I quite liked Andre Villas Boas and his approach at Chelsea; he felt, rightly or wrongly, that it was time for an injection of youth and enthusiasm into the club’s squad. With Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge, Ramires and Oriol Romeu, the Blues have a base around which they can build a team, and Villas Boas was responsible for the progression of these players in his time at the club.
The problem he faced however was that although it may be time for Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda to either play a less-prominent role at the club or leave, this is a transitional process – any transition takes time to implement.
However, that is the one thing that a Chelsea manager never gets; time. Like Luis Felipe Scolari, Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Avram Grant before him, Villas Boas was not given sufficient time to make the team his own, and due to his inability to bring instant success to the club, he was shown the door.
Roman Abramovich, despite the financial backing and the multi-millions, must be the most difficult chairman or owner to answer to in English football. It has been coined on countless occasions that the Russian has a firm knowledge and understanding of the game; if this is so he should realise that success takes time.
Villas Boas’ reputation will have taken a dent after an ill-fated spell at Stamford Bridge, but his achievements at Porto and his intentions at Chelsea must not be overlooked. The 34-year-old tactician will land on his feet, and I would be surprised if he does not land another leading job in European football.
Roberto Di Matteo however has a tricky task as interim boss, as the Italian must salvage the club’s season. Failure to do so will surely mean the ex-West Brom boss is shown the door once a new man arrives at the end of the season. If he does manage to secure fourth place however, the former midfielder must be considered as a real candidate for the job on a permanent basis, as right now the club are at sixes and sevens.
Who comes in to succeed Villas Boas in the summer, whether it is Di Matteo or someone else, faces the same challenge as the Portuguese trainer did; phasing out players who have carried the club over the last five to ten years. A new look team is needed but whilst this is put into place uncertainty and inconsistency are bound to accompany progression. Abramovich needs to understand this.
By Gareth McKnight