club.

While the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti left many baffled, it's understood Abramovich took the decision because of the loose discipline around Cobham. Hangers-on were regulars inside the club, there were incidents involving senior players and it was becoming clear many were taking the mick when it came to Ancelotti's relaxed approach.

Abramovich brought in AVB to crack heads - and he did. But when tension was at its highest, Villas-Boas was isolated. Abramovich failed his manager in not allowing him his own No2. Roberto di Matteo was hired, but for a job so demanding, where he was expected to clearout icons of the club, AVB needed someone he could fully trust when it came to the crunch.

The manager's dismissal may deliver Abramovich the desired short-term outcome - Champions League qualification - but it won't change the culture at the club.

Gary Neville, the former Manchester United fullback, offered Frank Lampard and his senior colleagues some advice a fortnight ago.

He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: "Contribute when you can because you will be needed. If you can accept that the bulk of your war on the front line is over, then you can go back behind the lines and become a general. It is players such as Carragher who will set the tone in the dressing room, impose discipline and provide advice and encouragement to young players when they need it."

When you consider the antics of Clifford and Mellis, the incident involving Ashley Cole last season and the attitude shown towards AVB, you really wonder whether the senior leadership that has served Manchester United so well actually exists at Chelsea.

And this is what Abramovich needs to address.

Under AVB, the senior clique at Chelsea put themselves ahead of the club. The latest is they blanked an emotional Villas-Boas as he left Cobham on that final day. The apologists will say he didn't have the skills set to handle such experienced players, but what chance did they give him? What chance did they give the 'project' to succeed?

Not even AVB would hope for messrs Lampard, Terry and Drogba to enter the same environment when they begin coaching.

While he spent day and night at the club's training ground, working every hour God gave to make Chelsea a success, AVB's efforts were routinely undermined by an ageing, underperforming playing group who failed to recognise their responsibility to a club that has become more about smoke-bombs and pelt guns than winning silverware.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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