Andre Villas-Boas was Chelsea’s most expensive transfer of the summer before Juan Mata came to the Bridge. The former Porto manager, who has been oft compared to Jose Mourinho, is now blazing his own trail, and it’s been a pretty successful one so far.
He has been a breath of fresh air around Stamford Bridge, compared to the rather stale and lacking personality of Carlo Ancelotti. What’s more, the players seem to have responded to his methods, despite several of his squad being older than him.
His first two Premier League games in charge have shown how he is going to set his stall out, and if you haven’t read this excellent interview on his footballing philosophy, then do.
I liked the way Andre Villas-Boas managed Porto and believe he will bring success to Chelsea through his philosophy. There are two things he has shown already which I like, but one thing that I do not:
Two things to like about Andre Villas-Boas and ‘his’ Chelsea
Firstly, I liked his decision to pull Salomon Kalou after 30 minutes and replace him with more natural width in Florent Malouda. With the way West Brom had set out, to sit deep and stop Chelsea playing down the middle, Andre Villas-Boas recognised that he needed more width than Kalou was providing and changed it immediately. How many managers would have waited 60 minutes before making such a change?
I liked the decision, as it was a bold and positive move which paid dividends with Malouda popping up to score the winner. Malouda could have even had two goals had Steven Reid not made an excellent block on the line.
Secondly, I liked his comments with the press afterwards, calling for the fans to not get on the players backs when they are chasing the game and to give positive vibes. It was a very shrewd comment to try and nip in the bud the tension that was being transferred from the stands on to the pitch.
“Our public wants us to be champions and we are listening to their demands but we need their support all the time. Everybody must get involved and you must feel the presence of the public in a supporting way, not that they weren’t, but you need full support, a good environment, good commitment from the public and good empathy.’
How many mangers would have left it 4 or 5 games and a string of bad results, before they urged the fans to get behind the team and no transmit their anxiety to it?
The one concern for Andre Villas-Boas and ‘his’ Chelsea
In his first game in charge at Stoke, Chelsea played a high line to keep Kenwyne Jones as far away from goal as possible to negate his aerial threat. I though it was a great move which worked extremely well as Jones was nullified for most of the game.
However, Chelsea also played a high line against West Brom on Saturday, but this time they paid the price, as Alex and Terry were burned for pace by the quicker Shane Long and Somen Tchoyi getting in behind them.
It only took four minutes for Shane Long to pounce on Alex as he failed to handle an over-hit pass from Ramires. With John Terry already in advance of the Brazilian, there was no cover on and Long easily won a foot race with the slower Alex to score.
West Brom could, and should, have been two up, when Chris Brunt clipped in a beautiful pass with the outside of his foot over Terry, and in to the acres of space behind him. Long was in on goal and had the time to square it to Tchoyi, who would have had a tap in, but Long failed to make the pass. Had it been 2-0 to West Brom, the result may have ended differently than in a Chelsea win.
The high line employed by Villas-Boas is to tempt more defensive teams out from defending their goal and to allow the attacking Cole and Bosingwa to get forward. However, it also leaves slower centre backs exposed, as Terry and Alex are solid with the ball in front of them, but not so quick over the ground when turned.
Andre Villas-Boas has done good tings for Chelsea, but if he continues to employ a high line defensively, then he is going to concede goals in the Premier League to smaller, quicker forwards who are looking to get in behind the less mobile Chelsea defence.