André Villas-Boas, or AVB, since they are his initials and, as much as it pains me, it is easier to write and I am a lazy writer, was recruited to be the manager of Chelsea and he has failed, completely and abjectly, in his task. So much so that he has been sacked. Being sacked is as binary as it gets and is a fine indicator of the nature of success or, more commonly, failure at Chelsea. There are no grey areas here. Either you win things or you go. Near misses or not getting the rub of green are not accepted at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s problems are well understood. They have a wealthy owner desperate for success and some return on his investment. He has been somewhat impatient and is to a fair degree culpable for the failings of his club. His willingness to chop and change has meant that, since Mourinho, the average tenure of a Chelsea manager was seven and half months. With the writing pretty much on the wall for each manager and little time for anything but trying to win something, the key longer term areas of the club, such as the youth system or the scouting network, were neglected. The best players were brought in but with, at be, only two transfer windows available to each manager, there was little time to change the fundamental squad structure. The squad was passed from manager to manager.
AVB was brought into and given two main objectives as manager of Chelsea: to move the old guard on and to ensure champion’s league qualification. These were to be done in parallel and Abramovich had indicated his willingness to be patient with his new manager. And from the beginning, AVB managed to upset his veteran players. OK, they may be past their best, but they were all he had. A manager has to work with the resources at hand. When working with people the manager must inspire, persuade, organise and direct. AVB failed in this most basic of tasks.
By managing one of Europe’s richest clubs, one desperate to win major honours, the manager is going to have to deal with those big egos in the squad. That’s how it works. The manager’s job is to be strong but to manage those egos. He needs to make changes but he can’t ship out ten players and replace them in one window, certainly not when he’s relatively inexperienced.
AVB was brought in as the manager and he failed to manage. He made a mess. He couldn’t demonstrate any improvement. Abramovich had to act. Soon he would be left with a squad of old players and no place in the Champion’s League. How can he replace the old guard without the carrot of the Champion’s League to encourage new signings? Of course, this doesn’t hide the problems that Chelsea face. No manager ever lasts long enough to build anything of any longevity. Abramovich needs to bring in a manager with a clear remit, long term and short term goals and then needs to support the plan. He tried to do it this time, but management of the plan was all wrong, and so AVB had to go.