Andre Villas-Boas will have his work cut out at Chelsea
The former Porto boss looks to be the right man, but he will have no choice but to deliver at Stamford Bridge
Andre Villas-Boas becomes the latest manager to step through Roman Abramovich’s revolving door at Chelsea.
It may be familiar territory for the former Porto manager, who was once part of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Stamford Bridge, but not even Villas-Boas’ paternal English heritage can save him from the savageness of the Russian’s bear pit.
The Roman emperor has delivered a rapid and ruthless ‘thumbs down’ verdict on coaches who did not meet his instantaneous expectations, with a Premier League and FA Cup double little over 12 months ago not enough to protect Carlo Ancelotti from the managerial guillotine.
Ancelotti found out his fate just minutes after Chelsea’s final day defeat by Everton, when Goodison Park’s mantra of “nothing but the best is good enough” took on added significance for the Italian after he failed to deliver the one thing Abramovich’s money has yet to buy.
The Champions League continues to taunt the oligarch as much as supporters of Manchester United and Liverpool – who between them can boast eight continental crowns to the capital’s none – despite being a John Terry penalty kick away from glory in Moscow three years ago.
Villas-Boas appears to be the man to finally end this drought and arrives with his stock impressively high following a remarkable domestic and European treble with Porto, which culminated in last season’s Europa League final triumph in Dublin.
His record with his home-town club speaks for itself and his apprenticeship under both Mourinho and the late Sir Bobby Robson will serve him well, as will his understanding of the press having once harboured ambitions of being a sports journalist before entering into coaching.
But unlike the defiance he showed during his time under the Special One’s wing, Villas-Boas will not be able to sit calmly in the canteen at Cobham when Abramovich is on the warpath.
History dictates that he will be forced to accommodate players thrust upon him by the Blues’ owner with Alexei Smertin, Andriy Shevchenko and latterly Fernando Torres all ill-fitting compartments in the tactical blueprints of their respective managers.
Those who he inherits may, through age, undermine his plans with Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba both several months older than their new boss, who turns 34 in October, while captain John Terry continues to exude his authority within the Stamford Bridge dressing room.
Breaking Manchester United’s strangehold on the Premier League title will afford him some breathing space but with Sir Alex Ferguson already investing heavily, it will prove difficult – and as Ancelotti and Claudio Ranieri before him both found out to their cost, second is nowhere.
Managers and directors of football are often in conflict but Guus Hiddink’s arrival as the latter would offer Villas-Boas more time, given that the current Turkey coach left Stamford Bridge unscathed after a three-month spell as caretaker in 2009 which ended in FA Cup glory.
But his level of success will have to meet Abramovich’s unrealistically high standards particularly with a side, albeit an ageing one, that Ancelotti led to the double two seasons ago.
The only alternative will be for Abramovich to take a back seat for the first time and allow this most sought-after and highly-regarded prodigy of European football to create his own dynasty that will ultimately deliver everything the Chelsea owner desires from the club.