Andre Villas-Boas is Chelsea manager, but for how long, time will tell. But re-read that statement again: Andre Villas-Boas is Chelsea manager. That last word: manager. A word which was not the same word used for Carlo Ancelotti, for example. No, he was only given the role of “first-team coach.” Does that mean anything at all, or is it already 1-0 to Villas-Boas in terms of power? Does “manager” have more of a role than “first-team coach”? Time will tell.
Pre-season has been brilliant for Andre Villas-Boas. Though used more for experimental purposes, we can see his way of thinking. He has tried new methods, nurturing through the likes of McEachran and playing him more attacking and giving the legends like Frank Lampard the chance to sit back and further his career. He has also adopted different formations, with 4-3-3 being the favourite, the same one that saw him win so mesmerising with FC Porto last season. He has adopted interesting attacking options, with Malouda-Drogba-Anelka, and Sturridge-Torres-Kalou being the two front-three options often used. Could this signal something to come?
In the transfer markets, Chelsea have not rushed in. Instead, Villas-Boas has been given time to work with his squad and see for himself what needs improving. He has, so far, not been thrust upon with “present” like Mourinho with Shevchenko or Ancelotti with Torres. He has been very wise, signing three young talents in Courtois, Romeu and Lukaku, presumably to, one day, replace Cech, Drogba and Lampard respectively. He is preparing Chelsea for the future – presumably, he will be with them for it.
The first game against Stoke is crucial. For us to see Villas-Boas on that touch-line and what he does will show a lot about him and his philosophy. The media want to get to know what type of manager he is. The players want to know if they are in his thoughts for team selection. A win would get Chelsea off to a good start; a loss (coupled with a few more) will no doubt raise questions as to whether this is too big a job for the man younger than one of the players.
Everyone says this is a huge risk Abramovich is taking. But really, is it? No. Abramovich does not take risks. He can hire and dine, and fire and wine any manager he wants. He can dismiss them so brutally for no reason at all, no problem. This is a risk for Villas-Boas. He must get this right. He must start right. No-one needs telling him of previous Chelsea manager’s fate. With the exception of Jose Mourinho, no previous Chelsea manager has gone onto bigger things. Ancelotti is out of a job, Grant too (his last taking West Ham down), and who can forget Luiz Felipe who? (I can.)
Andre Villas-Boas has shown us a lot of what he can do in his time at Porto. He has youth yet experience at the same time. He understands Chelsea and knows the players. He speaks impeccable English and is tactically sound. And that is why I see him as a winning formula for Chelsea, and I’m sure, come May, he will prove me right.