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The Downfall Of Andre Villas-Boas

Tuesday 20th March 2012
The young King has departed Stamford Bridge, his crown lying dented. On 4th March 2012, following a Premier League defeat to West Bromwich Albion the day before which left Chelsea in fifth place and three points behind Arsenal in the battle for Champions League football, Chelsea parted company with their King, Andre Villas-Boas, after less than a season in charge.

What Went Wrong?

Andre Villas-Boas had a glittering year as manager at Porto before joining Chelsea Football Club in June 2011. He won the Portuguese Supercup, the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the UEFA Europa League and the Portuguese Cup. He was the third youngest coach to win the Premeira Liga and the youngest manager ever to win a European competition at the age of 33.

Known as a tactician, Villas-Boas would spend hour-upon-hour pouring over books and DVDs, regarding tactics to be employed. This is fine, but there must be a balance with actual play and not just theory. Players must play football with passion and a certain amount of free reign – not hindered by being pinned to a certain spot or player all the time. Sometimes, you just cannot play exactly to a plan.

Often, Andre Villas-Boas was seen on the touchline just before a player came on the pitch as a substitute, speaking in the player's ear. What words of wisdom were spoken? It sometimes looked as if Villas-Boas was telling the player the basics of how to defend. Is this not a bit patronising to a player with the vast amount of experience of, say, Ashley Cole?

Bizarre team selection and substitutions were also made by the former manager. For example, not playing Frank Lampard from the start in the away leg of the Champions League match against Napoli and regularly taking off Juan Mata, who is so often a good creator of chances for Chelsea, before the end of the 90 minutes. He also continued to play players out of form, such as Raul Meireles and Daniel Sturridge.

With regards the younger players, Oriol Romeu was not featuring in his first team selections, which appeared strange as the young Spaniard had been playing well in midfield. Romelu Lukaku, the young Belgian striker, has spent nearly all of this season on the first team bench. Surely the youngsters must be gradually integrated into the team and should have been given more playing time. Josh McEachran was put out on loan to Swansea and hardly ever plays for the Welsh team. Chelsea should be nurturing young talent at their own club.

What of the Future for Chelsea?

Roberto di Matteo, the former Chelsea player, took over as caretaker manager on Villas-Boas' dismissal, and Chelsea have not lost a game since then. In the 2nd leg of the Champions League last 16, Chelsea managed to overcome a 3-1 defeat beating Napoli 4-1 to qualify for the quarter finals. Under di Matteo, Chelsea also won 5-2 against Leicester City to book a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Fernando Torres ended his goal drought with a brace during that match.

The team is playing with passion again and di Matteo appears to be trying to combine the experience of the ‘old guard' with the enthusiasm of the younger players. He has belief in his men. Whether di Matteo is appointed the manager on a permanent basis, time will tell. One negative is that he does not have managerial experience in the Champions League, although he does have years of experience in Europe as a player. Other managers with vast experience in Europe, such as Carlo Ancelotti, have gone on to be sacked by the club.

Will Jose Mourinho return? Again, time will tell. However, he will want a free reign over team selection and no interference from Roman Abramovich, the owner, which reportedly took place when Mr Mourinho managed Chelsea before.

Whatever happens, Chelsea needs to play with skill, passion and flair, on which they have built a reputation. Any future manager must be aware of this and the owner needs to put faith in a manager for more than one or two seasons.
Lynn Farmer

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