I get what AVB is trying to do, really. Even when Chelsea won their title under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-2010, there was an old feeling to them. Their ability to turn up the pace, to go along with that immense physical pressure they apply on teams, which won them most of their matches during the past 6-7 years appeared less and less. A change, time for some “Sexy Football”.
Bringing a new manager, 34 years old, with a Latin flavor, but with good English, who’s already been part of the staff at Stamford Bridge, sounded like a great idea. Andre Villas-Boas’ Porto were the best team outside of the Champions League last season in Europe, not losing once with the side in 2010-2011. Becoming the youngest ever coach to win a European competition just added to the allure.
Roman Abramovich spent €15 million to get AVB, the younger and less abusive Mourinho (so it seemed) to Chelsea. What worked pretty well in 2004 should work again in 2011, right? Not so much.
Chelsea’s true strength resided in the attitude, cohesion between teammates, which translated into a very agressive style on the pitch. Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry. Leaders, even when declining. Drogba is 33. Lampard is 33. Hard taking your new manager seriously when he’s only a year older than you. John Terry is turning 31 in a month.
Too much Latin flavor, not enough toughness. Sticking with Fernando Torres seemed to pay off at some point, but Torres soon returned to his Chelsea ways. Five goals in 31 matches for Chelsea so far. Can’t be much worst. Juan Mata is not David Silva yet, and is suffering from the same ups and downs Silva had last season at Manchester City.
Mata needs the team to play through him constantly. A true no.10, in a modernized role. It’s not happening so far. Drogba and Lampard love the ball at their feet, and Villas-Boas’ attempt to push Lampard out of the way hasn’t worked. Raul Meireles, the man who was planned to take over that role hasn’t stepped up his game since arriving from Liverpool. What’s good for Anfield, once again, might not be the right ingredient in West London.
Chelsea have won only once in their last five matches, unimpressivley at Blackburn. Meanwhile, home defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal have made the critics sound louder than ever. Yesterday’s gaffe in Germany made things even worse. Villas-Boas seems confident, at least when talking to the media, that his job his safe. With Abramovich, you never know.
For now he’s sticking to the revolution and the attempt to see through this changing of the guards. Sacking the manager would cost him an extra €20 million. No need to spend so much when the ship isn’t sinking yet. However, the timer counting down to the axe falling on AVB might be worth another look.