Another new season dawns and with it another new Chelsea manager takes control at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas Boas has is now at the helm at a crucial juncture in the club’s recent history after a hugely successful season with Porto last year. As ever, the Chelsea job comes with undue pressure placed on it from above in the form of it’s hegemonic Chairman Roman Abramovich – the emphasis to win trophies playing a brand of attractive, attacking football has always been there, but will the transition mean that the fare on show in West London this season will be boring or beautiful? And will the supposed change in style impact on their chances of winning the league with the players he has at his disposal?
Villa Boas carved out a reputation whilst with Porto of being an attacking-minded manager. Last season Porto romped to the league unbeaten with 64 goals in 30 matches, garnering 84 points along the way – a Portuguese league record . They went unbeaten for 36 games across all competitions and won the Europa League. About as perfect as any season can get.
Villas Boas’s hiring appears to be the right for me. Had Guus Hiddink been handed the job, you would seriously have to question the wisdom of handing such a large rebuilding job to a manager on a short-term deal. Villas Boas, while just 33 years of age and on a three year-deal, does appear to be the right man at the right time for Chelsea, but will they be able to play the attacking football that their Chairman so evidently craves and has become their new manager’s staple?
The club’s very public pursuit of Luka Modric goes some way to telling you that all is not rosy with concerns to the balance of the Chelsea squad. Fresh attacking talent is right at the top of the agenda and with good reason.
Chelsea will always boast a steady and resolute defence, but it’s been their lack of guile and the side’s over-reliance on Frank Lampard’s goals which has proven it’s downfall. There’s also an argument for stating that they also lack a fair amount of pace and too much of their approach is built around both their size and power.
The new manager stated earlier this week that: “You free them from their limitations that they might have in a different kind of system, but, in the end, you make them believe in their qualities and this is the most important thing. Coming here in not just a question of big, radical changes. You have to be clear in what you do and decide well and I’m confident that we have enough people with the quality here to go forward.”
Analysing Chelsea’s striking talent and they are well stocked but without a system in place to get the best out of them. Soloman Kalou should remain for he is a perfectly serviceable fourth-choice option to have in reserve. Nicolas Anelka’s days at Chelsea look numbered though – although capable of ‘doing a job’ out on the wing, his lack of threat the past season or so has been troubling and his pace has dropped off immeasurably and he’s sure to be moved on if a suitable replacement is found.
Florent Malouda’s form is a changeable as the wind. He can be brilliant and inadequate in equal measure. He can go missing in games and be a match-winner. He may be moved on, but the fact that he remains Chelsea’s only real recognised winger should ensure his stay.
Didier Drogba remain a key part of the way Chelsea used to play, but does he represent it’s future? At 33 years of age, it’s fair to say that his days as an automatic selection are over. If his big ego can take being part of a squad rather than it’s immediate starting eleven, he’s a fantastic asset to have, but that’s a big if.
What became abundantly clear last term is that Torres and Drogba are not well-suited. Their styles contrast. One goes long, the other holds it up. While in theory that may work, if you have been at the club as long as Drogba has, your team-mates get used to one style of play and Drogba’s style of play only.
Torres cannot be a flop. The Chairman has far too much at stake in terms of monetary value let alone pride involved with this transfer. To get the best out of Torres you have to tailor make a formation to suit him. When he’s asked to slot into an existing system, as he has done with Spain, he’s often found wanting.
A link man between attack and midfield is the main target. Modric, Sneijder and Neymar have all been mooted with big money moves. Lampard’s goals have been crucial to Chelsea in the past and are just about irreplaceable, but Villas Boas is going to have to adapt and change it up to get the best out of Torres, and with it Lampard’s relatively free role in the side.
The money is there, the willingness is there, but at the moment, on the face of it at least, Chelsea still have a relatively stilted and ageing attacking force. This is Villa Boas primary aim and he knows it.
Until they stump up the cash for a new link man, likely to be Modric, then Villas Boas will simply be unable to replicate the system that he wants at Chelsea, and the one that saw his Porto side plunder 145 goals in 58 games last season.
They appear to have the right manager at the helm, but until his targets are purchased, this current Chelsea side will continue to resemble a side that has seen better days. To be boring or beautiful at Stamford Bridge this season will have little to do with the intent of their new manager, but whether they are successful in their endeavours in the transfer market in what represents a hugely important season for the club, for without a successful transfer window, Chelsea will not win the league with the squad that they currently have.