Andre Villas-Boas: 5 Reasons the Chelsea Manager Could Keep His Job
It is no secret that Chelsea Manager Andre Villas-Boas is struggling in his first year at Stamford Bridge. The team currently sits in fifth place and the highest aspirations would be an FA Cup victory.
However, Villas-Boas may not be as doomed as it once appeared.
Many Chelsea fans (myself amongst them) are calling for his head due to the poor results, player unrest and because it happened to Ancelotti.
Here are five reasons why even a skeptic like myself can see Villas-Boas making it through to the end of the season.
Becoming More Humbled
When Villas-Boas first took the reins at Chelsea, he did so under the prospect of being a Jose Mourinho prodigy. His being raised under Mourinho in football gave us the expectation of tactical brilliance and incredible talent evaluation. Some of this is true and some not so much.
But we were quick to forget that perhaps the ego of Mourinho was also transferable.
We could excuse Mourinho for calling himself the “Special One” because he was special.
However, Villas-Boas is not so fortunate.
He approaches the media and the game with an arrogance about him that no 34-year-old should have.
But it seems he is beginning to realize the error of his ways.
Villas-Boas recently told a Lisbon radio station that he recognizes his failures:
I know that, in the Abramovich era, we have the worst results but I think I have felt the confidence from the owner. Let's see if he wants a change in the club or not. The pattern of behaviour of the owner has led to a downfall [of managers] in similar situations, or even 'better' situations.
This may seem slight since it did take the owner pretty much living at Cobham to get Villas-Boas to realize how small he really is, but walking a mile starts with the first step. If he is able to build on this self-realization his job security will greatly increase.
Recognizing the Past
There are sayings that suggest to move forward we can’t look back, but there are others that say we learn from our past. I am not a trained linguist or collector of cliché sayings, but I do know that both have some truth and both have their faults.
Villas-Boas was specifically brought in to create an idea of the former at Stamford Bridge. Abramovich wanted to evolve out of the direct style of attack that rested on a stout, resolute defense and become more in sync with the current trend of the possession game.
To do this, he felt it necessary to mitigate the responsibilities of his elder club leaders and bring in new players to transition. However, the plan backfired, as the new players are not getting the job done on the field and costing Chelsea points.
Then Villas-Boas goes back to the old guys to rescue him but forces them to play in a foreign style. It is as if he was sabotaging the season.
Saturday’s win over Bolton represented a crucial moment in Villas-Boas’ Chelsea career. For the first time I have noticed, he put the need for a result ahead of his own philosophy, and it paid off in some of the best footballing we have seen from the team all season.
A starting lineup that paired Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba for the first time all season, brought back memories of 2010 “playstation football.”
Villas-Boas recognized that he had indeed made the right move after the match when asked about whether or not Lampard would stay next season:
I hope so. It does not depend on me. It depends on three parts—I want him, the person wants to stay and the club wants him. Frank goes on and on breaking the club's records and that is important for him. I congratulate him for that. He is a player who has been involved with all managers before and played in most of the games. The only difference this year from the years before is that we have more competition in midfield and things become more difficult for everybody. But Frank is now in the top five of players most used so he is up there with the best.
Here he not only recognizes what he can do for the team but what he has done for the club.
Plan for the Future
This is an overtly redundant way of praising Villas-Boas and justifying his poor results, but ultimately it is the thing he has bet on for his job security.
The most common argument from the Villas-Boas apologists has been the following four words: “He needs more time.” And as much as us unrealistic knee-jerk reactionaries want instant results, it is hard to argue against the idea that changing a culture does not occur overnight.
I'm really confident about next year. We have a three-year project to change the culture and structure. There is a lot we plan to do.
This may not sound like an enthralling rapture to his followers, but it simply represents that for better or worse there is a plan. It has much better prospects than Arsenal who have seemed to be in a constant state of rebuilding.
He even gets specific when discussing the future of players:
We have Kalou and Malouda, who are at the end of contracts, while Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge are the future.
No one knows what the future will bring and if Villas-Boas will even get the chance to see out his full three-year plan. But the fact that he has one in place is a big bargaining chip when he is met with opposition.
Has Seen Adversity
When Villas-Boas was hired as the manager, I was excited and optimistic, however, there was one thing that worried me greatly. With only one year of high level managerial experience in a historic season with Porto, he had never once had a moment of public adversity.
At this level of the game, every manager is a tactician and scout. They all know the ins and outs of their team and the opposition's. Hours are poured into watching tape and constructing game plans, and good game plans yield results.
But what separates good managers from great ones is how they react when they don’t have a good game plan—when there was a mistake or their tactics were countered.
Villas-Boas has struggled with this more than anything this season.
Facing pressure for the first time from the media and fans has taken its toll on the 34-year-old. He has routinely mismanaged games and led the club down the wrong path in dealing with players and handling the media. It has seemingly overwhelmed his football intelligence the same way the stress of a test can lead us to forget things we know.
Adversity has not been in short supply at Chelsea this season. Villas-Boas has gotten more than his fill and is better for it. All the reasons I mentioned above suggest that he has learned from the negatives and can grow out of them.
Breaking the winless streak was the first step. If he can parlay it into a couple of good results in a row, then the pressure will surely ease, and he can get back to what he does best.
Can Still Bring Home Silverware
In the end it is all about winning. For three years we went through slow monotonous direct play of Jose Mourinho, but did we ever complain? Carlo Ancelotti brought home Chelsea’s first double but was axed the next season for not wining a single trophy.
As desperate as things seem, Villas-Boas is still in a position where he can win two trophies, the FA Cup and Champions League.
The latter is more out of reach simply by the way the team has been playing, but if things turn around and they find their potential, then there is no reason to see it as impossible. Should he shock everyone, he will surely keep his job and may even win awards as manager of the year.
The FA Cup is the more realistic proposition and probably where he will focus most of his energy. Should he win the games oldest cup, it may not be enough to silence critical fans, but it will surely put Abramovich at ease.
Ultimately though, he really just needs to focus on finishing fourth or better in the league. Should Chelsea not be in Champions League next season, it is going to be awfully difficult to attract the talent he needs to rebuild this squad.
But if they do finish in the top four, it will mean a nice run of form to finish the season and like they say—“you’re only as good as the last game you played.”
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