Friday, 24 June 2011

Six things Andre Villas-Boas must do at Chelsea – in roughly chronological order.

  1. Break the association with Mourinho

Even The Special One, with all of his pomp and arrogance, was referred to as “The Translator” when things didn’t go to plan. Mourinho’s stint at Barcelona was variously described as anything from Bobby Robson’s translator, to assistant manager. The fact that Villas-Boas was Mourinho’s assistant at Porto, Chelsea and Inter. It will weigh heavy on people’s minds, and Villas-Boas will need to mark his boundaries quickly. Many of Mourinho’s signings remain at Stamford Bridge, and others that were favourites of his. Players such as Drogba, Terry, Lampard, and Kalou will remember him from Mourinho days, and he will either have to immediately command their respect, or else there will be a problem with player power. Mourinho combated player power by ensuring that no ego was bigger than his own. His “Special One” press conference is rightly legendary. Villas-Boas has already sought to distance himself and differentiate himself from Mourinho. He achieved this by opting for a far lower-key initial press statement of “don’t expect something from one man”. Unfortunately, that is exactly why Abramovich has paid £13.3 million to buy out his contract at Porto. Abramovic expects Villas-Boas to deliver. The national press is already full of comparison pieces about Villas-Boas and Mourinho. The comparisons even go down to the way that both managers foster close relationships with their players.

  1. Find replacements for Terry, Lampard and Drogba

John Terry is only 30, but he is showing signs of creakiness already. He was never one to rely on pace, admittedly. But when the little pace he has goes, he needs to be moved on. Most central defenders would be hitting their peak at his age, but John Terry seems to be past his.

However, more to the point, he’s a disruptive influence in the dressing room. Having publically stated that he would welcome the appointment of Guus Hiddink, Terry has let it known that Villas-Boas was not his first choice.

Drogba is also one of the most outspoken players in the dressing room. His powers have waned over the last two seasons, he’s no longer the force he was on the pitch. At 33, he’s in the twilight of his career, and may want to return to the French League for a swansong of sorts. One player already linked with Chelsea is Columbian 25 year old Radamel Falcao, who has scored 73 goals in 85 appearances for Porto in the last two seasons – including a record 18 in 15 in the Europa League.

Lampard is another who’s powers are on the wane. Replacing Lampard is less of a political issue than it is in the case of Drogba and Terry. Frank Lampard undoubtedly has a huge influence on the dressing room, but is also known to be a highly intelligent professional. Lampard in his prime never missed a game, and could guarantee 20 goals a season. His replacement is more of a tactical renewal, with another of Villas-Boas’ Porto stars Moutinho touted as his successor. The Portuguese midfielder is more versatile than Lampard. He also shares with Frank Lampard an apparent imperviousness to injury.

Villas-Boas will no doubt wish to bring players in, and will be backed in the transfer market by Roman Abramovich. My guess is that he’ll look to replace the aging spine of the team, and with that he’ll ensure that the biggest voices in the dressing room are his men, not Mourinho’s. He needs to get his buys during the summer, so that they can gel with the existing players.

  1. Hit the ground running

Managing a top side in the Premier League is not an easy thing to do. Managing Chelsea in particular is turning into somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Just ask World Cup winning manager Big Phil Scolari, he was ousted before completing a season. With a billionaire owner who appears to be becoming increasingly restless and ruthless, and has proven that he’s prepared to fork out the money required to get rid of people before their contract runs down.

  1. Win over the media

Sorry to mention him again, but Mourinho is the man with whom the parallels are being drawn. The media’s obsession with Villas-Boas being a “Mini-Mourinho” will not satisfy itself until he proves otherwise, or implodes under pressure. Mourinho had the press pack hanging off his every word and Villas-Boas will do well to avoid trying to be him. And he seems to be doing this already. An interview with Chelsea TV quotes him as saying “Don’t expect something from one man”, and he comes across as very quietly self-confident. But, pressure in England is far higher than in Portugal. The scrutiny of the media has often proved too much for some managers of big clubs, some are merely perplexed by it all.

Villas- Boas is young, good looking, stylish and intelligent – I hope for his sake that he’s given some time to establish himself.

  1. Entertain

Porto’s unbeaten league campaign of 2010/11 produced 73 goals from 30 games. They conceded only 16, giving them a goal difference 27 higher than second placed Benfica. This is where Villas-Boas can really show his form, and step out from Mourinho’s shadow. His favoured formation at Porto was an attacking 4-3-3, and the players are there at Chelsea to be able to play any formation the manager asks them to – they certainly get paid enough to anyway! Villas-Boas will want to play the game his way, and that should make for exciting times at Chelsea. Villas-boas is famed for his meticulous approach to the game. Nothing is left to chance, and he develops game plans to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses.

  1. Win everything

That means everything.

With an aging squad, a club might be expected to go through a transitional period of a season and a half, before the manager brings in enough of his own players and staff to get things running the way he wants.

However, this is not the case with Chelsea.

Abramovich will want to see returns this season. Some of Villas-Boas predecessors have been fired for not winning silverware in a season. Avram Grant was sacked for almost delivering. A League Cup final defeat by Tottenham, a Champions League Final defeat in the most agonising of circumstances, and a second place in the league wasn’t good enough.

Abramovich has only given the Villas-Boas a three year contract, so I’d expect that he’d want to see the Premier League title back at Chelsea within the first two years, along with the Champions League that has so far evaded him.

There is absolutely no doubt, Roman Abramovich cares about reputations. He’s brought the most hotly tipped managerial talent to Chelsea. But as he’s proven time and time again, he’s got no qualms about destroying reputations if he doesn’t get what he wants – and that’s a success in Europe.

This piece was written by Thomas Nash, you can follow him on Twitter - @MrThomasNash

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