Andre Villas-Boas Sacked: 8 Things the Next Chelsea Manager Will Have to Fix
Chelsea now must hope Roberto Di Matteo, the club's interim manager, can start steering the ship in the right direction, and maybe even pull off a miracle against Napoli in the Champions League.
Until then though, here are the eight things Di Matteo (and the team's next permanent manager) will have to fix at Chelsea.
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The 4-3-3 was the biggest reason for AVB's downfall; he never had the players to use it effectively, yet continued to try and force it down his players' throats. In the end, it cost him his job.
Chelsea's group of midfielders were never good enough to form an effective three-man midfield.
Michael Essien and Oriol Romeu are good enough candidates for the defensive midfielder position, and Ramires is a decent enough central midfielder, but there was never a creative midfielder in the lineup to make things happen, like Joao Moutinho at Porto or Luka Modric at Tottenham.
Frank Lampard and Raul Miereles are solid midfielders who are great at a multitude of things, but creativity and playmaking are not one of those things. Mata is the only top-class playmaker in Chelsea's squad, but his playing style is much more suited for a winger/forward than a central midfielder.
Then came the forwards, who were even less suited for the 4-3-3 than the midfielders.
Juan Mata has played the majority of his career as a winger, so he should have been comfortable in his position as the team's left winger, right? Wrong.
As the team's creative hub, Mata has been forced to cut in throughout the season to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. He's done it with enough success this season, but it has led to games where he is ineffective and clearly caught between the minds of a winger and central midfielder.
As for the right winger position, everybody in the world knows Daniel Sturridge isn't a right winger. He has the build, ability and attitude of a future world-class striker, which means that he prefers to shoot rather than pass and tries to create for himself rather than others.
Finally, with Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, you only need to look at their goal-tallies to see that the system has not worked for them. They've had success with it in various games this season, but success has been limited and separated by long stretches of failure.
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Chelsea don't have bad individual defenders. After all, practically all of Chelsea's current defenders were regarded as the best in their profession before moving to Chelsea; that's how they earned a move to the club.
But this season, they've been playing in a system which badly exposes their flaws.
Admittedly, I've never seen a high-line defense like the one AVB was trying to impose at Chelsea used effectively in the EPL or the Champions League.
However, if it were possible to utilize it effectively, I'd assume that you need quick center-backs who can recover quickly when they make mistakes or make quick adjustments to maintain the integrity of the line when it is under pressure.
Chelsea don't have that.
In fact, I'd struggle to label any of Chelsea's defenders as truly pacey. Ashley Cole is the fastest, but he's getting older, and his form has declined with age.
Furthermore, in David Luiz and Gary Cahill, Chelsea have two center-backs who enjoy having the ball at their feet and are frequently involved in the team's offense.
These types of defenders are incompatible with a high-line defense, because such a defense requires high degree of defensive commitment and few offensive risks from its defenders.
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The next Chelsea manager needs to understand this message loud and clear: If you cannot get Fernando Torres back in top-form, you will not last the season as manager of Chelsea.
It's as simple as that.
Didier Drogba is a legend, but he is leaving this summer. With this season having already gone so badly, it's time to start planning for the future, and the future, whether the next Chelsea manager likes it or not, is Torres.
We're all familiar with the great football proverb that form is temporary, while class is permanent. Eventually, all truly great players return to playing at the highest level even after years of struggles (see: Juan Sebastian Veron).
The only question is whether Torres will be able to do that at Chelsea, or if he'll have to move away from the club to return to his old self, like Andriy Shevchenko eventually did.
First and foremost, Di Matteo needs to give Torres starts in Chelsea's lineup. He needs to give him game time to up his confidence, and some one-on-one counseling/confidence-boosting wouldn't hurt either.
Next, a formation change would do Torres a world of good. The 4-3-3 left Torres far too isolated, but shifting to a two-striker system with Daniel Sturridge playing up front alongside Torres, or moving Juan Mata just behind Torres, will surely help him become more productive.
Chelsea needs change, and Torres needs change. With the right steps, Torres can become the change Chelsea wants to see in its team's fortunes.
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When you start saying that it is okay for your players not to support you as long as the owner supports you, you know you've failed as a manager. A manager answers to the owner first obviously, but a manager is nothing with loyal, obedient and happy players.
After all, they are the ones who go out and pick up results for the club, not the owner.
The next Chelsea manager needs to work on restoring squad unity. Under AVB, it was reported that only Jose Bosingwa, David Luiz and Ramires still remained strongly behind AVB near the end of his reign, while many were displeased with his coaching.
That cannot be allowed to happen again. Be it Di Matteo or the next permanent Chelsea manager, Chelsea's squad needs to be united once again, with the older, more experienced team members guiding the team to success and helping groom the younger players to transition well into the first team.
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You wouldn't know it by simply watching Chelsea, but Chelsea actually have a decent number of youth players tied to the club.
Gael Kakuta has looked great on loan with Dijon, most recently scoring the equalizer for Dijon, Ligue 1's 15th place team, against Montpellier, Ligue 1's 2nd place team.
Kevin De Bruyne is an assist-machine, having record 17 last season and five in his last three games.
Romelu Lukaku is one of the greatest young center forward talents in the world, and just last year bagged 20 goals and eight assists for Anderlecht, with four of those goals coming in European play.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. That isn't mentioning Jeffrey Brauma, Josh McEachran, Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt or Thibout Courtois, all fantastic talents in their own respects.
Why is that you wouldn't know about these players? Because a) AVB hardly have any of them a chance at Chelsea, and b) they're all on loan (with the exception of Lukaku).
You would have thought a young manager like AVB would've taken more risks with youth players, but he hasn't; he's stuck with his favorites, and when they failed him, he relied more on the old guard rather than new blood to get him his victories.
To an extent, that's understandable, but to leave Lukaku on the bench game after game feeding on garbage-time minutes is just inexcusable. And no, the argument that he isn't ready doesn't fly—his scoring record clearly states otherwise.
The same applies with the likes of Ryan Bertrand. Why keep the left back in the squad if you're only going to give him 13 minutes to play as a substitute all season long, and going to select Jose Bosingwa, a right back, ahead of him when Ashley Cole in unavailable.
Chelsea are in transition, and need new blood to be injected into the team's lineup.
The next manager doesn't need to dramatically increase the PT of every single youth player in Chelsea's squad, but certainly, he'll need to give guys like Bertrand, Lukaku and others the chance to prove their worth on a more regular basis.
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Chelsea's next manager must craft a concise policy or course of action for Chelsea's older players.
John Terry and Petr Cech are players who should be around for a considerable while longer. The new manager won't have to do much with them, other than alert them to how important they will be to the team as role models in the future.
Players like Frank Lampard can still prove to be useful to Chelsea, but the next manager needs to sit down with them and explain to them that Chelsea is undergoing a transition, which they can still play an important role in. However, they should not expect to start every game.
Florent Malouda is another player who falls in this category, if the next manager chooses not to sell him.
After that, comes the players who need to leave. These include Paolo Ferreira, Henrique Hilario, Ross Turnbull, and maybe even Jose Bosingwa if the next manager is feeling especially revolutionary.
Chelsea has some very good full backs and goalkeepers out on loan presently, and next season could be the right time to get rid of the under-performers of this season and replace them with younger, more promising players.
Such changes will alert both Chelsea fans and Chelsea players to the fact that change is indeed in motion at Chelsea, and not just an idea in their manager's head which will eventually be implemented.
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By including Michael Essien on this slideshow, I'm not trying to say that AVB did something wrong in Essien's rehabilitation. He didn't, and hasn't really had much time to work with the Ghanian.
But the fact is that Essien was once one of the world's best defensive midfielders, and in his first few games back, he certainly hasn't looked like his old self.
While the hope is that Essien will gradually return to being the monster he once was on his own, there are things the next manager can do to help him with this process.
Playing Essien in a 4-2-3-1 for example, alongside Oriol Romeu, could help ease the pressure on Essien with regards to his defensive duties, and give him the freedom to be the box-to-box midfielder he was in his heyday.
The 4-3-3 put far too much pressure on Essien to defend an overwhelmingly feeble Chelsea defense, and thus has prevented him from exerting his normal influence on proceedings. Any formation change will likely benefit Essien, but a switch to a 4-2-3-1 could be especially beneficial for him, as well as the rest of Chelsea's players.
Restore Stamford Bridge "Fear Factor"
Late last February, Andre Villas-Boas criticized Chelsea's home stadium, stating that it lacked the same "fear factor" of Anfield and Old Trafford:
There is no fear factor at the Bridge. I don't know if there ever was. There is a fear factor at a couple of grounds in this country - Anfield and Old Trafford. It was a difficult place to come under Jose Mourinho but there is no fear factor of emotion.
I have to disagree. When you manage to go undefeated in 60 consecutive league games at home, you had better bet that there is a massive "fear factor" present when teams visit your stadium.
Chelsea need to reclaim that fear factor. It was destroyed by many of the managers that came after Jose Mourinho, most notably Luiz Felipe Scolari with his poor home record, and this season Andre Villas-Boas with his poor record as well.
If Chelsea can turn Stamford Bridge into a fortress again, with fans roaring and in full support of their team, they'll find their fortunes on the way up once again as well.
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The previous eight slides outline what Chelsea's most pressing needs are, and what they need to fix or improve ASAP. But can you think of other areas Chelsea need improvement?
Share your thoughts on AVB's flaws, his sacking, Di Matteo, and Chelsea's current transition in the comments section below. Where does Chelsea's future lie, and how can they best emerge from this dark period as the great club they've been over the last decade?