Two losses and a draw in four consecutive matches aren’t the makings of a team that are supposedly title contenders. But, that is the form Chelsea have found themselves in, in recent weeks and while prior to the 1-0 defeat to QPR over two weeks ago they had won the previous three games 5-1, 3-1 and 5-0, against Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Genk respectively, their displays have left a lot to be desired for.
Naturally, comparisons to former employer Jose Mourinho were ultimately going to occur, with the two having worked together at both FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan. Breaking the records of the now Real Madrid coach while in charge of Porto last season was child’s play for the 34-yeard-old as the Portuguese outfit stormed to a quadruple in his one and only season in charge of the Dragões, becoming the youngest ever manager to win a European competition in the process.
With that in mind, it was hardly unlikely that some of Europe’s biggest clubs were all interested in the coach, who began his career in management as a plucky 16-year-old who happened to be living in the same apartment block as the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. Manchester City were heavily linked with him, as were the rejuvenated Old Lady, Juventus. But, he was always destined to follow in the footsteps of Mourinho and after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the 2010/11 season, Roman Abramovich didn’t hesitate in paying the necessary €15m “transfer fee” in order to release him from his contract.
It is the worst kept secret in football that the Russian oligarch desires attractive, attacking football at Stamford Bridge and having gone through six managers in the past eight years, the pressure is most definitely on Villas-Boas to succeed, especially if he doesn’t want to end up on the Chelsea managerial scrapheap that the likes of Big Phil Scolari, Avram Grant and Ancelotti currently reside on.
The sole reason Abramovich bought him to Stamford Bridge was as a result of the football Porto had played the previous season and with the defending Portuguese champions sweeping aside half of Europe on their way to European success with the kind of attacking flair and intent that the Chelsea has craved since 2003, the €15m spent to secure his signature could be well worth it, especially if Champions League glory is bought to Stamford Bridge.
However, it hasn’t worked out ideally thus far for Villas-Boas. Currently languishing in fourth place, nine points behind league leaders Manchester City, it may only be November but they have already got an expediential amount of ground to catch up on Roberto Mancini’s unbeaten side. And with Newcastle United three points ahead of them, Tottenham level on points with the Blue, with a game in hand over their rivals, and Liverpool only one point behind them, it is hardly surprising that Villas-Boas is already under pressure despite the season only being 10 games old.
Abramovich today admitted he is willing to back his new man at the helm, despite the poor run of form, and it is important that the chairman backs his manager if success is too brought to Stamford Bridge. Too many managers are sacked without instant triumph, without the chance to really make their mark on the team and it is pivotal that the Portuguese manager has Abramovich’s full backing otherwise risk a major lack of stability at the club.
However, Villas-Boas was very, very dependent on the players at Porto to bring success to the Europa League champions whereas at Chelsea, he has inherited a squad in desperate need of a re-vamp. The changes began in January and it can be said that the Blues are currently in transition, and have been for the best part of almost 18 months. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, considered by some the spine of the team, are all the wrong side of 30 and while David Luiz, Raul Meireles and Romelu Lukaku have all arrived in 2011, it will take time for the trio, along with Juan Mata, to settle into their new surroundings. But, it is the aforementioned trio that are denying Villas-Boas the chance of playing the type of football that made Porto such a force in Europe last year.
Starters when fit but for how much longer? Too wooden to really attack teams with pace, it is questioned as to how long they will be part of the manager’s plans. With Abramovich craving trophies, but done in a way similar to Barcelona, changes will have to be made sooner rather than later especially if the wrong results continue to dog the Blues. An away game at Blackburn Rovers at the weekend should see Chelsea return to winnings ways and attempt to press back up the table, especially if they are to wrestle the title back from Manchester United and away from the grasps of Manchester City this season.
Ben McAleer @BenMcAleer