Andre Villas-Boas must have had some reservations in becoming the seventh Chelsea manager in eight years. It is fair to say that the Abramovich era, though a successful one for the club, has consisted of few successful managers. Only Jose Mourhino and Carlo Ancelotti were able to win the league at Chelsea, whilst the likes of Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari both ended their reigns in charge without any silverware to boast. High expectations are part of the package at Stamford Bridge, and this is something Villas-Boas will have been fully aware of. Whilst some of the names mentioned above looked to enforce distinctive playing styles on the players at the club, others often seemed too cautious in their management, perhaps concerned that should any drastic changes or tactics backfire, it would ultimately be them that would have to face the consequences.
Despite winning the double in his first season at Chelsea, Ancelotti often appeared to be very relaxed on the touchline, perhaps a little too relaxed at times, and this kind of attitude could be seen in the Chelsea players on a number of occasions throughout last season. Chelsea lacked the ability to grind out results, or to get that crucial goal, and never seemed to really get out of second gear for much of the campaign. Whilst Ancelotti’s capabilities as a coach should not be questioned too heavily – his CV speaks for itself – it seems that this style of play did ultimately cost him his job at Chelsea.
Earlier this week Villas-Boas claimed that his players must believe in his playing methods if they are to be successful this season, however he insisted that it was possible to be successful in football in various different ways. The important thing for Villas-Boas, is that the players are able to commit themselves to his ideas and strategies, regardless of what they are. Writing in the club magazine, Villas-Boas claims that his players must be willing to “commit and die for you and for the cause”. For some this may seem to be somewhat extreme, but perhaps should not be taken so literally. Chelsea seemed to lack the passion and desire of champions last season, and appeared to be frustrated and even disinterested at times. It seems almost essential that Villas-Boas is able to instill a sense of belief and a winning mentality back in to the players at Chelsea, and players ‘commitment to the cause’ is fundamental if he is to do so.
The Chelsea boss insists that he is happy with the current Chelsea crop and that there is no need for ‘big’ or ‘radical’ changes, particularly with regards to personnel. On the field, he believes it is important that his players are ‘freed of decision making’. In order to “exploit the potential of every player to the full”, Villas-Boas maintains that players must be given a certain amount of freedom, “or else they will never test it.” We can rest assure then, that Villas-Boas will seek to bring the best out of what has often been referred to as an ‘ageing’ Chelsea side. Whilst many may consider this a risk, particularly due to the Abramovich’s limited patience, it is a risk he clearly feels is calculated and worth taking.
One thing we can certainly hope to expect from Chelsea this season is goals. The tactics employed by Villas-Boas at Porto helped his side to 145 goals in just 58 games, and he will certainly be hoping to get these kinds of numbers out of the likes of Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba next term. Having spent almost 4 years at the club with Jose Mourhino, Villas-Boas believes his time at Chelsea before will certainly make things a little easier for him, and it seems fair to assume that if he can relay the confidence and belief that he has in his own abilities as a manager on to the players as well, then this Chelsea side may be a force to be reckoned with. Only time will tell us exactly how much has changed at Stamford Bridge since the appointment of Villas-Boas, but after a comparably poor season last time out, changes certainly do seem necessary. This are certainly exciting times for everyone involved with Chelsea, and this could well be the start of something special, should Villas-Boas be given the time to prove himself. As we all know, ‘time’ is not something that Abramovich is particularly fond of.