What have Chelsea lost? Their minds? Yes. The respect of the footballing world? Absolutely. Their place among Europe’s elite for next season? Quite possibly, but that’s not what I mean.
How good is their now former manager Andre Villas-Boas? It feels like his time at the highly dysfunctional Chelsea will not serve as a good representation of his skills. With the inevitable Mourinho comparisons he was under too much scrutiny from day one; far from a comfortable working environment. It looked as though one of the most talented young managers in the world had lost it in the space of a few months, but that is rarely the case, just as talented players like Arshavin don’t simply forget how to be good; there is always something going on behind the scenes.
It’s all been said elsewhere, and by me before on this site so I won’t go into too much detail, but if the stories are to be believed, AVB was basically mocked by senior ‘pros’ such as Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole towards the end. Any manager would struggle in this situation.
And indeed many managers HAVE struggled at Chelsea. Fans weren’t exactly warming to Carlo Ancelotti in his first season as they went through a bad spell, but they ended up winning the double. As soon as it was clear they would not repeat the feat the following season, the writing was on the wall. And it is no coincidence that their form got worse immediately after more of Roman Abramovich’s meddling, in this case the sacking of assistant Ray Wilkins, who was close with both Ancelotti and many of the players. In their next game they lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland and it was all downhill from there. Ancelotti admitted later than Abramovich made his life hell at Chelsea that season.
We all know Ancelotti is a good manager, so what about AVB? Let us remind ourselves of his achievements before taking the dreaded hot seat at Stamford Bridge:
– A treble in his first season in charge with Porto
– Won the league unbeaten. Yes it’s only the Portugese league, but it is only the second time this has been done in its history
– Most points in a 30-game Portuguese league season (84)
– Most consecutive wins in the Portuguese league (16)
– First job in football as a 16-year-old under Bobby Robson at Porto
– Youngest Premier League manager ever
– Most expensive manager ever (£13.3 million)
That’s all very impressive, but I guess it’s inevitable that we’ll always go back to the “yeah but it’s the Portugese league” line. AVB was obviously too good for that league, but then coming to England so soon is a big step up. In his first Premier League game at Stoke he complained more than Wenger does about the physical play of the Stoke players. It feels horribly cliche to say, but welcome to England. You might not like it, but if you complain about it that will be seen as a big sign of weakness.
From then on you’d also have to say some of his tactical decisions and choice of personnel were not the best. First, his work in the transfer market wasn’t great: Juan Mata has been the only obvious hit; exciting prospect Romelu Lukaku has hardly played; Meireles smacked of desperation, and Romeu seems solid at best, but nothing special. Then of course Gary Cahill was signed in January, but time will tell if he can cut it at a big club. AVB’s biggest success story, arguably, was getting Daniel Sturridge to a new level, but when he’s your best striker you know you’re in trouble. The fact that he, like Ancelotti, could not get the best out of Fernando Torres would serve as another major annoyance for the owner who spent so much on him last January.
And while I support the fact that he clearly had ‘a project’ in mind, perhaps one that would take a few years to come into fruition, he was probably too stubborn in his decision to play a high line with this group of players. By all means, sell the old guard and bring in some younger players that fit your system, but while the old guard are still there it would make far more sense to stick to what they know. His players obviously never warmed to him, but at the same time it seems he didn’t do enough to adapt to them either, too keen to establish himself as the boss.
But in that environment, who can blame him? It’s all very messy at Chelsea and I just can’t see anyone except Mourinho coming in and doing a good job. And he won’t come back because, despite being the club’s most successful manager ever, he too was forced out by Abramovich.
You don’t need to be a genius to see who really needs to go, do you?
As much as I have enjoyed Chelsea’s downfall this season, it is sad to see such a promising manager treated so badly. I think in the right environment he could be very successful. For now he should return to a ‘smaller’ club and build from there. He was mentioned by some gooners last season as a potential Wenger replacement and, given some time, I think he could do a job for us one day.
Chelsea will live to regret the day they forced away yet another good manager. For one thing, it’s going to look like an increasingly off-putting position for any other good managers to take up.