Andre Villas-Boas, the latest addition to the long list of managers of Chelsea Football Club, completed a treble with his Porto team before joining Chelsea for a hefty 13-odd million of “Compensation”. He had previously worked at CFC under Jose, as the club’s Chief Opposition Scout. His accolades are testimony to the fact that he is more than capable to fulfil the needs of a manger at a top club such as Chelsea FC.
A protégé of Sir Bobby Robson, AVB first took up the job or hobby of analyzing football under Robson on a voluntary basis. He would discuss opposition tactics and formations with Robson, who lived in the same apartment as AVB during the Englishman’s spell at Porto. Robson, who was so impressed with his ability to read the game, urged him to take up football coaching as a career. He used his private contacts to help the young lad enroll for his coaching badges, despite being underage.
It is well known that Andre was key to the intricacies and minute details of the tactics used by Mourinho. The irony here is that, in this article, an attempt is made to analyse the master analyst himself.
His first move on arriving at The Bridge was to form a dependable backroom staff, of which he was once a part himself. He has fared very well in that aspect, giving the role of Assistant First Team Coach to Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Holland. Daniel Sousa has taken the role of Chief Opposition Scout. Holland, having been the reserve team coach till last year, is expected to help the youth from our very brilliant academy into the first team. Di Matteo, from his spell at West Brom, has shown his liking for an attacking brand of football – something our owner is immensely fond of.
AVB has had more of a Ranieri like “Tinkerman” approach to our formations and substitutions, switching from a 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 and even played a 4-4-2. From his Porto and Academia days, he is known to prefer the 4-3-3 system. It is believed that Carlo could never mold the Chelsea team to play in his preferred diamond formation. He tried the system, but then later switched to the 4-3-3 again. This inability or unwillingness to adapt to the diamond formation on the players’ part, was proof enough that Carlo was not to last long. This has been much talked about in the media, “Player Power” as they call it. This left Carlo with no authority and helpless during the “Slump”.
On the Torres issue, Villas-Boas has helped his confidence by getting Mata and Raul to supply to him in the new 4-2-3-1 formation. He has scored 2 goals in 2 games, in addition to providing assits, but has shot himself in the foot by missing that goal and getting sent off. It is widely believed that he is back to his best and soon will be banging in goals for fun in some time.
AVB follows a system wherein the team plays with high pressure and pace, maintaining possession, and utilizes the wings. Honestly, Chelsea FC lacked both pace and width when the manager arrived. He has tried to tackle the issue in the following ways –
1) He has revived Bosingwa back to his initial best; only in the attacking sense though. The Portuguese connection may have played a part here.
2) Not letting Ryan Bertrand leave on loan yet again; thus covering for the loss of Zhirkov and being bold enough to make him a back-up for Cole, who is still one of the best left-backs in the world.
3) Purchase of Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku.
4) Danny Sturridge – his transformation from a center forward to a wing-forward. Although, he still needs to improve.
5) Gael Kakuta has been loaned to Bolton to help him get game time and develop to suit the English style.
There were calls by the fans to see a better right-back for the team at the beginning, but the way AVB has turned the clock with Bosingwa, the issue is sorted (his defending needs somework) and with Paulo, who is our most under-rated player, it is sealed.
Another major concern over the last season and the summer was the creativity. The failed pursuit of Luka Modric was disheartening. It is commonly thought that our creator for the last many years, Frank Lampard, had seemed off-colour and led the media to believe that he was past it. Many fans also thought for once last season that he was not the same after his last injury. But his brilliant displays in the Metasalla and against Bolton have shut the critics up and provided some much needed confidence. I think in the Bolton match, stealing no credit from him, the home team defended very poorly, and he did his part by clinically finishing his chances. He has been benched by AVB many a times and quite rightly so. Lampard slows down the game with his two-touch game. Some may argue that Mikel is worse, but Mikel is defensively very strong and usually has no options other than his usual horizontal passes to advancing full-backs. Frank still is crucial to AVB’s plans but not a name that would select itself on the team list, as has been for long.
This is where Raul Meireles comes into the equation. Raul is a central midfield who can create if given the freedom, as shown by Dalglish in the first month of his arrival, when the Portuguese scored 5 goals by arriving late in the box (Lampard-esque), unmarked and dangerous. Contrary to many, he is a dual back-up to both Mikel and Frank. This would, as now seen, increase competition and help keep players fit. Also, at 12m it’s a steal considering it favoured all parties. Although creativity seems an issue, managing till January should not be a problem. An allegation on Villas-Boas was that he didn’t dispose off the deadwood in the summer. It’s agreeable to some extent, but he is not wrong to retain Florent Malouda, Nicholas Anelka and Kalou. We have seen the new role Anelka has taken and Malouda’s versatility allows the manager to switch formations, just like Mata. He also is the only option on the left wing if Mata is used in center, behind the striker or as a creator.
Considering loans, he has done well. Josh has been retained for a slow integration into the first team, for playing in the Carling Cup and FA Cup, and for for adding cover to the side during African Cup of Nations. Bertrand is also ready to step it up when needed.
Other signings – Oriol Romeu and Ulises Davila – hold good potential for the future. AVB has also, on arrival, met the scouting unit to specially tell them to bring in young talent for nurturing and using them later.
Other Minute Observations
His brave and very right approach in the game against Man United was impressive, subbing an ineffective Lampard at half-time and playing a formation suitable to take the game to United.
He has also evidently asked Mikel to be more attacking and we see him come forward for set-piece situations now.
The only concerns are the zonal marking system from set-pieces and the high defensive line which has led to goals being conceded, especially from the flanks (United/Swansea/Sunderland). The players are taking time to adapt to the change, but the developments so far have been mostly positive.
There appears to be a gentleman’s agreement between Roman and his new manager that the team is being given to him for transition and a trophy-less season now would not lead to a sacking. Roman has vested all faith into him to build a new Chelsea FC, which is capable of winning on the European stage. The recent comments of Steve Buck also point towards a desire of establishing stability at the club, something not publically expressed before other than when Jose came in. The Chelsea faithfuls hope that this young and able man can do the needful and stay here for the years to come, eventually bringing home the Holy Grail – Champions League.
He has done more right than wrong and it appears that he will prove to be an ideal manager for Chelsea in the long term.
– Manas Agrawal
Follow the author on Twitter @BlueBlood_Manas.