When he first came to England, Andre Villas-Boas was a breath of fresh air. He was suave, sophisticated, handsome and eloquent – everything that a football manager generally isn’t. People immediately drew comparisons between him and the former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, his fellow countryman, who exhibited all of those qualities too.
Villas-Boas was different to Mourinho though. He lacked the arrogance and the swagger. There were no “Special One” sound bites. People wished him well in his job and in his vow to change the philosophy of Chelsea. But the goodwill towards Villas-Boas has dissipated far quicker then it did for the man that originally made management cool.
Mourinho might have claimed conspiracy theories, stuck up for his players in ludicrous situations and was never have been short a moan, but he entertained. Villas-Boas comes across as the inexperienced manager he is, not the world beater Roman Abramovich wants him to be. The petulant act is wearing a little thin.
The Chelsea manager claims that there is crusade amongst the media to criticise Chelsea and Chelsea only. After his side had seen off Valencia to book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League, he said: “This is a continuous persecution, it is aggression towards one club”. He fails to point out that the media’s sports pages dedicated the bulk of their autumn content to the crisis at Arsenal, a civil war at Blackburn and the unrest at Sunderland.
This suggests he feels there is some sort of witch hunt against his club. Perhaps he is trying to build an ‘us against them’ mentality within his group of players, a well used ploy by top coaches in the past. If this is intention, he is certainly saying the right things to achieve it.
Following the win over Valencia he claimed: “My players deserve respect they don’t get. We’ve been chased by different kinds of people and pressures. Here we have given everyone a slap in the face.”
That slap in the face may have seen Chelsea succeed in their short term goal of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage, but if he thinks that every analyst will be convinced over his side’s – and his own - credentials, he is very much mistaken.
He mentioned respect as if it is something that is just handed out. Respect, especially in one of the toughest leagues in the world, must be earned. The players that were at Chelsea when he arrived who had won the Premier League deserved it. Villas-Boas deserved it for his record at Porto. But a manager and squad who have been part of a clubs worst start to a season in eight years and only just reached the Champions League knockout round cannot demand such reverence.
The claim that was most laughable, desperate, and displayed a palpable sense of anxiety and paranoia, was when he suggested the media would not want Chelsea to win: “It is unfortunate for you guys because you have to report on a brilliant win for Chelsea and we qualify first in the group. It is difficult for everybody and today this is difficult for you.” Villas-Boas has misread the media and public perception of him. He is actually well liked, but with more ill-thought, flippant outbursts, the good grace afforded to him will be in short supply.
Chelsea may well be turning a corner. They have won three games in a row (excluding Carling Cup) by a three-nil score line and their much maligned defence seems to be displaying some semblance of organisation. But Andres Villas-Boas needs to get return to the calm and calculating manager he was when he first arrived. Chelsea are getting back on the straight and narrow – they can’t afford a loose cannon at the helm.