Unlike some of our previous Bad Management columns, where the manager just seemed like a terrible appointment from the start, we’re looking at you Joe Kinnear, today’s subject was on top of the world when he came to the Premier League. Billed as the next Jose Mourinho, mainly because he was Portuguese and had managed Porto, Andre Villas-Boas was hyped as the next top manager in world football, and a man who would build a new dynasty at Chelsea following the constant chopping and changing of managers since his fellow Portuguese left the club. Unfortunately for AVB things did not go to plan.
Villas-Boas’ route into coaching was highly unconventional. He was never a professional player, however, he did live in the same apartment block as Bobby Robson, then Porto manager. After a heated debate between the two about football, a 16-year-old AVB was taken under the great man’s wing and obtained all his coaching badges at an incredibly young age. He then linked up with Portuguese pal and all around great guy Jose Mourinho at Porto, becoming his assistant coach. AVB followed Jose to Chelsea and then Inter, before leaving the band and bringing out his solo album. His solo album (stick with this metaphor) was incredible as he became manager of Porto and guided them to an unbeaten league season in 2010-11, as well as cup wins domestically and the Europa League. AVB achieved all this at just 33 years old, so it’s no surprise that Chelsea came calling.
At the end of the prior season popular Italian Carlo Ancelotti was sacked for not winning any trophies, despite having delivered a historic double the season prior. Carlo should definitely have gotten another season at least but he was out the door and AVB was placed in the hot seat. His appointment was met with great scepticism of course. He was too young, had never played at the top level and probably couldn’t do it on a rainy night in Stoke. To be clear these aren’t direct Paul Merson quotes, but that’s probably what he said. The transfer window was pretty uneventful for Chelsea, Juan Mata aside, mainly prospects were signed. Lukaku and Courtois would not blossom for a few years of course. There were no significant departures either.
AVB’s first challenge was the ultimate Premier League litmus test. Stoke City. Away. It was a frustrating game for the Blues who just couldn’t find away through the brick wall that was Stoke under Pulis. It finished 0-0 and already the pitch forks were out. I mean if AVB couldn’t even beat Stoke what chance did he have? After this hiccup results began to pick up. Chelsea went on a 3 match win streak until they came up against Man United at Old Trafford in mid-September. This was the first proper test for Vilas-Boas and it did not end well. While there might have been a rare goal for Torres, he missed so many chances as United triumphed. Still work to be done then.
Chelsea bounced back from the United game well, recording some more victories, however, the end of October saw real pressure mount on AVB. A 1-0 loss to QPR was unacceptable and then that 5-3 loss to Arsenal happened and suddenly Villas-Boas’ credentials were being called into question. November brought more disappointment with a loss to Liverpool, firstly in the league, then in the League cup. If this was bad then December was worse, as Chelsea collected 9 points from 18, hardly title winning form.
It was becoming apparent that senior figures in the dressing room were not respecting their new gaffer. Maybe it was a lack of experience or the fact he was barely older than some of them, but it was clear not all was well. AVB did not help himself by trying to phase out senior members of the team, such as Drogba, Terry, Lampard and Cole too early. The veterans still had a lot of years left in the tank and AVB may well have been trying to overhaul a team that was in no need of a complete overhaul.
January and February was more of the same for poor old Andre, who just could not string a set of results together at all, with Chelsea winning just one of their seven games. The January window brought in new recruits Gary Cahill and a certain Kevin De Bruyne, who definitely would not be wasted by Chelsea’s youth system. At this point, it became increasingly apparent that AVB was on borrowed time and following an away loss to the mighty West Brom the Chelsea board decided to cut their losses and Villas-Boas was sent packing. The dynasty had lasted about eight months as Chelsea languished outside the top four.
The Blues would then give his assistant Roberto Di Matteo the job till the end of the season. Bobby didn’t do too badly managing to win the FA Cup and Champions League to the shock of everyone. Was this down to Di Matteo’s tactical ability or his talented squad. Well, he was sacked a few months later and couldn’t hack it in the Championship with Aston Villa, so I’ll let you be the judge.
So where did at all go wrong for AVB? Essentially a combination of tactical naivety, lack of respect from senior players and trying to change the whole side too soon meant that big Roman had to pull the plug, given his obsession with winning trophies. Could Villas-Boas have really built a legacy at Stamford Bridge? His failed spell at Spurs would suggest probably not. It all turned out ok for Villas-Boas in the end though as he is cashing fat pay cheques managing in China. So I’m sure those crisp £50 notes, or whatever the Chinese equivalent is, has made the Portuguese forget all about his failed spell at Chelsea.