On the one-year anniversary of his sacking by Roman Abramovic, Andre Villas-Boas was basking in the glow of a victory over Arsenal in the North London derby, his side sitting third in the league and looking increasingly likely to still be there come the end of the season.
Roman, meanwhile, was reflecting on a week that has seen his ‘interim’ manager have an already infamous rant against him, the board, the fans and anyone else who would care to listen. As I say, he may want to cover his ears, perhaps adding a few ‘lalala’s’ for good measure.
Benitez is, of course, the second manager the Russian has employed since his harsh dismissal of AVB. Di Matteo’s, too, was a temporary position, initially at least, although aren’t they all at Chelsea nowadays?
True, he gained the Champions League that he has so long coveted. But he did not gain the brand of football he desires. He has not seen Fernando Torres, seemingly his latest pet project (see also: Andriy Shevchenko) rediscover his best form. In short, he has not seen his club establish any identity other than one that is run by a billionaire owner who fires managers as though they are nothing more than contestants on The Apprentice.
It is in a wistful manner that he casts his eyes north, to see Spurs (formerly owned by Alan Sugar, thus completing the tenuous Apprentice reference) playing so well and Villas-Boas the mastermind behind it. And make no mistake, it is the Portuguese who is the director of this show, even if it’s Gareth Bale as star who grabs the headlines.
His unsuccessful tenure at Stamford Bridge meant he was written off by many sections of the media and football fans alike, in particular the members of the former who are so enthralled by their mate ‘Arry Redknapp and appalled by him losing his job to this young upstart.
It’s easy to see why: he’s young, he’s successful, he’s intelligent, and he has great hair. Twisted, that becomes: he’s *too* young; he was *only* successful in Portugal; he *thinks* he’s intelligent; just *what* does he use on his hair?!
While Bale grabs the glory, it should be remembered that it’s his manager who has created the system in which he is now thriving. He’s given Bale the freedom to come in off the left wing, becoming the snarling, speeding, fire-breathing Welsh Dragon we’ve seen in recent weeks.
He’s created the platform for this freedom, using a high-defensive line; installing a ‘keeper who is comfortable coming off his line and playing the ball; attacking players who can move and create the space; midfielders capable of finding him.
Indeed, arguably the three unsung heroes of this side have all been signings the Portuguese made: Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen (whom I’m fairly convinced is related to his manager in some way, or at least uses the same conditioner) and Moussa Dembele.
It is also those three who, had they been playing in red on Sunday, would still have been on the winning side. They are players Arsenal could do with; managed by a man Chelsea could do with.
Spurs are making a lot of noise in London. I wonder if Roman is listening.