Andre Villas-Boas is a clever man. A man who was nurtured under the wings of Sir Bobby Robson, guided under the mastery that was Jose Mourinho, and someone who became his own man by winning all that was possible in his first full season in management. His footballing knowledge is undeniable. His wisdom is undeniable. But his composure in making decisions is questionable. From selecting David Luiz as a defender – on paper, the man is, but I’m sure Luiz himself knows that he really is not a defender at all – to creating defensive organisations that are near abysmal, sums up a clever man who is not quite exploiting his full potential.
AVB certainly likes an adrenaline rush. Off the field, we know this from his own admission – his love for motorbikes is unwavering due to its “thrill” and “freedom”. But on the field, should the thrills be kept to one side to grind out precious points? Time and time again we have seen Chelsea fall short. One day, I’m sure – in fact I can safely say I know – that all this will pay off. We will really gel and each match we will be winning 3-0s, 4-0s, maybe even more. But key words: “one day”. That day may not come soon enough for the man. Manchester City are a side collecting tremendous reviews for their attacking play. But they have had three years since their take-over and so three years to prepare. Barcelona have been dominating European football for the last couple of seasons, but their lynchpin in Xavi is 31 – they have had time to develop. It is unfair and totally unjust to point the finger at AVB when he has had months in the hotseat, the number countable in one hand.
Chelsea are on the way up and going through a huge period of transition, of that no-one can deny. The signing of Juan Mata is proving inspirational, and no doubt, judging by the evidence of a few cameos, that the likes of Oriol Romeu and Romelu Lukaku will be tremendous players in the future for Chelsea. But key words: “the future”. Roman Abramovich may look for a guy to steer Chelsea to success in the future, but what he cares more about is the present. AVB must win. Key word: “must”. Roman Abramovich demands success with beautiful football, in that order. He would not want Chelsea to be a carbon copy of their north London rivals, play elegantly but win nothing. Trophies are more visible, AVB admits that himself. Roman demands success. Points, at the end of the day, are what Chelsea will carry forward. A gritty performance but maximum points will serve Chelsea more motivation going into the next match than a sublime performance and points wasted. That is what Chelsea are doing at the moment.
Matches like QPR and Arsenal at home are winnable. The latter team harder, granted, but still winnable. The former should be a certainty, but with two red cards, that match went pear-shaped. But those red cards did not happen for no reason. They were for reckless, adrenaline-fuelled tackles. The hormones get the better of you and even before you know it, you regret it. AVB, judging by his touch-line antics, is like that. A man fuelled by emotion. A man who maybe does things he regrets afterwards.
AVB plays with his and Chelsea’s favourite formation: 4-3-3. A front man at the top flanked by two quick wingers, and three midfielders pressing high up where possible, often overlapped by the two full-backs. Already, I’ve mentioned all but two of the outfield players. And that is my point. And that is the danger. Chelsea are so susceptible at the back this season it is beyond petrifying. AVB loves to attack, but you must not – key word: “must” – sacrifice defending for more attacking. And that is what AVB is doing. Roman Abramovich is whispering in his ear for Chelsea to play more attractively. Understandably therefore, AVB will focus more on attacking moves in training – you do as you are told with Roman. Naively, he must be compromising defensive structures, which are equally as important, if not more important. The ability to hold out a 1-0 win when you are not playing your best is indicative of a world-class side, not attacking so aggressively and losing 5-3.
AVB must learn. Grinding out results, regardless of any pressure from the owner, is of paramount importance and has to take precedence. Failure to get maximum points in Belgium on Tuesday, or even an under-whelming 1-0 or 2-0 win, and the spotlight will further be on him. He is living dangerously. Two league losses on the bounce – three in his first ten league games – makes him have the worst losing percentage of all Chelsea managers under Roman Abramovich’s era, and you know how those went. Hapless Luiz Felipe Scolari lost three in twenty-one. Mourinho lost three in SIXTY-FOUR. His Mini-Me needs to learn – and fast.