When Chelsea appointed Andre Villas-Boas as manager following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti, the football world was in shock. On the back of a very disappointing 2010/2011 season, in came a 33-year old Portugese tactician so obviously inexperienced to handle a club of Chelsea’s stature. Although he masterminded a superb treble winning season at Porto before joining the blues, the Premier League was different.
Like every new manager, he soon began to ring the changes. In came Spanish playmaker Juan Mata, Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles and Barcelona Team B graduate, Oriol Romeu. Yuri Zhirkov and Yossi Benayoun made way.
The Blues started the season indifferently, although there were signs the new manager was working hard in training with the ball being played more on the ground. Loan returnee Daniel Sturridge was a constant feature in the side and the young striker was producing the goals.
Then came the game against Man United at Old Trafford; the first real test for Chelsea’s new manager. A combination of dreadful finishing and hard luck saw the blues beaten 3-1 in a very open game. There were positives from this encounter with the team putting up a brave performance and 50 million pound signing Fernando Torres scoring his first of the season.
The team got straight back to work with Juan Mata providing the inspiration. However, a 5-3 loss to London rivals Arsenal further dampened their title aspirations. It was another open game that left Chelsea fans furious. The manner in which the team launched wave after wave of attack was so unlike the blues. Also, the tendency to play a high defence line meant the team was caught out in counter-attacking situations. Furthermore, the new manager seemed to have some difficulty with picking his subs. Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda have often come on to do more harm than good.
Despite all these, the good far outweighs the bad. The blues have abandoned their conservative, gritty style of play for a more casual, attack-minded approach that is easy on the eye. The new manager also has an eye on youth with Daniel Sturridge and young holding midfielder Oriol Romeu getting plenty of playing time.
Villas Boas’ first year is predictably one full of ups and downs. A morale-boosting win over League leaders Manchester City showed his critics that he can mix it with the big boys.
And while further losses to Liverpool, QPR and Villa coupled with a string of draws means the title is out of reach, the young manager is certainly holding his own.
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