x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Roman Abramovich moves swiftly to address problems at Chelsea

The Russian owner supplements the backroom staff of Andre Villas-Boas with two psychological experts.

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich has responded to the internal conflict threatening to deprive Chelsea of their place in the Champions League by inviting psychologists in to work on his football staff.

The Russian billionaire took the extraordinary step of bringing in two specialists to help both the team and his coaching staff after Tuesday's 3-1 away defeat to Napoli.

According to club sources the psychologists arrived at the club's Cobham training ground this morning, the players' first day back following that debilitating loss in Italy. That game was preceded by a direct challenge to Andre Villas-Boas over a team selection that excluded Frank Lampard, Chelsea's leading scorer, Ashley Cole, the club's only experienced left back, and Michael Essien.

In recent weeks, Villas-Boas has publicly stated his indifference over player discontent towards his Chelsea “project”, promising to clear more of the dissenters out of his playing squad, and arguing that the only support that is important to him is from Abramovich. The Portuguese has also called for – so far without response – a public statement of that backing from the club.

Abramovich has made a series of visits to the training ground in recent weeks, at one point observing an aggressive discussion between Villas-Boas and a number of his senior players over who was to blame for Chelsea's underperformance.

Chelsea have not won since January 28, dropping points in their three last Premier League games and coming close to exiting the FA Cup at home to second-tier Birmingham City. Villas-Boas has long since conceded defeat in the title race, his team has slipped to fifth in the league, and there have been just four wins in their last 14 games.

Statistically, the 34 year old's record is the worst of any manager Abrmaovich has employed since taking over the club in 2003. The Russian, however, has so far resisted the temptation to dismiss Villas-Boas, looking instead to alternative solutions to end the slump.

sports@thenational.ae