No disrespect to Chelsea’s precocious 33-year-old new manager, Villas-Boas, who is, beyond doubt, an exceptional talent and now that Fernando Torres, on the basis of his display at Stoke, seems at least to be finding his true, formidable form, could avoid clashing with the demanding Roman Abramovich over putting him in the team.
Yet like Manchester City, who have now pulled off that subtle deal, flogging the rights to the name of their stadium to that Abu Dhabi airline – so closely connected in its ownership with their billionaire patron, Sheik Mansour – for a figure reported to be £400 million.
Money talks. City, however vulnerable they looked in the Community Shield, are simply awash with hugely expensive, highly talented, players. Now Sergio Aguero joins the glittering ranks. And there is every indication that whether he likes it or not, Carlos Tevez will have to stay. So who drops out?
At Fulham last Saturday, I saw Shay Given, who never got off the bench at City last season and wasn’t allowed to move, give a majestic display, which saved his mediocre team from almost certain second half defeat.
You cannot wholly impugn Villa for their inadequacy. Their hierarchy decreed that in the close season, they should sell their two splendid England wingers Ashley Young to Manchester United and Stewart Downing to Liverpool.
It hardly looked as though Wigan’s ex winger N’Zogbia was going to fill the breach though, as his manager Alex McLeish said afterwards, he was probably a little rusty after a limited pre-season.
As for Chelsea, they look, even if to a somewhat lesser degree, to have an embarrassment of riches. Yes, they certainly need more flair in central midfield, but what is to stop them giving an extended chance to the precocious home grown – what a rarity! – Josh Mceachran who didn’t get off the bench last Sunday at Stoke?
The incisive and effective Daniel Sturridge was suspended, but even when free to play, how does Villas-Boas accommodate him, Drogba, Torres and Anelka? He must, if he knows the nursery rhyme, feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe.
Where one sympathises with the young Portuguese was in his criticism of Stoke’s tactics, though they hardly went far enough. Two shocking fouls by the big Stoke centre back Ryan Shawcross – whose dreadful foul put Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey out of action for almost a year – should have been far more heavily punished by the referee, Halsey. Not to mention what went on in the Stoke box at dead ball kicks, rightly objected to by Villas-Boas.
Not of course, forgetting the arrival at Chelsea of yet another costly young star, Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku of Anderlecht. I’m sure Sturridge will be pleased to see him. Where does it all end?