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Andre Villas-Boas: Architect of His Own Downfall Or Victim of Chelsea’s Dysfunctionality?

By Periscope @periscopepost
Andre Villas-Boas: Architect of his own downfall or victim of Chelsea’s dysfunctionality?

Ex- Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas. Photo credit: The Sport Review http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6144390163/sizes/m/in/photostream/


Andre Villas-Boas, or ‘AVB’ as he came to be reasonably affectionately know by the British press, has been sacked after less than a year in charge at Chelsea Football Club. The sacking of the precocious 34-year-old Portuguese manager followed Chelsea’s one-nil loss at West Bromwich Albion, which saw the west London club slip to a disappointing fifth place in the Premier League. Former Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo has been put in charge as first-team coach on an interim basis until the end of the season. Amongst the sports commentariat, opinion is divided. Some say that, after just three wins in 12, AVB had to go. Others contest that AVB, who was entasked with overhauling Chelsea’s aging squad, has been treated unfairly by owner Roman Abramovich.

AVB was widely reported to have a fraught working relationship with a clutch of senior players at Chelsea, several of whom were only slightly younger than him. Frank Lampard, 33, who was often left out of the team by AVB, said playing under the manager had “not been ideal.”

An explanatory statement on the club’s website read: “Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season. The club is still competing in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts. With that in mind, we felt our only option was to make a change at this time.”

Chelsea has now had five managers in four-and-a-half years. Richard Bevan, CEO of League Managers Association, said that Chelsea “looking for an eighth manager in nine years is a serious embarrassment to the owner, the club, the fans and the league.”

AVB’s colossal miscalculation. At The Times (£), Matt Hughes insisted that “aggressive” AVB was the “architect of own downfall.” Hughes argued a “failure to bond or even interact with his players is the overriding reason for Villas-Boas’s downfall, which has been dramatic even by Chelsea’s standards.” Hughes said the “roots of his fall are to be found in his colossal miscalculation, springing from a deadly combination of arrogance and naivety, that he had no need to win the hearts and minds of one of the most experienced dressing rooms in European football and could simply ride roughshod over them … Given his age, limited experience and the lack of a playing career to bolster his reputation, Villas-Boas was up against it from the start, but he did not help himself by making a series of decisions that, allied to his abrasive personality, ensured that he alienated many of the people he was relying on for success.”

AVB attempted “to assert his authority with a series of crass, overtly political gestures that seemed designed to make a point rather than get the best out of his squad,” observed Matt Hughes of The Times (£). “Nicolas Anelka and Alex were transfer-listed, exiled from the first-team dressing room and even banned from attending the players’ Christmas party in an absurd piece of muscle-flexing that served only to harden the opinion of the players against him.”

Neither revolution or evolution. Henry Winter of The Telegraph said, “some sympathy must exist for Villas-Boas. He walked into a dressing-room riddled with egos, agendas and leaks. He arrived at a time when the squad needed rebuilding, when the youngsters were not good enough and when the purse-strings seemed tightened. Villas-Boas was the right manager at the wrong time.” That said, Winter criticised AVB’s “remarkable and highly-expensive naivety” over his dealing with the club’s experienced players: “Villas-Boas should either have forced out all those old heads at the start of the season or kept them onside as he gradually introduced new blood. He went for neither revolution or evolution. He went nowhere. Until Sunday, when he was taken to one side after training at Cobham and shown the way out.”

AVB was another victim of Chelsea player power. Villas-Boas’ “callowness was no match for Chelsea’s veterans,” sighed Richard Williams at The Guardian’s Sport Blog. He said his sacking represents a “deliberate killing of a commanding officer by his own men” and said “AVB rapidly came to resemble a young captain, trained on the playing fields of Eton, arriving to command a battle-weary platoon at Passchendaele.“ Williams was astounded by “astonishing degree of influence” exerted on the owner by the senior players: “Evidently Roman Abramovich, who can do whatever he likes with his £11bn fortune, prefers to listen to the whispers of his workers rather than put his long-term faith in the coach he hired to turn them back into a winning team. The Russian is either a firm believer in player power or a man whose own judgment and that of his closest lieutenants at Stamford Bridge … is so faulty as to disqualify them from the stewardship of a leading football club.” But Williams reminded that AVB had done himself few favours. The sports writer said he “made so many mistakes that it is hard to know where to start. Hired with a brief to revitalise the playing staff and, if necessary, consign the older generation to history, he promoted only one of the younger players, Daniel Sturridge, while alienating the seniors, who disliked the way he sent Nicolas Anelka and Alex to train with the reserves while awaiting a transfer to other clubs.”

“A stronger manager would have shipped out Fernando Torres in January, rather than allowing his wounded presence on the bench to remain as a symbol that all was not well,” suggested Richard Williams at The Guardian. “His unconditional support for John Terry when the club captain was charged with racially abusing an opponent was poorly judged, only a notch or two below the advocacy on behalf of Luis Suárez that brought Kenny Dalglish into disrepute.”

AVB’s impossible project. Jason Burt at The Telegraph insisted that AVB was given an “impossible job.” Burt acknowledged that AVB made some “obvious mistakes” but “the brutal truth is that the dysfunctionality belongs to Chelsea. The sacking of Carlo Ancelotti last May, a year after he won a Premier League and FA Cup Double, led one club official to despair that Chelsea had effectively told the world that a manager would be dismissed if he failed to win silverware every season. But this is worse than that. Chelsea have sent out a message that they are a club in which the players remain more powerful than the manager.” Abramovich, argued Burt, had given Villas-Boas “an almost impossible task but would not countenance any sense of a period of change and re-organisation even though every great club has to endure that at times. Instead Abramovich did what he always does. He sacked the manager.”


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