So how was your holiday season? I’m betting it has been better than Andre Villas-Boas’s December despite Chelsea’s late win against Wolves on Monday.
Since the holidays have begun, a constant stream of events conspired to turn Chelsea from a team moving along in transition/future 3rd place finisher to a team that has (if you believe the rumors) a divided locker room, constant middling draws, uninspired play, an upset loss to Aston Villa, rampant booing, a manager who’s either staying put or getting fired soon and no realistic guarantee that the club will even place 4th in the table at the end of the year. The “transition while winning” plan is gone and since these things aren’t supposed to happen to big, gigantic clubs things are going to change and it’s probably going to get very real and scary. So what should happen now that Chelsea is under siege? It comes down to two very large factors, and how the club goes about handling these factors.
Factor #1: What are club owner Roman Abramovich’s real feelings towards Andre Villas-Boas?
No matter how much money is thrown around the club, you would have to think that if Roman decided to buyout AVB’s contract from Porto to get him to Chelsea he is pretty enamored with him. The subsequent firing of Carlo Ancelotti after winning the double and finishing second and hiring of a guy who’s 34 and has a Europa League championship is pretty much going all in with your choice. Villas-Boas brings with him an ideology of fast, pressing offense and a more attractive style of football that almost requires a faster, younger player. If this is the style that Roman wanted then in time there is a very good chance that AVB-helmed Chelsea teams in 2012, 13 and onward will win titles and be consistent.
Right now though Villas-Boas inherited a team that has had no major overhauls since the Jose Mourhino era and can’t fully execute the style of play that AVB was brought in for. It’s damned if you/damned if you don’t if Abramovich throws his vote of confidence to Villas Boas because with how the club is playing and the backstage drama they’ve conceded this season and probably will have a rocky start next season as well, maybe playing in the Europa League. Regardless, the worst move Abramovich could make is to sack AVB after only a few months. Gus Hiddink is not walking through the door, and realistically he shouldn’t because anyone short of Mourhino suddenly wanting another go-around isn’t a better choice than what Roman currently has in Villas-Boas. That being said, if Abramovich chooses Villas-Boas, then they have to deal with the other big factor:
Factor #2: Who’s in starting lineup for the 2012/2013 season?
It’s not about right now with the current squad. Right now, no matter who leaves and gets brought in, the team is going to most likely chug along and be very uneven. By picking Villas-Boas as the long term choice, you’re not only choosing his offense but you are also confirming that it’s Villas-Boas squad. This is where it gets interesting as if you believe the papers there is everything short of civil unrest in the locker room at the moment. In short, beloved players like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Nicholas Anelka who’ve won multiple titles are either getting shipped out, rumored to leave or embroiled in their own now legal issues. In order to overhaul the squad and bring the team into a new era Villas-Boas is going to have to sell off many of the fans favorite players, some of whom still have something left to contribute. Would anyone have expected to read rumors about Frank Lampard being sold in January a year ago?
To go all in with AVB should mean that you’re also giving him the right to choose who he wants for the team. Because of this it shouldn’t be shocking to see a Chelsea team in February that looks very different. This means signing players like Gary Cahill to eventually replace John Terry regardless of the fallout from his February trial, getting a creative midfielder to create opportunity and building around Daniel Sturridge rather than Fernando Torres up front.
As much as fans should appreciate the contributions of players like Lampard, Drogba, etc., you can’t ignore the fact that eventually they would leave. Villas-Boas’s hiring sped this up of course, but wasn’t that the point of hiring him? The only thing that’s really happening with Chelsea now is that the transition went from being smooth to very rocky in one month’s time. If there is a long term vision at Stamford Bridge then now is the time to speed it up and that is what Abramovich and the board should take into account while they decide the immediate and long term future of the club.