A new era beckons for Chelsea | Pakistan Today

A new era beckons for Chelsea

There was a carnivorous air last Wednesday in the Bobby Tambling Suite at Stamford Bridge as Andre Villas-Boas was officially unveiled as the new Chelsea manager before the ravenous eyes of the world’s media.
Most were unsure what to expect but given his well documented history with Jose Mourinho, many yearned for the pomp and hyperbole of 2004. Another scorching ‘special one’ sound bite would have gone a long way in satisfying their rapacious hunger.
Instead, what they got was, well, all a bit vegan, but that is not to say that a lot of it didn’t taste very good in an intriguing sort of way. Villas Boas arrived at Roman manor dressed in a dapper suit and defined by a sense of grace and nuanced dignity. There was no arrogance and no steely one-liners.
The emphasis was on the team rather than the individual. “This is not a one-man show, this is about creating empathy, ambition and motivation in everybody. Maybe I should be called ‘the group one’ as I want to group people together and be successful.”
Even when asked about the prospect of taking on his managerial adversaries like Sir Alex Ferguson, Villas-Boas refused to draw the limelight on himself. “It’s not just a question of me taking on Sir Alex … It is not one man against the other, it’s about trying to build something that can make us powerful… You see the way Tottenham are playing, the revolution at Manchester City, Arsenal’s hunger for success and the way Kenny Dalglish has revived Liverpool. Big, big challenges lie ahead for us.”
Despite all the talk of the collective, Villas-Boas is a man certain of his abilities and someone who possesses a strong sense of his own legacy. When he was just 17, he famously wrote a letter to then Porto manager, Bobby Robson, imploring him to give striker Domingos Paciencia more playing time. Robson challenged the teenager to back up his argument with statistics. Villas Boas did. He sent back a slew of data in support of his case. So impressed was the Englishman that he immediately offered him a trainee position in the club’s youth set-up.
Villas-Boas has also stated on record many times his desire to retire from the game in the next 10-15 years but only before ‘leaving some sort of mark’ on the game.
It will be interesting to see how the Chelsea players react to their new manager in the coming weeks and months. If Villas-Boas is genuine in his desire to forge a ‘group’ then he will quickly have to get the club’s star performers onside. Rumours of player-power have emanated from the corridors of Stamford Bridge for years particularly surrounding the foursome of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and captain John Terry.
After his dismissal in 2009, former boss Luis Felipe Scolari, apportioned the blame for his failure squarely on dressing room politics. The egotism of Ivorian striker Drogba was viewed by the Brazilian as especially disruptive. John Terry also has very public form when it comes to undermining managers. At last year’s World Cup in South Africa the defender challenged Fabio Capello’s authority and sought to engineer a player’s revolt.
Whether the egos of the superstar playing staff, many of whom are entering the twilight of their careers, can be assuaged by a man who is of a similar age and with absolutely no experience as a player himself remains to be seen especially as he seeks to stamp his authority on the team.
However a very tangible olive branch was extended to the old guard at Wednesday’s press conference and particularly the captain. “John has been successful in his captaincy most of the time. Most of the players in the dressing room see him as a leader… John represents the history of this club.” The surprise appointment of Roberto Di Matteo as Villas-Boas’ number 2 is seen by many observers as shrewd appointment and one that will endear him to the Chelsea fans and help bridge the gap between the Portuguese and the players.
Yet there is also an element of risk to it. Di Matteo is a Blues legend having helped them win two FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup in his time as a player there and as recently as last season the Italian was a manger in his own right. Though a gentleman to a fault, Di Matteo’s experiences both as a player and as a manger is far more extensive than Villas-Boas’ and this could be a cause of friction between the two men.
Conversely, the counsel of a battle-hardened former Premier League manager could prove invaluable for a coach still finding his way in management despite the spectacularity of his early success. Speculation aside, the dynamics of the relationship are likely to be fascinating.
And what of the most important cog in any group structure at the Bridge, chairman Roman Abramovich? The spectre of the capricious oligarch will loom large over Villas-Boas reign at the club. Over recent years the Russian has become obsessed with winning the Champions League and being owner of a team that plays with panache and style. If his wishes are not fulfilled than the group created by Villas-Boas could easily disband.
The young Portuguese seems to agree with the sentiments of his chairman. “It’s not just a question of winning, but winning with a certain flair. We are proud defenders of the beauty of the game. It makes no sense for us to get into a club like this and play dreadful football.’’
Only time will tell how Villas-Boas tenure at Chelsea will work out. For now the new manager sounds determined and projects a vision that suggests that he is a savvy operator. If his vision can be fulfilled with the success and style demanded of him then soon he may well have Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea fans, and indeed the press, eating out of the palm of his hands.

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  1. Harris said:

    Excellent write up. PT's sports section is always great.

  2. Ahmad Mustansar said:

    Brilliant analysis. Can make anyone begin to take interest in football.

  3. Humayun said:

    Totally agree with Mustansar's last post. This write up is more insightful that the write ups in the British Press. Based upon this write up…I think I shall read the rest of PT.

  4. Daud said:

    Very insightful piece. Time for Abramovich to open his cheque book…

  5. Ken West said:

    Insightful and Thoughful. An enjoyable article.

Comments are closed.