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Big Phil's Big Chelsea Chill

Robbo Robson | 09:55 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

What's the biggest surprise of the season so far? Difficult to say. Perhaps it's the fact that the Britannia Stadium touchlines are still more than a foot away from the edges of the penalty areas. Soon it'll be like one of them kiddy pitches where you go to take a corner and you're virtually in the box.

Probably it's Hull City, but you fear for them now Phil Brown's giving them all-weather dressing-downs at half-time. (Can't imagine McClaren doing that, can you? - 'I'm ever so cross with you after that first 45 minutes! Now all of you have a lie-down on the comfy sofas while I get you a banana smoothie each - and I give the ego masseur a call.')

Actually, Big Phil Scolari is turning into the big story. Chelsea were brilliant at the start of the season, but one bobbly deflection from Xabi Alonso (straight out of the Lampard collection 2005-6) and the wheels are looking distinctly wobbly.

Last season began with the Man from Milk Tray swanning off into the sunset cos he'd had way too much of the whole system. Jose must have felt like a man trying to decorate a new house while the live-in mother-in-law constantly insisted on using her own curtains and cushions.

Anyone who still thinks Shevchenko was his idea is living in a world where a fat beardy man brings you pressies down a chimney and money grows on trees (or the Stock Exchange as we grown-ups call it).

Mourinho was replaced by what looked like the grimmest seat-warmer in history. Avram Grant gave dourness a bad name. He was about as cheering to listen to as one of them financial forecasts from Robert Peston. (I like that Peston fella but why does he have to sound like the engine of a 15-year-old motor trying to churn into action on a frosty morning?)

Yet Avram did everything but win the Double and would have bagged one gong were it not for his skipper's slippers.

So Chelsea dumped Grant for his apparent failure and had a vacancy they needed to fill. So why not fill it with the biggest Phil of all? Jovial Brazilian multi-medal winning Felipe Scolari! The direct opposite of the man who preceded him! An overtaker to Grant's undertaker.

He even has a cocktail named after him - the Scolari made from dark rum and exotic fruit juices, apparently. (I've not drunk an Avram but it's not a bad name for that manky cup of tea that you forgot to take the bag out of.)

Now you can't knock Scolari for his post-match contributions. If you have to wait for explanations for your team's failings from the likes of Gareth Southgate you'll realise just how exciting Big Phil is. Here is a man's man who's not afraid to say that his players love him (does he know where he's working exactly?)

Here is a bloke who reviews the game with the same confusion as the rest of us - 'I don't understand, we have 15 chances, we score only one goal, they have one chance - is goal!' and then the shoulders do that big rise and fall like the whole matter was in the hands of supernatural forces. It's good entertainment, but it's time he wondered whether this hard luck (van Persie's first goal at the Bridge aside) wasn't summat to do with him.

Fact is, Scolari's Portugal never scored a shedload against well-organised teams. It's easy to defend Chelsea by pushing up against the two full-backs and the midfield too easily falls into that trap of tip-tapping it about to no great effect in front of a massed defence. The greatest faffer of them all is Deco (who to my mind should be at Anfield if only 'cos the name fits the Scouse accent perfectly).

By hell he could do with a kick up the rear or a seat on the bench and preferably both. His work-rate makes Dimitar Berbatov look like a soldier ant. Deco looked a busted flush at Barca so why does Scolari stick with him when Ballack, Lampard and Mikel look way better fits?

Of course Drogba makes a big difference but he's not exactly tactful is he? He can't understand why managers are afraid to play him and Anelka together?! Errm, well, it's 'cos if one of you is not the out and out centre-forward you get a right strop on, son. It'd be easier to keep a couple of teenage daughters happy.

Scolari needs to flog Malouda and Kalou and bring in some proper forwards. Judging by the amount of missed chances on Saturday, Robbie Keane would fit in perfect - the lad couldn't stab a beached whale with a toothpick, bless him.

Still Chelsea fans'll point out that their team is second in the league, in the Champs League, and they might still get past Southend and this is after a poor run of results. And they'll point out that I'm just a tad jealous of the bottomless vat of dosh - which is of course true. It's always nice to see billionaire's playthings come up short (special mention for Notts Forest here!)

But here's me big prediction - the one I left out over the festivities. Chelsea will win nowt this year. It'll be slightly worse than Avram's year and then they'll have, by Roman standards, another dud on their hands.

'Cos every time I see the smiling, shrugging, simply-can't-believe-it post-match conferences from Scolari I am reminded of one man. And just cos he's now manager of Juventus doesn't mean he wasn't and possibly isn't a bit of a clown. And you really don't want to become known as Ranieri Mk II.


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