The official statement on Andre Villas-Boas’ appointment said he will his begin work with Chelsea immediately. That must really be the case. Just like any newly signed manager, he’s got a couple of months to finalise on the new way of working for Chelsea. He did mention about the new leadership and new communication but he also warned us that there wouldn’t be any drastic changes. Some key questions for Boas now would be: (a) Is he happy with our approach to football (b) Is he happy with our mentality (c) How good are our fundamentals (d) Will the current mindset at Chelsea work with his football philosophy.
Boas is known to be an intelligent man and a very good student of the game. The president of Academica had mentioned how swiftly Boas explained him on the problem with Academica then and what needed to be done to resolve it. That’s the conversation that got him his first job in club management. Chelsea though, is nothing new to him. He had worked here for three successful seasons. He knows the players, the staff, the officials and most importantly should understand how the structure and hierarchy work in this club. This knowledge should definitely help him in getting on with things.
I think his immediate actions would be around the way Chelsea go about playing and winning their games. There is a philosophy or simply put an approach that Chelsea as a team is known to have. Boas can look if this philosophy requires a review or just some tweaks or just better conviction and implementation of the same. Similarly, he needs to see whether he has the right set of players. He might need to buy some players, sell some players and review the unwritten playing-time agreements with some players. Thirdly, Boas might also look at our tactics, our formation and the roles of our players for the next season.
Chelsea’s approach is built on grit, determination, siege mentality and robust defence. When Roman bought Chelsea, he needed some success quite urgently. We needed to announce to the football world that we have arrived. Roman also might have needed to confirmation that he’s done the right thing by buying this football club and investing millions in it.
The first thing we started working on was making ourselves difficult to beat. Defensive solidity and organisation was identified as quite key for our success. Between 03-04 and 04-05, while the goals scored improved a little bit, the number of goals we conceded halved in 04-05. We ended up conceding only 15 goals all season in the premier league in 04-05 (as against 30 in 03-04). This was quite key to our success.
This approach was so well implemented it ran and probably still runs in the veins of our players – especially the ones from back-to-back titles period. And in fact, Boas was very much part of this system and was also a key member who helped in this implementation. Given the circumstances in that era, this was probably the right approach and that had really launched Chelsea big time into the European scene.
This approach would continue at Chelsea and only under Carlo Ancelotti, in his first season, we saw a change in Chelsea’s approach. We started playing in a more expansive way and giving some real importance to scoring goals than to just winning.
In the second season, when things didn’t go in our way, Chelsea’s new approach didn’t work. This new approach didn’t help at the times of adversity. We needed to have our steely resolve and bulldog mentality to deal with such situations. Unfortunately, our desire to play expansive football had undone some of our strong mental characteristics. Our mental attributes had paved way for our technical attributes. Carlo did a good job with his attempt to improve but only that the implementation was not complete. It was not wholesome.
Now, Boas is known to give a lot of importance to attacking, free-flowing football. Though the Europa final was a drab affair, Boas even apologised for the poor show of football in the final. For Boas, he has two sides of this coin for his analysis. Under Carlo, season one we created a goal scoring record in the premier league and in season two, we were just poor. He can see the good and bad side of this method.
I don’t know how the Chelsea of 2011/12 would play. Would we take a cautious approach to secure the wins or we would play to the galleries? It’s quite clear that what happens on the pitch is secondary to what happens at the end of the season.
Pretty football + Success = Massive bonus + Extension.
Pretty football + Failure = Sack.
Not-so-pretty football + Success = Big bonus.
Not-so-pretty football + Failure = Unceremonious sack.
That’s pretty much the formula as I see it.
Luckily for Boas, defensively, we’re one of the best in Europe. There’s no too much work there except promoting the back ups and replacements for Ashley Cole and John Terry. These are issues for tomorrow. For today though, he has one of the finest defensive set ups to work with. He can even afford take the defensive side for granted and start looking at the attacking side of things.
Going by the reports, Boas would want his team to play attacking football with lots of goals. Only few teams have managed to blend fluid attacking play with robust defensive organisations. Actually, it’s quite hard to blend these. Of course, this needs time and support from the club but is expected to happen not at the cost of success. So that makes it a tough proposition.
The challenge for Boas would be to have Chelsea play expansive football and still ensuring that this does not affect our results/successes in any way. As we all know, there’s no honeymoon period or transition period at Chelsea. You’ll be paid crazy money but you bring the sun and the moon in return. That’s how it works and Boas should know it.
And this is Boas’ first big job in Europe. I’ve heard that Porto is a bigger club than Chelsea and all that but the Chelsea job is massive when compared to Porto. There are vultures out there waiting for his first series of bad results to say ‘he lacks experience at the high level’ or ‘he is too young to control this dressing room’ and stuff like that. Many have said that Boas has got this job a little too early and even to the extent of saying it’s undeserving.
Boas seems to be a very strong character. He comes across as a very intelligent person too. He’s got only good things being said about him. He’s managed Porto to unprecedented success. Porto in Portugal is bigger than Chelsea in England. He’s found a way to bring success, with his philosophy of football. He only needs to repeat it here.
The whole world is watching. Boas should make this big opportunity count. He can have his ideals and principles but they won’t keep him in his job, success will. He needs to balance between what he wants to see and what his club wants to see with a clear understanding what counts for more. How do you think Boas will cope up with this pressure? Do you think he would value his values, principles and philosophy more than efficiency and results? Do you think he would be keen to make this Chelsea job count and thereby would put results above everything else? Or do you think he would find the magic formula for blending art and science with Chelsea too?