Who’d want to be a football manager? Quite a few actually. And with results having been below expectations in recent weeks for Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas has been the focus of many newspapers wondering how long his time as manager will last.
With a new league come new challenges. As a manager, Villas-Boas has spent years honing his craft in foreign countries, albeit with a brief spell at Chelsea as an assistant coach under Jose Mourinho, prior to his appointment as manager. To expect any player to adapt instantly to the English style of play is often unfair, and why not the same of a manager? An instant title challenge was never realistically going to be on the cards, and rightly so. Even Villas-Boas’ compatriot Mourinho took a season in charge both at Chelsea and Inter Milan before any serious attempts at winning silverware materialized, made even harder for Villas-Boas by the success of Manchester City this season.
Maybe the pressure facing Villas-Boas in recent weeks has seen criticism deflected from his team, on to him. Questions had been raised- even before the managerial change in the summer- that the average age of the Chelsea squad was too high to make a significant attempt at a title challenge. Since his introduction, Villas-Boas has been focused on bringing in young European talent such as Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata. In addition to the new faces bought into the squad, too many of the old guard have been sub-par in recent weeks. Petr Cech has, aside from a few moments this season, been below his personal best; the worst performance coming against Arsenal when he was debatably at fault for three goals. In addition, John Terry has been inconsistent throughout the season along with Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda, even before Fernando Torres is mentioned.
In bringing in a new manager, Chelsea have also adopted a new style to their play. As highlighted by Pat Nevin on MOTD2 on Sunday, Villas-Boas has been known as an entertainer during his tenure as Porto manager. Very rarely did his side graft out a 1-0 win as Man Utd seem to continuously do year on year. The supposedly easier games in the league could finish 5-3 because Villas-Boas is committed to total attack from his sides. While Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic are great defenders in their own right, both have been given advanced roles down the flanks on a regular basis. David Luiz is still picked weekly ahead of Alex, an arguably more sound choice at centre-back, less prone to bursting into the opponent’s half on a whim. But to compromise on his style goes against his previous success with Porto and commitment to football as a form of entertainment – something I personally commend him for.
Speaking of sacking Villas-Boas is premature to say the least. The boardroom at Chelsea won’t pay £15 million pounds to appoint a manager and then show him the door after four months in charge. Time will tell whether Villas-Boas can live up to the standard set by Mourinho, but his history suggests that he is capable of it.