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Home » Sport » Football

AVB embarks on solo project

"This is not a one-man show. Maybe I should be called 'The Group One'. I want to group people together to be successful. That's my objective" — Andre Villas-Boas, June 29 2011

"Theydon't have to back my project, only the owner needs to back my project" — Andre Villas-Boas, February 16 2012

When Andre Villas-Boas took on the Chelsea job in the summer, he came with a start to his managerial career that was second only to Pep Guardiola, and with a better collection of trophies to his name than the 64-year-old England manager in waiting Harry Redknapp.

For the man who made a rock star-esque start to his managerial career, Chelsea was always going to be his difficult second album.

But still, AVB probably wasn't counting on having to go solo less than eight months into his reign.

The Chelsea boss told a press conference yesterday that he did not have the support of his own players. That's not exactly what he said, of course, but it was close enough. 'The Group One' is no longer talking about the group.

Villas-Boas scarcely needed to hint at a lack of support; it only confirmed what has been whispered for some time. Those press rumblings are getting louder. The sacred day off after a match was cancelled following the abject 2-0 defeat at Everton last weekend. AVB gave the players a piece of his mind — reportedly his furious players gave him short shrift in return.

The last time Early Doors dedicated a blog exclusively to Chelsea's fortunes was two months ago on December 13. Chelsea had just beaten Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, inflicting the first league defeat of the season on the table-toppers, and recording a result which looked like setting the Blues on a course to better times.

Since that day, Chelsea have won just two league games in their last 10, drawing six and losing two.

No wonder things are getting tense in west London, with Chelsea slipping out of the top four, and facing a Champions League last 16 tie against Napoli next week.

Dropping the music analogy for a moment, the Chelsea manager's position under Roman Abramovich seems to have evolved until it's become a nanny's job.

The manager is caught in the middle between the wealthy parent, Abramovich, and his spoiled children. The children have learned over the years that if they misbehave, it's not them who will be punished — a new nanny will be sought.

And of course, certain Chelsea players miss the old nanny — their favourite, Portuguese, special nanny — a little more than is healthy.

Texting Jose Mourinho does not in itself undermine Villas-Boas, but it arms journalists with another question to ask in a press conference, another strand to the debate about whether the players are behind the new man's 'project'.

On that score, ED thought Villas-Boas answered the question put to him rather well.

"This is normal and I don't have a problem with it," said AVB, while mentioning that he still texted his former players at Porto. See, he told you he was the Group One.

Lest it be forgotten, Villas-Boas tried to play the supportive role as well as be the man who freshens up the team. Take his staunch defence of John Terry over the racism saga this year. Terry's retained the armband, Villas-Boas called for Anton Ferdinand to shake hands with his captain when the sides met again — he's offered unflinching faith in the face of some troubling allegations, allegations serious enough to strip Terry of the England captaincy and precipitate the exit of England manager Fabio Capello.

The argument that the core of the Chelsea team needs to be changed, rejuvenated, reinforced, does not need rehashing here. It's surely the reason Villas-Boas was brought into the job.

But his suggestion that only the owner has to back him is a piece of logic that holds up only for as long as it takes for you to give it any thought at all.

If the team starts to win again, things will fall into line quickly enough. With 'mutinies', it's usually a handful of the disenchanted who lead the way. Remove them - as AVB might well do this summer - and those behind them often come sheepishly back.

But if the team doesn't win — if Chelsea exit the Champions League, and the odds start to lengthen that they'll qualify for next season's competition — then AVB has little to fall back on. 'The Group One' will have lost his group. And that leaves Abramovich, who spent millions to oust Carlo Ancelotti and hire Villas-Boas, with a decision to make.

Does he back his nanny, who has lots of ideas but isn't well-liked, or his children, who were precocious enough to win silverware just two seasons ago?

Claudio Ranieri, the original 'Dead Man Walking' in the Chelsea hotseat, told the Mirror this morning that: "I think he has to win a trophy this year to stay in his job. I was sacked because I didn't win - that is the rule and nothing has changed."

Carlo Ancelotti, the last incumbent, won a double in his first season, only to lose his job after a year without trophies.

There are good reasons to keep AVB on at Chelsea, but history tells us this decision only goes one way. AVB may need to find another studio for his next record.

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