Chelsea was unhinged last night in Naples by a Napoli team out to prove they are not to be understated. The 3-1 thrashing that took place at the Stadio San Paolo extended Chelsea’s winless streak to five games and further fueled the flames that roast Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas’ hot seat.
If you are at all familiar with my opinions, you know that I am no Villas-Boas fan.
Call me a conventionalist, call me stubborn, call me illogical and call me nostalgic. But what you cannot call me is wrong when I say this is the worst Chelsea side of the last decade.
It is not just about the fact that they gave up three goals to arguably the best attacking trio in all of Europe. It is about the lack of spirit, heart and determination they showed in such a result. And all this falls on the feet of their manager.
You see, my problem is not the notion that Villas-Boas wants to build for the future. I understand that, in sports, players come and go, and while it may be hard to see the likes of Chelsea legends walk out the door, it is only part of the game.
My issue is the way he seems to go about this idea of this evolution/revolution.
His inability to keep the entire squad on one page has been his undoing. As recently as last week, reports surfaced that suggested there was a schism in the clubhouse and factions were being created—those who support the manager and those who don’t.
The media immediately suggested that the veterans were on the latter half and jokes were even cracked last night in the pregame about a bench full of dissenters.
Whether this is true or not matters little. What does matter however is the little faith Villas-Boas seems to show for the players of the past.
With a formation that featured two holding midfield roles, Villas-Boas opted for a starting lineup that had no true holding midfielders and left John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard all on the bench.
The result was Ramires’ worst performance of the season and two goals out of the continually inept play of Raul Meireles.
Villas-Boas answered critics with this simple response in a postgame interview:
It’s a technical decision, based on two sitting midfielders. Lamps can do it, but it’s the decision we took.
So then why was the decision made to sit one of the best midfielders of the last decade and all-time Chelsea greats for a player who has been subpar in every game he has played this season to play out of position?
The answer matters little as the game is done and that cannot be changed. But what does matter is the question, or more accurately the fact there is a question at all.
When Andre Villas-Boas was brought into Chelsea he was touted as the one who would cut the fat around the team, create a squad of the future and transform Stamford Bridge from a fortress to a house of entertainment. Essentially he was the man to answer all the questions.
But think about it real hard: what questions has he answered? Is Chelsea a better team? Are they playing the free flowing form we were promised? Are goals abound?
All Villas-Boas has done is created more questions than there were before: Where is the creative play of Mata we saw the first few weeks? Will Torres ever regain form? What has happened to the defense?
The list goes on and on about the mystery of what Chelsea is and what it will become.
I know there is always the defense of the future: “Give him time. He needs to build up his squad to play the kind of football he wants.”
But this is a naive approach to supporting a man who has done nothing for you as a fan. Do you not think that say if fellow first-year EPL manager Martin Jol was given his pick of players that he could not do better with Fulham? How about if Alex McLeish was able to go snooping around Europe’s top clubs with a blank check? I’m sure Roy Hodgsen would find first division life a bit easier with a couple of superstars.
Any high-level manager with a strong financial backing can put together a team that can compete. A good one can make do with what he has. And a great one can last the ages as change comes and goes.
Chelsea has been seeking the latter since they let one go in Jose Mourinho.
Roman Abramovich is tired of rotating managers in and out and wants his own Alex Ferguson. Someone who will be with the club for the foreseeable decades. Who will change with the game, adapt to new styles, understand different players and always be able to invent when there is seemingly nothing there to invent with.
Villas-Boas through this season has proved he is not the man for this role. His stubbornness in changing to suit his players will not disappear when the ones he wants come in. On the contrary it will probably be strengthened.
Let’s fast forward to early September and Chelsea’s first game of the 2012-13 season. The starting lineup is as follows (ignore the specifics of the lineup as it relates little to the point):
Van der Wiel / Luiz / Terry / Cole
Ramires / Moutinho / Mata
Hazard / Cavani / Hemsik
It is the first game of a group that leads Chelsea to three EPL titles and two Champions Leagues in seven years.
Now go forward to the 2020 season. These players are older, slower and no longer able to play at the same level. The game itself has changed.
Some team has figured a way to stop this quick-passing, indirect style of play and the game is all about playing tight compact midfields that work through the middle or whatever.
Villas-Boas already proved he can’t adapt as he has been unable or reluctant to with this current squad.
So now Chelsea is in the same spot they were last season. Faced with an aging squad and an archaic approach to the game, they slide out the spotlight and yet again Roman is on the hunt for the one position he has failed to find a suitable candidate for.
This is of course all very hyperbolic and full of fallacies, but every analogy has its faults. All I use it for is to prove that those who believe they are looking toward the future limit that future to only the next couple years.
Chelsea does not need a manager to see them through to the late teens of the new millennium. They need a manager who will be the manager of our generation, someone who we can call Mr. Chelsea and will reside larger than any player on the squad now or in the future.
I know what I am writing will be met with contentious thoughts by some and praise by others it is in the nature of sports that the fanbase will never be wholly united.
So please let me know your thoughts down below, but do not do it in a vulgar and incoherent way. Dismissing me or anyone else without a well-developed argument will only lead to a crude debate that gets us all nowhere.
As always, my goal is to learn and see how my point of view is wrong and right as to come to a better understanding of my own opinions and I hope you can as well, whatever they may be.
Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman
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