Chelsea Football Club was shocked by the departure of Jose Mourinho on 20th September, and after their 2-0 loss to Manchester United in Avram Grant’s first game fans would have hoped that it could only improve.
Now, however, with the news that Ten Cate has confirmed that he will become Chelsea’s assistant coach, it looks like Roman Abramovich will finally get some semblance of the attacking football he so desires. Henk Ten Cate signed a three year deal worth around £1.8 million a year, and will co-operate with Steve Clarke under Grant to try and make Chelsea fight their way back into the title race.
Henk Ten Cate has already been involved in managing football clubs for around seventeen years, although his first ‘big name’ club was Barcelona which he joined in 2003. Ten Cate stayed with Barcelona for three years and his spell there coincided with their return to the very top of Europe as they did the league and European Cup double.
I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again; Barcelona is a much lesser team without him, and you can see this in their team very well if you look at the decline of Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho blossomed under Ten Cate; why? Ten Cate’s tactics meant that both the Brazilian and Eto’o featured in the positions they played best; in Rijkaard’s new system, they just get in each other’s ways. Ten Cate was one of the main reasons for Barcelona’s fluidity and cohesiveness on the pitch; it is no coincidence that they have not looked as good since he left.
After leaving Barcelona, Ten Cate went on to become the first choice manager at Ajax, where he did reasonably well. Ajax under Ten Cate reached second place in the league, unbeaten and just a point behind Feyenoord. What you’ve got to look at is the amount of goals Ajax have scored this year- 26 goals in their seven games, six more than Heerenveen (who are in 11th place). Those achievements show that Ten Cate is capable of getting his teams to play attacking football; as an assistant coach at Barcelona and the main coach of Ajax, two of the most attacking teams in the world. This is why I feel Ten Cate will give Abramovich the football he so craves- Ashley Cole the defender will turn into the fearsome winger he was at Arsenal; Shevchenko the hold up man will turn into the goalscorer he was at AC Milan and this Chelsea team in six months will be unrecognizable compared to some of the dour stuff under Mourinho.
Mourinho could create winning teams; that is not to be argued. However, when you spend £500 million on a team, you do not just want to see them win; you want to see them win in style, outplaying every team they face. This is the reason why Abramovich got rid of Mourinho -despite what they claim was departure by ‘mutual consent’- Mourinho had been saved in the past by his good results with the team, and the poor start to the season was the last straw.
Will Ten Cate give Chelsea fans attacking football to watch? I don’t see why not, as they certainly have the players to do so. Drogba, Malouda, Lampard, Shevchenko and Ballack on their day are amongst the hardest to play against on the planet, and fans will be hoping that Ten Cate will give Chelsea’s season the kick-start they need so that they can start challenging for honours.