It was hardly a surprise in light of Chelsea’s insipid recent form when Roman Abramovich decided to wield his axe once more, this time on Andre Villas Boas, destined to become just another of the forgotten men who have occupied the Stamford Bridge dug out since the glory days of Mourinho.
The Roman oligarch has never been shy to remove managers when he feels they are not up to the task, but his haste in removing the Portuguese prodigy was perhaps his most costly yet. The man who promised so much is just another example of the way in which managers today are given such little time to deliver. Abramovich doesn’t seem to have any time to wait, however, and before Villas-Boas’s revolution could even begin, he had been tossed on the same scrapheap as Ancelotti, Scolari, Rainieri, Grant and even Mourinho.
Arriving on the back of a quite tremendous breakthrough season at FC Porto, in which he led the Portuguese giants to a league title and Europa League success, Villas-Boas had to deal with the pressure of inevitable comparisons to Jose Mourinho from day one. A young manager with considerable success at FC Porto, the comparisons were almost too easy to make, but the fact remains that the two share little in common. Differences in philosophy and considerably less charisma meant that Villas-Boas’s time at Chelsea was never going to be a carbon copy of Mourinho’s, and that became abundantly clear as the season wore on.
If Villas-Boas’s style was one of panache and flair, opposed to the more pragmatic and rigid structure of Mourinho, then he never equipped himself with the right talent to do so. Juan Mata will remain the lone greatest contribution of Villa-Boas’ reign at the club, but he was never going to be enough on his own. A continued reliance on an ageing and increasingly injury-prone band of players such as Terry, Lampard, Essien, Ivanovic and Drogba was never going to produce the sort of football Villas-Boas wanted from his side. Perhaps Villa-Boas’s goal was to revolutionize Chelsea over the course of a couple of years, but that is a solution based on an assumption that time is a readily available commodity under Abramovich, whose unquenchable thirst for success meant that change could not come at the expense of losing ground on the front runners domestically and in Europe.
An unenviable position, no doubt, but Villas-Boas’s biggest test was always going to be the way in which he managed the egos of John Terry, of Frank Lampard and all the other remnants of the by-gone Mourinho era. It was perhaps a task he was never going to conceivably accomplish. The magnitude of change required at Chelsea was never going to come without some sort of short term sacrifice and with Villas-Boas lacking the required diplomacy to set about such change whilst simultaneously massaging the egos of the chairman’s closest pals in the dressing room, it seems as though Villas-Boas’s plans were compromised from the word go, particularly with Mourinho’s shadow still casting a daunting presence over the Stamford Bridge dugout.
In the end, it proved one that Villas-Boas was unable to achieve. His youthful exuberance and passion for the game seemed lost on some of his players at Chelsea, particularly those keen to preserve their place and perhaps their legacy at a club that is starting to pass them by, and with hindsight it can be concluded that Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea, and all the baggage that comes with it, was a marriage not destined for happily ever after. To be honest, it’s hard to imagine anyone delivering such an outcome at the club any time soon.