Elite Manager or Just Talking a Good Game? Bridge of Sighs: Phil Scolari Has Had Plenty of Headaches So Far This Season and the Sight of His Players Trooping off in Dejection Has Been Common of Late. Deco's Arrival Was Supposed to Give the Squad a Lift but It Seems to Be Him Who Needs the Helping Hand and as for What to Do with Joe Cole, Well, Big Phil Has Been Vexed
Byline: SIMON JOHNSON
THE hangover from Chelsea's woeful defeat to Manchester United could linger for some time and questions are now being asked whether Luiz Felipe Scolari is the cause or has the ability to provide a cure.
The club's chief executive Peter Kenyon confidently backed the Brazilian to become "a legend" at Stamford Bridge when he was appointed last summer, even though he had never managed a club in Europe.
Indeed, Scolari arrived with a massive reputation for his coaching and tactical acumen from his time leading Brazil and Portugal but just six months later he finds himself as one of the bookies' favourites for the sack.
A bright start has been undermined by a string of poor results which have seen fortress Stamford Bridge, where the club went unbeaten for more than four years, conquered by Liverpool and Arsenal.
Even lower League opposition in Burnley and Southend have achieved shock results in the cups and Sunday's 3-0 capitulation at Old Trafford was their heaviest defeat for nearly three years.
Chelsea are still within four points of the Premier League summit and have had to cope with a succession of injuries.
But, ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup third-round replay with Southend, Scolari's half-term report makes uncomfortable reading.
And despite everything he has said this season, it is clear he is struggling to make the grade in a number of key subjects..
COPING WITH PRESSURE
SCOLARI SAID: "You know how many people live in Brazil? 180 million and I was coach there. You think here is pressure? Here is zero for pressure.
Pressure was coach of the Brazil national team because all the people in Brazil are the coach." OUR VERDICT: A reasonable argument on the face of it and yet there has been a noticeable change in the 60- year-old's demeanor in recent weeks.
The jokes have dried up, a frown has become more evident and even assistant first-team coach Ray Wilkins revealed the manager has been feeling tired.
It is too early in his tenure to be talking about his job being on the line, but the bookies don't agree and reports this morning suggest that he has until the end of the season to prove he can be a success..
THE SIGNING OF DECO
"Deco can play in any league in the world. When they [Chelsea] signed a contract with me I told them I want one player Deco. He cannot make all the difference on his own, but with the team he can because he always has time." His judgement hasn't proven right so far. He has been a massive disappointment and is one of the factors behind Chelsea's struggles.
The midfielder made a good start in SW6 and was the Premier League Player of the Month in August, but a knee injury ended his impressive run and he has not looked the same player since. Deco was bought from Barcelona to provide the magic that would unlock stubborn defences, yet he often finds an opposition shirt rather than a teammate with his passes..
MISSING OUT ON ROBINHO
"I have seen the newspapers and they say I am unhappy or angry with the club. These statements are not true at all. I have not said this and I do not think this. I am very happy with this situation." There have been many reports to the contrary, especially as Chelsea have clearly been missing the kind of flair Robinho has brought to Manchester City.
The club spent all summer trying to sign the Brazil striker only to be gazumped on the final day of the transfer window by City, the new richest club in English football.
Chelsea could have completed a deal with Real Madrid sooner but for a series of mishaps, including advertising a team shirt with his name on it on the club's website..
RESPECT OF THE PLAYERS
"The players like me, love me, because I defend them every day and give my best for them every day." It certainly seemed the case earlier in the season, but questions are now being asked. …