With Jose Mourinho gone and Chelsea sitting one point and two places above the relegation zone, the battle against the drop is well and truly on.
[ MORE: Timeline of his demise ]
On Thursday the bombshell dropped that Mourinho and Chelsea had agreed to “part company with mutual consent” with the Blues sitting just one point and two places above the relegation zone following a disastrous start to the 2015-16 Premier League campaign.
[ MORE: Mourinho out at Chelsea ]
The reigning champs are in ruins and that cost Mourinho his job with the outspoken Portuguese coach leaving Chelsea for the second-time in his career despite previously claiming he would wish to spend at least 10 years with the Stamford Bridge club.
Well, that hasn’t worked out as the man who has delivered three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup to become the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history has left the current team in a perilous situation.
So, who will Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich turn to next?
In the immediate future a source has confirmed to me that an announcement on a caretaker manager for this Saturday’s game against Sunderland (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) will be made on Friday.
With a relegation battle in mind it is perhaps best to hire a short-term option — something Chelsea have done on numerous occasions in the past — until the end of the season. Someone who can come in and replace Mourinho with minimal fuss and is able to galvanize a talented squad and pull them away from the bottom three.
Someone like Carlo Ancelotti and Guus Hiddink who have both been in charge of Chelsea in the past would make the most sense on a short-term basis.
Hiddink, 69, has been in this very situation before as he took charge in 2009 for the final months of the season following the firing of Luis Filipe Scolari. Hididnk delivered the FA Cup, a spot in the UEFA Champions League semifinals and a third place finish in the Premier League then and is the favorite to come in and rescue the Blues’ blushes once more. Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Juande Ramos is also a surprise front-runner to come in on an interim basis, while Brendan Rodgers and Diego Simeone are also well-placed by bookmakers.
Long-term, Pep Guardiola seems to be the number one target as the Spanish coach is expected to announce he will not take charge of Bayern Munich next season and his contract with the German giants runs out this summer. Perfect timing for Pep to step in at Stamford Bridge, right?
Thinking about the summer and a potential arrival for Guardiola is all well and good but the focus should be on the here and now for Chelsea as the Blues’ failing superstars are in a very real relegation battle and they have to drag themselves out of an almighty rut which has cost one of the greatest managers the world has ever seen his job.
Looking at Chelsea’s next five games they face a pivotal festive period which will be influential in deciding if they can salvage a top 10 finish from this season or if they will indeed be sucked into an almost inconceivable relegation battle. First up is second from bottom Sunderland at home this weekend, then comes another winnable home game against Watford on Boxing Day before a trip to Manchester United on Dec. 28. The opening two PL games of 2016 sees Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace and then host West Brom.
If they can get through the next five games with at least 10 points on the board, then given the circumstances regarding Mourinho’s departure it would be deemed a good return. Anything less than that and the reigning champs will not only be relinquishing their title (which, in truth, went a long time ago) but it could set the tone for a relegation battle which may see them relinquish their existence in the Premier League.
Abramovich and his directors getting the next appointment spot on is crucial for the future of Chelsea.