Attack-hungry Chelsea gamble on Villas-Boas
Chelsea's appointment of Andres Villas-Boas is a daring gamble that marks a new period at Stamford Bridge, as the young Portuguese manager looks to shed the conservative style of play established by mentor Jose Mourinho with an attacking brand of football more akin to European champion Barcelona's.
Chelsea's appointment of Andres Villas-Boas is a daring gamble that marks a new period at Stamford Bridge, as the young Portuguese manager looks to shed the conservative style of play established by mentor Jose Mourinho with an attacking brand of football more akin to European champion Barcelona's. (Also see: Villas-Boas no new Mourinho: Hasselbaink)
Chelsea's decision to make Villas-Boas the youngest ever manager in the Premier League - just a few months older than several players at 33 - doesn't mark the first time someone has taken a risk on the relatively inexperienced coach poached from Portuguese champion Porto and hailed as the heir apparent to Mourinho.
Villas-Boas' stock rose significantly following Porto's treble-winning campaign, highlighted by an undefeated league campaign and May's Europa League triumph in Dublin. That victory only increased the comparisons to Mourinho, whose first European triumph was winning the UEFA Cup with Porto in 2003.
But Villas-Boas' football philosophy differs drastically from Mourinho's, as the Porto native prefers flamboyance and creativity over tactical strategy. Chelsea fans thirsty for goals and flair will appreciate Villas-Boas' admiration of Barcelona's passing style of play, and will be buoyed by the fact that Porto featured one of Europe's most potent attacks last season, scoring 145 goals.
"(Barcelona coach Pep) Guardiola is an inspiration to me every day," Villas-Boas said after the 1-0 Europa League win over Braga in May. "I am inspired not only by him, but also his philosophy and the philosophy of Barcelona, of (Johan) Cruyff, of Rinus Michels."
But some will wonder if the move to Chelsea is premature after barely two seasons of topflight experience.
Villas-Boas has yet to test the players' transfer market and build his own squad, making few changes to the Porto team he inherited. Villas-Boas will also have to deal with owner Roman Abramovich, who has a reputation for hasty decisions. The young Portuguese is the seventh coach hired by the Russian oligarch in eight years since he took over the club.
Abramovich has reportedly been a longtime admirer of Guardiola, who remains committed to Barcelona for another season. Like Guardiola, Villas-Boas prefers to maintain a lower profile and doesn't court controversy like the brash Mourinho, who was eventually cut loose by Abramovich despite three-plus successful seasons at Stamford Bridge.
Regardless of the risk and potential reward, there is no arguing that Villas-Boas' rise has been nothing short of sensational.
Former Porto coach Bobby Robson gave Villas-Boas his first chance as a teenager when he offered him an apprenticeship with the club's youth-team coaching staff. By 17, Villas-Boas had a UEFA coaching license.
He coached the British Virgin Isles for a brief stint at just 21 - losing both games - before finding his way back to Porto, where he compiled statistics and in-depth scouting reports during Mourinho's impressive UEFA Cup and Champions League campaigns in 2003 and '04.
Villas-Boas then followed Mourinho to Chelsea and Inter Milan where he worked in a similar role before going his own way and eventually landing at Academica, where he took over with 23 games to play and relegation a possibility. He kept the club in topflight football with an 11th-place finish, which led to his surprise appointment at Porto before the start of last season.
Chelsea's decision to trust in the self-assured and media savvy Villas-Boas perhaps points to a long-term reshuffling of the squad as well, with veteran players like Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba the same age as their new manager, and John Terry and Petr Cech approaching 30.
After winning the Europa League in Dublin, Villas-Boas downplayed his own part in the success and gave most of the credit to his team.
"I am just a cog in a very effective club with super talents," Villas-Boas said. "Players are decisive in modern football; if you don't have the players you run into a wall."