Andre Villas-Boas looks set to become the new manager of Chelsea following his resignation from Porto.
He will inherit from Carlo Ancelotti a squad that is capable of winning, but one that every successor to Mourinho has struggled to make their own. The clubs owner will happily back him in the transfer market, but will demand results and, possibly more intriguingly, a role in the day-to-day management of the club. Frank Arnesen has left him a a promising youth set-up, but one that the hierarchy has let Arnesen cherry-pick whilst the club focused on finding a manager.
Here’s some thoughts on what Andre Villas-Boas will have to do when he arrives at Stamford Bridge.
Most managers would be pretty pleased to turn up to their first training session and watch John Terry, Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Petr Cech jog out onto the pitches. There is no denying the quality Andre Villas-Boas has at his disposal, but there are obvious areas that need working on.
The obvious issue is the conundrum of Torres. World-beater a couple of years ago, but now no-one knows what to do with him. Kenny Dalglish saw him as the cash-cow to reinvigorate a tired Liverpool side, Chelsea’s owner saw him as the jewel he had been craving for years. Andre Villas-Boas will have to see him as the focal point of his team. Jose Mourinho appeared to have team sheets pre-printed with the spine of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba onto them. Villas-Boas will have to look to Torres as the rock around which his team plays.
This is not only because Abramovich has spent £50m on the Spaniard, but also because to draw the talent out of the player he has to be played correctly. Torres‘ performance against Nemanja Vidic in 2009 has passed into football folklore. “We knew that maybe with Fernando’s movement we could create problems for the defenders,’ said Rafael Benitez after his side mauled United’s defenders. Let Torres move about, create space, be involved in the build up play, all the things he enjoys doing basically, and you will be rewarded.
If he has to spend the match monitoring where Didier Drogba is, you lose something from the Spaniard.
Didier Drogba is the biggest challenge for Andre Villas-Boas. There is no question that he is not the force he was a few seasons ago, but to write him off would be a mistake. That’s why I would sell him, but not let him within a hundred miles of another Premier League team. As Dalglish had to do the unthinkable and dispense with Torres and Ferguson has had to rebuild many United sides following the departures of big names, so must Abramovich and the Portugese take the plunge and lose one of the clubs great servants. This could be a tough ask given his ties to the club – Abramovich oversaw the player’s wedding a few weeks ago – but the opportunities for Torres, and youngsters such as Daniel Sturridge, to establish themselves as the owner of the the Stamford Bridge turf would be a huge incentive.
The next problem for the former Porto man will be the depth of the squad. The only answer is for some wise purchases twinned with the inclusion of some of the promising youth currently on Chelsea’s books. The youth team have just won the Barclays Reserve South League, and players like Josh McEachran and Gael Kakuta have been lauded for some time. Villas-Boas needs to use the ability at his disposal to give himself a ‘Plan B’ on the pitch.
The papers will continue to link Chelsea with a host of players – Modric, Sneijder and so on – but Villas-Boas will have to steer clear of blowing his budget on a couple of big names and look to build a squad of players that can compete on every front.
Villas-Boas will only have to take one look at Chelsea‘s recent history to see what is expected of him. He has been hired because he won the treble with Porto, and he won’t be given long to replicate some of that success in South London.
Guus Hiddink had been the long-time favourite to take over from Ancellotti, and it will be interesting to see if he does take a role at the club. If I was Villas-Boas I would welcome the appointment of a Director of Football. An office between the Chairman and the Manager could provide welcome breathing space for the young manager. Hiddink would obviously be the Russian billionaire’s choice, but Villas-Boas must ensure the role is filled by someone who will allow him to do what the Portuguese thinks is right for the team and is happy to tell Abramovich just so.
He also has to own his team. John Terry and co need to be put in their place and have it made very clear that they are paid to put the work on the pitch, he is paid to do the work off of it. Mourinho may have wanted several mini-mou’s on the pitch ensuring his every bidding was carried out meticulously, but this Portuguese will have to stamp his authority – and his instruction – on the side.
Vills-Boas’ predecessor had a rather nice line in self-depricating humour, and it helped endear the club to a lot of people; as well as helped restore the image of the Blues in spite of the fact that, let’s face it, some of the players are rather tough to like. Whilst Villas-Boas may not have the carefree attitude of Carlo ‘I know I’m getting sacked’ Ancellotti, he must also steer clear of becoming a Mourinho-esque rent-a-quote. Abramovich won’t want it, and the league could do with being spared a revisit to the Mourinho melodrama that rendered what went on on the pitch second billing.
The press will love the battle of new versus old, Ferguson, Wenger and Dalglish will all be interested to see what the 33-year-old can do. The league will be far better off if the ‘new Mou’ can bring a whole new character to the show.
Andre Villas-Boas is full of potential. That is what Abramovich is paying for, and that is what the chairman, the players, the fans and the press will all expect to see some demonstration of, and quickly.
People will speculate that he needs the league title or the champions league in his first year to stay in the job, but what he needs to do is make his mark. Even Abramovich would not sack someone who is clearly doing the right thing. The 2011-12 season will be an interesting one as a partly revamped Manchester United defend their title against a ‘last chance’ Wenger side, an invigorated Manchester City side and an ever-evolving Tottenham side. The opportunity is there for Villas-Boas to do a great job at Chelsea, but he will have to take some large strides with the club early on to make it clear that he is the right man to build the next trophy winning Chelsea side.
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