2008 to 2009
Scolari’s appointment was announced in June 2008 while he was still in charge of Portugal at the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland, a role he had held since 2002, the year he had also been a World Cup-winner with his native Brazil.
Over five years with Portugal he grew familiar with a number of Chelsea men – Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho in particular, while his only permanent signing at Stamford Bridge was Deco, the experienced Barcelona playmaker who had become the fulcrum of Scolari’s Portugal.
‘Big Phil’ had already been in management over 25 years when he landed in SW6, having won two Copa Libertadores titles and a host of domestic championships in both Brazil and around the world, notably in Japan with Jubilo Iwata and Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia. He had also experienced international football with Kuwait.Scolari’s time at Chelsea is remembered with disappointment, and he may perhaps wonder what might have been had newly wealthy Manchester City not beaten us to the signing of Robinho on transfer deadline day in August 2008.
Without the ‘Plan B’ his compatriot might have afforded him, Scolari’s tactics often seemed predictable, utilising attacking full-backs to offer width while midfielders would join the attack.
At first life was bright – a 4-0 win over Portsmouth on the opening day of the season demonstrated superb attacking football, and by mid-October we were unbeaten and topping the table. Then came a relative disaster, home defeat against Liverpool, and the end to an 86-game unbeaten league run at the Bridge, before Arsenal also left victorious a month later.
Cracks were beginning to appear, and question marks arose over Scolari’s reluctance to use Didier Drogba, and the team’s defending of set-pieces as first Fulham, then lowly Southend United and Ipswich Town got the better of our usually reliable defence.
A 3-0 defeat at Manchester United in January 2009 proved the nadir of the likeable Scolari’s tenure, the Premier League title all but surrendered again for a third season running as Man United and Liverpool were left to battle it out.
A 0-0 draw at home to relegation-threatened Hull was the final straw as Chelsea slipped to fourth in the table, and Scolari was dismissed just 244 days after his appointment had been announced.