The announcement of André Villas-Boas as the new boss has been warmly welcomed by the fans and with good reason. Personally, the word that sums it all up for me is excitement. After a few weeks break, the memory of how the previous season spluttered to an slightly undignified and lethargic close has slowly faded. I now feel genuinely excited for the season ahead and, André, you’re the man who has lifted my spirits. Anyone who saw how Porto poured forward to attack during their thrilling Europa League run can only be excited at how a new Chelsea will line up and take the coaches ideas on board. Guus Hiddink would have been a safe pair of hands, the players and fans already know what the great Dutchman can do. Villas-Boas brings with him the continuity of a Guus, the in-depth knowledge of the club and playing staff, but crucially he offers new and fresh ideas. We now have a successful, hungry and hugely promising young coach who has the potential to create a new legacy at the club. What else can you feel but excited?
No sooner had the ink dried on the contract though than the naysayers were out in force to dampen the party. The Mourinho comparisons were as inevitable and as there were tiresome. The press have questioned if Vilas-Boas is too young to handle the infamous Stamford Bridge dressing room. You’d have thought the players were in there with rifles or something, what will they think of next eh? The continuity of the appointment has widely been attributed as a potential hurdle, Paul Hayward’s article in The Guardian believed the players needed to ‘shed their memory of him (Villas-Boas) as Mourinho’s dossier man.’ These dressing room bullies presumably would see André as Mourniho’s gopher boy, a kind of substitute teacher to ridicule, rather than a world-renowned, academic coach who is collecting league titles and Europe trophies as fast as his former mentor. The voice of experience came from former Chelsea boss and Walking Dead extra Avram Grant, who told Radio 5 Live about the demands of the owner and the club. “Roman is a guy who says he wants results, and he gives you everything to achieve the results,” said Grant. “He wants it as quick as you can, and you can expect it because he has put a lot of money in.”
So there we have the huge expectations of the club to deliver success, there is the added pressure of the managerial ‘fee’, there are new group dynamics which means the manager must quickly stamp his authority on the club and the difficult task of turning around the trajectory of last season. Welcome to Chelsea, it’s sink or swim. I think last season we had the talent to win the league but lacked the application. A top coach can make the difference. Villas-Boas seems like a manager who can get the best out of his players. In his first interview he emphasised the need of the group to work together, how the players were the only ones who can change things out on the pitch. Judging by Porto’s attacking instincts he empowered the players to go out and entertain first, if we can keep the steel of our defence then the season ahead already looks very promising. A splash of attacking panache and creativity in midfield is crucial. The full backroom team has yet to be announced and I’m hoping we retain a defence-minded coach somewhere in the set up as Porto were often too open on the counter. As intelligent and studious as Villas-Boas seems off the pitch, on the sidelines he can rant and rave with the best of them and this is also what the side needs. Far too often last season the desire and passion was missing out on the pitch and a kick up the arse from the coach rather than an impassive raising of the eyebrow might just be what has been missing. Time will tell how the impending season will end but for now Chelsea fans just cannot wait for the games to begin.