The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
As personality clashes go, Phil Scolari’s at Chelsea aren’t the most earth-rivening imaginable, largely because Phil Scolari’s personality at Chelsea seemed to exist in a weirdly crumpled state of defeatedness and timidity. Sure, he was Big Phil; yes, he was the manager who slugged players in their pampered jaws right in the middle of games; absolutely, he was hired to bring fear to an unruly dressing-room and blast away years of accumulated ego-grievances with the dynamite in his head. In practice, though? He sort of showed up blinking like a freaked-out grandfather, looked both ways before crossing the street, and gently patted the zipper of his windbreaker while respectfully answering questions. England made Mourinho bigger; it made Scolari, all of a sudden, very small.
Still, though: since the entire Chelsea circus, from the very beginning, has been about various competing alchemies of personality, it’s archivally interesting to read Big Phil’s interview with Brazilian TV on the squabbles and petty hatreds that ran through his time at the club. Ballack was jealous of Deco! Drogba was arrogant! Again, not exactly startling revelations, but the fact that Scolari still seems slightly flummoxed by the idea that Ballack would be insecure or that Drogba thought he was good at least suggests something about what must have been the anarchy of unmanaged character defects that reigned under Big Phil’s watch. Just about the opposite of what he was supposed to bring to the club, in fact.
Some of the points in the interview seem like they’re tailored for Brazilian TV. Scolari has said for years that he wanted to sign Robinho, though I wonder if he’d still admit it to, say, the Guardian. But if he really pushed to replace Drogba with Adriano in order to improve team chemistry, eight months on the job may have been nine too many. (Over at Dirty Tackle, Brooks comes gently to the point about the wisdom of some of these tactical ideas.) I mean, read that again. The dude wanted to sign Adriano because he’d be “easier to control.” And this was a coach who, when he was hired, set off a genuine debate in the English media about whether he was more accomplished than Alex Ferguson! Having fists doesn’t make you a psychologist.
This is why Avram Grant is the key to the whole era: he was the dead zone where personality disappeared.
N.B. Drogba was.
by Brian Phillips · March 30, 2011