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No more Mr nice guy


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Big Phil's turning from Avram to Jose... and that could be just what Chelsea need.

Remember the date. It was when the facade of Luiz Felipe Scolari as the happy-go-lucky Brazilian finally collapsed.

If it began to slip when he accused referee Mike Dean of 'killing' his Chelsea side in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal last month, it disappeared when his rage prevented him facing journalists after Monday's goalless draw at Everton.

The coach who spent his first few months in England refusing to criticise officials was rendered speechless by Phil Dowd's contentious but reasonable decision to send off John Terry for a high tackle on Leon Osman.

The jovial demeanour with which he has charmed observers since arriving at Stamford Bridge was never the true face of a coach who offered to settle his differences with a referee in a stadium car park, who has punched a rival player and who once said he prefers to deal with critical journalists using his fists.

'Big Phil' led the Portugal team with volatility for five entertaining years. Say the phrase 'O burro sou eu?' (Am I an ass?) to a football fan in Lisbon or Oporto and they will know who you are talking about.

The much-satirised comment dates back to Scolari aiming a breathless rant at journalists before storming out of a press conference following a goalless draw against Finland in 2005 that ensured Portugal's World Cup qualification.

Gobsmacked that the reporters were focusing on a lacklustre performance, the coach sniped: 'Did you see anything good, or only crap? What more do Portugal need? Portugal qualify and I am an ass? Am I useless? You are deranged!

That kind of explosion may be just what Chelsea need. The team who were so ruthless at the height of Jose Mourinho's powers appear sluggish and lacking ideas.

Originally Scolari seemed to have a hint of Avram Grant about him because he was so understated. But he has traditionally put great stock in whipping up a unified, fortress-like team spirit - just like Mourinho.

He has not been afraid to upset star players. As Brazil coach, he left prolific striker Romario out of his plans for the 2002 World Cup because of indiscipline - despite huge pressure from the press and fans - and was vindicated when his team lifted the trophy in Yokohama.

While his infamous short fuse is creeping back into his demeanour, it is difficult to judge how much of his actions are impulsive and how much are calculated.

The 59-year-old is a student of ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu and his 2,500-year-old masterpiece The Art of War, which preaches: 'If you know yourself and your enemy, you can come out of a hundred battles without danger.'

Silencing himself and his players after the Everton draw is perhaps an attempt to build fortress Chelsea and a siege mentality. He claims to be a calm individual, except for when he sees one of his flock under threat.

After punching Serbia's Ivica Dragutinovic during a Euro 2008 qualifier in September 2007, Scolari said: 'He (Dragutinovic) was going to hit (Ricardo) Quaresma and I defended him. It wasn't my greatest moment but I won't let anything happen to my players.'

His reported 'were you afraid?' berating of Dowd during Monday's draw was nothing compared to an incident in front of the TV cameras in Brazil when he told a referee: 'I'll wait for you outside, mate.'

Ultimately, Scolari is a pragmatist. He arrived at Chelsea with the demand for attractive football. Now, after the loss of their epic unbeaten home record and only six points from their last five League games, he just needs a win.

With Chelsea a point off top spot goalkeeper Petr Cech has confidence in his manager that the squad might not have shared in Grant. 'When you are in a big club and don't win every game people always speak about pressure,' said Cech. 'He is used to it and has done it before.'

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