Before I start, I’d just like to make it clear that I’m fully aware that I’m not gaining any fans waxing lyrical about a former Chelsea manager, however I feel it’s only right the man deserves recognition for what he’s done at such a young age. He’s won a European quadruple, appointed as manager of one of the top 10 sides in the world, been fired, given a 2nd shot at another top English club and has recently been strongly linked with the Real Madrid post. He’s been through all of this at a mere age of 35.
We wouldn’t have won the Champions League. We wouldn’t have won the Premier League, We wouldn’t have won the FA Cup, and we didn’t win the formerly named Carling Cup.
We had a mix of players. JT, a deep defending centre-back, Lampard, a goal-scoring midfielder and Drogba – A holding, scoring and overall defence bullying centre-forward.
Not one of these guys were comfortable playing the way Andre Villas-Boas wanted them to play, the method he used at quadruple winning FC Porto.
See, for our players, it’s always been easy. Always been a given that they start, and they do their own thing. Evidently, that has worked, we’ve won most of our trophies playing that way, and no one can question that.
Most of us didn’t see what we needed last season. We didn’t see what was happening to our 30+ year old heroes. We were carried through the whole season by Juan Mata, and finally bulldozed our way to the Champions League trophy thanks to Didier Drogba.
We let our ‘lions’, as I like to nickname the trio of JT, Lamps and Drogba, play the way they wanted to. Yes Robbie changed our formation, and no one can take away the wonders he did us last season. He improved the mental state of the players in a massive way against Napoli, which was the turning point, and gradually we worked our way to success we didn’t expect when AVB departed. All smiles.
Let’s turn to this season. AVB was appointed manager of Tottenham, who have hardly ever caught the eye with their football, and were very often referred to as Arsenal’s ‘ugly cousin’.
AVB inherited a decent set of players – Bale, Defoe, Aaron Lennon e.t.c. They started off slow. Very slow. The game that would describe Tottenham in a way would be when they faced Chelsea at home. They conceded, scored twice, and conceded a further 3 goals. In a nutshell, possessed a spark, but were watered down by good midfields. They held a high line defence, players slipped through left, right and centre.
There were calls for AVB’s head, but Daniel Levy wasn’t going to give in that easily, for he knew the talent André possessed from winning the quadruple with Porto.
AVB switched Hulk from a centre-forward and left-winger to a right-winger and made Falcao the striker he is today. He broke down the tactical strategy of Barcelona, and he was pretty darn spot on. His extensive knowledge about the philosophy of football was a shock to most, and was dismissed by people who thought he was too young to have a say as a manager.
Here’s a fact for those people – He won 4 trophies in one season with a Portuguese team. He completely changed the way Porto played, and players raved about his man-management skills. One of his players from Porto once said in an interview, “My sister, who lives in Brazil, was very ill. Andre, my boss at the time, came to my home, and I was in shock. He came in, and asked me how my sister was, and asked if he could do anything to help. He also asked if I wanted time off to visit her.”
I found it impossible to believe that Andre, who worked under the man known for his excellent man-management skills, Jose Mourinho, had poor man-management skills.
Of course, if I dig any deeper, I’d be accused of making Chelsea legends look bad. As a Chelsea fan, I have nothing to prove when it comes to my admiration of players like Lampard and JT, because I know within me how much they mean to me. They’re my heroes.
However, I have to break it now – AVB’s a top manager. He’s tactically so aware. He knows what he’s doing when he plays a high-line defence, he knows what he’s doing when he spreads wingers out as far as possible and he knows how to manage a 90 minute game from the start to finish.
His success at Spurs is strongly linked to Gareth Bale’s exquisite form this season, but you can point to any top side in the world and you will find that one player that stands out from the rest, whether it’s Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea or United. Yes he is strongly reliant on Bale’s form, but the fact is that Bale is at Spurs, and he is performing well. That doesn’t mean AVB shouldn’t be praised for putting together the team he has now. Spurs have overtaken Arsenal in some aspects, and a lot of that is down to Harry Redknapp’s decisions when he was at Spurs, but AVB also deserves recognition for taking them to the next level.
He is, what they call, a modern day football manager. Now, his main requirement is that he’s given a group of players that work their socks off in training. Yes, in training. This does not mean the amount of time players spend on the training pitch, but stretching the players’ stamina to play at intense speeds.
You look at Barcelona, the best team in the world. What do they do when they don’t have the ball? They go to recover it with 3 men on the player with the ball, and the rest man-marking every oppositional player about to make a forward run. When they’re on the ball, they hardly do much sprinting. What they do the best is holding the ball till the very last second to pick out the best player to pass or assist the ball to.
That’s called tiki-taka. Then there’s Total Football. AVB plays a mix of the two.
To play Total Football, you require quick players. Quick meaning, quick to receive passes, quick to make passes, quick runs on the ball, quick positioning in the box and quick moving and switching of play. We simply did not have this at Chelsea.
What we’re used to seeing is – Cech -> Drogba -> Chests down -> Lampard -> Shoot. This wasn’t AVB’s style. AVB’s style did not take off at Chelsea because the players weren’t up to the task of training intensely and showing it on the field. It was almost as if Villas-Boas never existed. Mata probably made that bit of a difference in our play, but mostly, it was the same tactic Jose and the rest used, as they found it the most effective.
I’m in no way jealous of Spurs, because we wouldn’t have won our first Champions League had it not been for AVB’s departure, but what I’m getting at is that we need players capable of moving into the next generation of football. I hate seeing teams like Swansea play better than us, purely because we are capable of beautiful football at times, but we do need to create our own identity. At the end of the day, yes wins are important, yes trophies are important, but what we all secretly want is beautiful football, players putting in maximum effort and getting results by playing beautiful football.
There are things I don’t like about his ways, such as the treatment of players that are surplus to requirements. I thought his handling of Alex and Anelka was ludicrous, and they should’ve been given more respect than what AVB gave them. He basically treated them like a cancer, but that’s obviously something he’s learned and I doubt he’ll make that mistake again. It was just a young coach trying to assert authority, but done horribly wrong.
The difference between Arsenal and Chelsea is simple – They play beautiful football for 100% of the game and end up with no result, whereas we play ‘alright’ football and end up with a 1-0, 2-0. If we can score the goals, then we need to step things up tactically. I’d love for Chelsea to win trophies by playing beautiful football. That’s something no one but a coach like Pep Guardiola, Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup e.t.c. can create in a team full of talent.
I would’ve definitely loved to have seen Villas-Boas use his tactics with our new players like Oscar, Hazard, and Moses. They’re young and would be willing to listen to him, which is more than what can be said for last year’s batch.
One last point – AVB knew all of the staff at Cobham, and he treated everyone in the nicest manner. He held Chelsea FC in high regard, always seemed like he genuinely cared about the club, and wasn’t someone that ever criticised us before he got the sack. He always defended our team, while a few may argue he was in fact defending himself and saving himself from the sack.
We know who we have now, and let me tell you, even if Andre is Spurs manager, I’d have him at Chelsea over Rafa without a shadow of a doubt. If you ask me, it was our board that cocked-up and employed AVB too early, instead of going for the safer option in Hiddink.
Anyway, however we end up, the most important thing is to believe we are capable of great things, and maybe Villas-Boas came a year too early because of the type of players already here, but the next time someone like him comes in, we need to give them a chance.
We’ve won all the big trophies now, time to move to the next level and play beautiful football to match our beautiful silverware.
Leave me your thoughts here
~ ‘Winning doesn’t really matter as long as you win.’ – Vinny Jones ~