x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Andre Villas-Boas's inexperience is the problem at Chelsea

The Portuguese's age is not the issue but the naivety with which he has tried to usher in a new era at the London club suggests he needed more experience.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has proved a little naive during his first Premier League season.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has proved a little naive during his first Premier League season.

Throughout his eight-month tenure as Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas has argued that age is irrelevant to competence. He is right, being born in 1977 has never been the issue; a lack of experience is the problem.

When Villas-Boas was appointed he has just one full, albeit spectacularly successful, season of football management behind him. His first position at Academica had started well then turned turbulent as the young Portuguese sought an escape route to Sporting.

Taking command at Chelsea, he had less than 100 senior games on his coaching CV - and, as his role under Jose Mourinho had been principally observational and tactical - precious little additional experience directing training ground exercises.

Even in the unprecedented treble collecting campaign at Porto, much of the day-to-day work preparing players was handled by Vitor Pereira, the assistant immediately promoted into Villas-Boas' position upon his exit to Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich was employing a man accustomed to winning, but one with a limited feel for decision making in testing times.

Those who knew him best, who'd benefited from his exhaustive, insightful strategic analyses of opposition teams, did not doubt that Villas-Boas possessed the tactical intelligence to handle his new job.

What they questioned was his "emotional intelligence", an ability to manage individuals and moments of crisis.

They agreed with Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa's assessment that Villas-Boas had "made a mistake to leave Porto so soon".

Chelsea is a horrible place for on-the-job learning. Yes, Villas-Boas received the traditional English media honeymoon - he spoke well, looked the part, his credentials appeared impeccable, all would surely be wonderful. Yet those last only until results require aggressive headlines.

He and his new employer agreed that Chelsea's squad required freshening and that the football they wanted to play would be akin Barcelona's. The implementation of a change that would challenge even the most able of managers, however, was naive.

The old guard were neither moved on nor kept onside. Instead, an accumulation of poor managerial decisions turned them into enemies within.

Aware that Abramovich expected Fernando Torres to start, Didier Drogba wanted to know how much playing time he'd receive. Villas-Boas told the African he was a declining force, but one he wasn't allowed to sell.

As that bizarre message spread through the ranks, senior players became wary of their manager. Before long relationships descended into miscommunication and conflict.

Villas-Boas now talks openly of player dissent, threatens non-believers with departure, and claims the backing of Abramovich.

Experience suggests all three are errors; but then experience is exactly what Chelsea's manager is short on.