If Andre Villas-Boas was not feeling the pressure after Chelsea’s recent league form which has seen them lose three of their last four league games, the young pretender to the throne of the self appointed “Special One” must now definitely be feeling some unease after the Blues went down to defeat in the Bay Arena on Wednesday night in the Champions League.
Already 12 points off the pace in the race for the league crown, Villas-Boas and his men now find themselves needing a victory against Valencia at Stamford Bridge in two weeks time to secure their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League. A scoreless draw would also be enough to see Chelsea through. However given their recent defensive form, coupled with a rampant Valencia attack, it does not suggest a game without goals and as such Villas-Boas must go for all three points.
It is unfortunate that Villas-Boas has found himself in this position as he has not gotten it all wrong and the blame for Chelsea’s recent poor run of form should not be laid solely at the feet of the young Portuguese. He has made Chelsea’s style of play more fluid going forward as they now play a more attacking style of football. Much of this work has however been undone by maniacal defending at the other end thus bringing under the microscope an area of Chelsea’s play that has usually been rock solid.
What has gone wrong with the Chelsea defense? Since the departure of Ricardo Carvalho, none of the other center backs have stepped up in a consistent way to occupy that spot next to John Terry, thus resulting in constant chopping and changing at the heart of the defense. It has been a case of musical chairs between Ivanovic, Luiz and Alex. None of whom has so far looked the part.
The form of John Terry has also been a bit dodgy of late and it is quite coincidental that Chelsea’s run of bad form commenced with that defeat at Queens Park Rangers and the subsequent allegations of racist abuse leveled at Terry by Anton Ferdinand. It is clear this controversy has affected not only Terry but also the team, of which he is the leader. He has not been as commanding or confident and it has had a ripple effect throughout the entire team.
Another massive headache for Villas-Boas must be what to do with Fernando Torres. Here is a player he has inherited and who he is forced to play even though this player is clearly not producing the goods. Frank Lampard has found the back of the net more often than any other Chelsea player this season with 7 strikes, while Daniel Sturridge has been the team’s leading man up front with 6 goals. Torres misses more often than he scores, Drogba has not been his old self and Anelka is clearly not a favorite of Villas-Boas and therefore spends most of his time watching from the dug out. In short, the goals are not coming from the strikers.
The Champions League has always been coveted by Roman Abramovich and previous Chelsea managers have been judged solely on their inability to win it. Villas-Boas was brought in (at huge cost to the club) to remedy this situation. Therefore, his team’s indiscretions in the league will no doubt be forgiven once he delivers in Europe and at present Abramovich’s European dream is hanging by a slim thread and so too is Villas-Boas’s job if his boss remains true to form.
Villas-Boas must get his defense sorted out and quickly. He also needs to get his strikers scoring goals if he is to get his team back on track. He has some quality players at his disposal. What he does not have is time and he needs time as much as humans need air. The next three weeks could determine Villas-Boas’s future at Chelsea and as much as he would like to say he is under no pressure at the moment, I think he knows that his time is very limited and he will only be judged on the results he delivers in the European kingdom of Roman “the machete” Abromovich.