Chelsea's AVB Is Much More Than A Poor Man's Mourinho

With a worrying defeat at the hands of resurgent Arsenal, and certain corners of the media beginning to sharpen their knives, it may be time to provide some perspective to André Villas-Boas' time spent at Chelsea...
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With a worrying defeat at the hands of resurgent Arsenal, and certain corners of the media beginning to sharpen their knives, it may be time to provide some perspective to André Villas-Boas' time spent at Chelsea...

Chelsea's 5-3 defeat against Arsenal was one of those freak games the Premier League has produced over the years - comparable to a heavy-weight slug-fest where both fighters forget to use their guard.

Embarrassing from a defensive perspective, but great entertainment and a game that will have taught Andre Villas-Boas a lot about his new squad.

Indeed, if it is true that you learn more about those around you in defeat, than in victory, then consecutive Premier League losses could prove to be a vital learning curve for a Head Coach still assessing the players he has inherited.

What is laughable, if not a little predictable, is that within minutes of van Persie's third goal hitting the back of Petr Cech's net, the internet message boards, radio phone-ins and social network sites had input from more than a few people suggesting Villas-Boas is already looking out of his depth.

I read one comment that described him as a "poor man's Jose Mourinho" - the sort of criticism that is over the top, incredibly short-sighted and very premature.

That's not to mention a whole host of online polls that are already asking the question; how long will Villas-Boas last at Chelsea?

To try and give this some perspective, it is worth pointing out that Villas-Boas has actually amassed more points (19) from his opening 10 league games than either of the two most successful managers in Premier League history did after their arrivals at Old Trafford and Highbury respectively.

Sir Alex Ferguson took 15 points from his first 10 league games at Manchester United, losing his first game 2-0 at Oxford United in November 1986 - in fact Ferguson only won 1 of his first 6 games in charge.

Arsene Wenger took 18 points from his first 10 league games at Arsenal, losing to Manchester United and Nottingham Forest - they also went out of the League Cup against Liverpool during that time.

Clearly different times with different challenges and expectations, but it helps illustrate the point and makes me think the lack of patience some seem to have with Villas-Boas is down to more than just a couple of defeats to London rivals.

As an outsider looking in, Villas-Boas appears to be dealing with that side of things pretty well so far at Chelsea, handling tricky man-management situations with the likes of Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and John Terry...

Since his arrival at Stamford Bridge I've been dismayed but not surprised at how dismissive some are about his ability and potential, simply because he didn't play football professionally.

To people who subscribe to that point of view it seems to matter very little that, at the age of 33, Villas-Boas guided FC Porto to a league and cup double and the the UEFA Europa League last season.

Many of his players in Portugal spoke of a man who understood what made them tick, a coach who gets the best out of players by trusting them and allowing them to express themselves. 

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was so impressed that he forked out £13.3m to secure his services - yet some supporters and ex-professionals seem to remain sceptical.

Over the summer I heard a radio interview with Graeme Souness, who suggested it that it could be a problem for Villas-Boas that he'd never played the game professionally and consequently not spent much time working with top players, explaining that you need experience in that sort of environment to understand what goes on.  

Souness is a man of vast football knowledge, who has managed in five different countries and won three European Cups as a player, so when he speaks you really should listen, but I don't agree with him on this. 

No doubt similar opinions were expressed by others about the likes of Carlos Alberto Parreira, Arrigo Sacchi and Guy Roux when they began careers in football management, but all went on to achieve fantastic success despite never playing professional football. 

Parreira and Sacchi even came up against each other in the FIFA World Cup Final of 1994 - Parreira becoming the first coach to win the tournament with Brazil since 1970, beating Sacchi's Italy on penalties in the United States.

Sacchi, a former shoe salesman, was often asked about his lack of playing experience and once replied: "I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first..."

A quick glance over the pond to U.S sport backs up that theory. 

Like the Premier League, the NBA is littered with huge talents, some with equally big egos and eye-watering salaries - but having no experience of playing in that sort of environment doesn't seem any great barrier to coaching success. 

Coaches who never took to a court in the NBA account for just over 40% of the Championship titles ever won. 

Examples include Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls) - Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) - Red Auerbach (ex-Boston Celtics) - John Kundla (ex-Minneapolis Lakers) - Chuck Daly (ex-Detroit Pistons). 

Surely the most important thing for any coach in any sport at any level is to understand the game and how to get across their point - dealing with egos and personalities is an issue faced by all sorts of managers in all sorts of professions and is certainly not exclusive to football.

As an outsider looking in, Villas-Boas appears to be dealing with that side of things pretty well so far at Chelsea, handling tricky man-management situations with the likes of Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and John Terry, pretty well in my opinion.

Take away those results against QPR and Arsenal and it's also hard to question his record on the field so far - Chelsea are top of their Champions League group, in the Carling Cup quarter-finals and have just one league point less than last season's eventual Champions had after the same number of games in 2010/11.

That’s not to say there isn't lots of room for improvement, particularly defensively, and there are certainly daunting challenges ahead of a manager who is attempting to rebrand and reshape a Chelsea side that had become a little advanced in years.

His most notable signing, Juan Mata, has made an immediate impact, but with the exception of Raul Meireles, almost all Chelsea's other summer acquisitions were bought for the future rather than the present.

A club so often accused of short-termism in recent years, Chelsea have now invested lots of money and faith in a more long-term strategy - only time will tell whether the vision that Villas-Boas is in the very early stages of implementing, will get the time and patience needed to succeed.

Other stories that might interest you:

QPR v Chelsea: The Beginning Of The End For Didier Drogba?

Chelsea v Genk: The Return Of Fernando Torres

CPO Shares: This Chelsea Fan Won’t Be Bullied By Abramovich

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