Why Andre Villas-boas Hasn’t Quite Worked as Chelsea Manager

After a shaky start to his Chelsea managerial career, Andre Villas-Boas has guided Chelsea to 5th in the Premier League, and there are already calls for a replacement. Here is why it hasn’t been a marriage made in heaven.

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Andre Villas-Boas arrived at Chelsea off the back of a truly amazing season with Porto last year. He had just managed a Porto side that finished 3rd the previous season to a convincing Portuguese Liga, Portuguese Cup and Europa League treble. If that wasn’t enough, Porto also went unbeaten in the league, winning 27 games and drawing only 3. After less than a year in charge of the Portuguese club, the youngest ever European competition winner handed in his resignation and made the move to Chelsea.

                After a second place finish in the 2010/2011 season, and no other trophies to speak of, former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti was sacked, making it crystal clear that Chelsea managers are shown no forgiveness by owner Roman Abramovich. Villas-Boas was brought in to build a faster, more dynamic Chelsea side but ultimately, he was brought in to win silverware. His summer signings showed his intent as Juan Mata, Raul Meireles and Oriol Romeu arrived at Stamford Bridge, among a few other signings. The three players previously mentioned are all comfortable with the ball, full of ideas and, with the exception of 28 year old Meireles, young and full of potential.

                As Villas-Boas took them over, Chelsea were an aging side, over-reliant on players like Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, all over the age of 30. Their squad needed a clear out, and Villas-Boas seemed the man to do this. Sturridge and new arrival Lukaku looked the obvious successors to Anelka and Drogba, and midfielders Mikel, Ramires, Romeu, Mata and Meireles looking as though they could establish an energetic midfield and replace the likes of Lampard and Essien. The problem with this however, is that it is very difficult for a manager to get a strong grip on a team when there are players that who have been at that club for so long, and have been so successful in that period. As Sir Alex Ferguson has said on multiple occasions, the manager has to be the most important person at a club, but Villas-Boas doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the top of the tree at Chelsea.

                There have been rumours from within the Chelsea camp of unrest and even players taking the role of manager, with speculation that as recently as their FA Cup tie against Birmingham Didier Drogba was the one taking the half time team talk. The situation shares similarities with the England squad at the 2010 World Cup. A relatively new manager came into a squad where the constants were not discipline or a certain style, but a group of players instead. The players have grown to be complacent with guaranteed places in the first team and a degree of power that they really shouldn’t have. So when change came in the form of Villas-Boas, it is understandable but still unreasonable as to why some players would feel uneasy. The media haven’t helped either, with their love for Frank Lampard in particular, making it a big story every time he is dropped to the bench even though the 33 year old clearly doesn’t suit Chelsea’s new style of play.

                If he had been allowed to from the very start, Villas-Boas could have started the process of building a Chelsea team that would at the very least challenge for years to come, and he may well still do that. He has recognised the inherent problem in Chelsea’s squad, which is that they are dependent on players who are undoubtedly past their best, and he is clearly trying to fix that. However without the support of first and foremost the owner, whose visits to Chelsea’s training ground following defeats can only undermine the manager, and secondly the players, who need to realise that the club is much bigger and more important than them, Villas-Boas will find it very difficult to guide Chelsea to success.  

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