Comparisons are inevitable between the new Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas and his mentor Jose Mourinho, under whom he worked from 2002 to 2009, at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale; yet it is the methodology of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona that is a greater influence on his work.
That was made clear yesterday when Villas-Boas met the Chelsea players for the first time, at 9am at their Cobham training ground. He introduced his back-room staff and outlined his approach to training, which will include much more work with the ball.
The 33-year-old former Porto manager spoke of his belief that success comes when players and staff all "motivate each other" through greater collaboration, better communication and stronger support. The players were also reminded of their responsibilities as representatives of the club and were given a revised and expanded version of the club rules
Then it was down to business. Villas-Boas and his No 2, Roberto Di Matteo, were all smiles as, at 10 am, captain John Terry led the players on to the training pitch for some ball work. The players then underwent physical tests before another training session in the afternoon.
Over the coming weeks Villas-Boas will attempt to shape Chelsea to his own design which, while in some respects influenced by Mourinho, will ultimately come to resemble more closely Guardiola's Barça. Or at least that's the plan.
Villas-Boas made it clear at Porto last season that Guardiola "is always an inspiration for me because his methodology gets his team playing fantastic football. I left Inter to go and do my own thing [away from Mourinho], [and] Guardiola's quality and philosophy were a template for me every day."
Like Mourinho and Guardiola, Villas-Boas shares a devotion to preparation and thoroughness. Villas-Boas will hand out personalised DVDs and dossiers to each player as pre-season progresses, and they will be heavy on detail.
His dossier on Newcastle United written in 2004 in his role as opposition scout for Chelsea is available on the internet. It runs to four pages of tightly written text and contains 24 diagrams dissecting the various tactics and formations adopted by Newcastle, under various headings such as "Solano's inside behaviour – provocates between the lines [deadly vision]". Chelsea won the game 3-0.
The three young managers also share an unshakeable belief that unity is the way to succeed. Villas-Boas's attempt at a sound-bite by calling himself the "Group One" at his unveiling last week was clumsy, but did reinforce his philosophy of collective responsibility.
Like Guardiola, Villas-Boas believes the best approach is to dominate opponents through attacking, rather than the more defensive method favoured by Mourinho's sides. At Porto last season, he said: "You have to free [players] and let them make choices. I'm no dictator."
Villas-Boas has also built a reputation for being kind and understanding to his players, again in contrast to the dictatorial Mourinho, who does not think twice about freezing certain individuals out of the picture. The Porto captain Helton said of Villas-Boas: "He's a great guy. He's a friend more than a coach, and he treats all the players the same."
The Portuguese demonstrated his ambition by leaving Porto, where he and his young family were settled, and taking on the challenge of Chelsea. Yesterday he invited his players, many of whom have won many more trophies in their careers, to show a similar level of aspiration once more.Reuse content