Brian GlanvilleIt was bold and arguably somewhat rash of Andre Villas-Boas, after his Chelsea team’s last gasp defeat at home by Liverpool to announce defiantly that it would too much for the club’s billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, to dismiss him. The Russian having paid £13 million to Porto to acquire him, with an obligation to pay him off heavily were he to get rid of him.

Goings on in the spectacular court case in which his former patron Boris Berezovsky is suing Abramovich for vast sums of money on the grounds that he was intimidated into under selling him control of a massive utilities company – oil and all that – suggest that even such sums as Villa-Boas mentions are negligible to Abramovich. Did he really give a yacht to the autocratic Putin? If he did, it was arguably a wise investment. Clash with Putin and no matter how rich an oligarch you be, disaster follows.

Richest of all the oligarchs, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who dared support a political party against Putin, still languishes in eternal solitary confinement. Berezovsky, once a close ally of Putin, fell foul of him, narrowly escaped assassination in Moscow and fled to London, resisting two attempts to extradite him.

As Chelsea set off for their difficult and potentially vital Euro fixture in Leverkusen, the signs were, that Abramovich, at least for the moment, will show the patience that he never showed with Jose Mourinho, a far larger figure than Villas-Boas, and with Ancelotti.

But if I were Villas-Boas, what would trouble me would be the fact that Guus Hiddink, arguably one of the foremost managers in the game, has just left his role in Turkey and could come back any day to the Bridge, where, in a short spell, he did so much so well. There was initially talk that he could return as general manager, but he is more than capable, if required, to take over the reins at managerial level.

There is talk of Villas-Boas inheriting a team in decline, in serious need of younger blood. True, up to a point, but surely the potential younger talent is already there, if only Villas-Boas were prepared to us it; and in any case, is he making the best of the squad he has got?

Surely the impetuous and erratic Brazilian David Luiz is far less reliable and effective at centre back – where he seems at times to have a rush of blood to the head – than would be Alex, mysteriously sidelined, or Ivanovic, who could so easily be moved from right back into the middle.

And although Sturridge can give fresh drive to the attack, why, if youth should have its fling, is the teenaged playmaker Josh McEachran ignored, though he has been eulogised by Villas-Boas? And there are other youngsters of high promise in the likes of Romeu, Lukaku and Bertrand. It was away back in 1952 at The Bridge, after an extraordinary goal strewn win for Manchester United that Matt Busby declared to me, a propos of young talent. “If you don’t put them in you can’t know what you’ve got.”

Meanwhile, a high defensive line may have worked at Porto but it was surely dicing with death to apply it at Chelsea, not least with its pivotal member, John Terry losing pace and command.

Ironically, it occurred to me watching the Liverpool game, that Kenny Dalglish, in taking off the ever splendid Craig Bellamy – Mancini’s overbearing loss surely being Liverpool’s gain – was tacitly admitting that a draw would be an acceptable result. As it was, one England, ex-Chelsea, full back in Johnson waltzed past another in Ashley Cole – hardly blameless – to score that belated and dramatic winning goal with his “wrong” left foot.

So when, if at all, will Abramovich throw his toys out of the pram, as he did that day at Villa Park when Chelsea under Mourinho went 2-0 down?

One other thought; what possessed Villas-Boas to send on poor, permanently out of form, Fernando Torres on after 84 minutes? A £50 million transfer which may be deemed Abramovich’s folly, though of course he can afford it.

By Brian Glanville

  • Fernando Barragão

    Dear Mr Glanville,

    As a young Portuguese man, there are probably mysteries in English football I have yet to solve. One would surely be Torres’ mishaps at Stamford Bridge after a triumphant stint in Anfield Road.
    On the other hand, as a Benfica fan, I have come to appreciate David Luiz’s qualities and weaknesses. If his “impetuous and erratic” style draws your attention, that’s because he is probably one of the less purely defensive nominal defenders Chelsea have. Chelsea have played few if any true defenders: Bosingwa is an offensive wingback and of little help at the back, Cole seems to be suffering from the thirtyish syndrome and so does Terry. Alex and Ivanovic would help more, I agree – as long as Luiz has his attacking surges properly covered. If not, why bother having him start the game in the first place? If both fullbacks attack and so does one of the centre-backs, you only have one at the back. It showed more than once, but especially against Arsenal. I’d say Villas-Boas needs to refresh his starting eleven and even his tactical approach. But the last word will be his, as it should.


    Fernando Barragão.

  • Charlie

    Lukaku and Bertrand have struggled in Carling Cup games when they have appeared this season. McEachran is simply not physically strong enough to play as a defensive midfielder. Agree that Alex should play central defence and Luiz potentially as a defensive midfielder, but it appears as if Romeu, deservedly has that spot now.

    The main reasons for Chelsea’s turnaround, of course, are the fantastic form of Romeu, who unlike Mikel, plays the ball forward and quickly and the defence moving back 10-15 which creates more space for Ramires, Drogba, Sturridge and Mata to play.