Andre Villas-Boas knew the post of Chelsea manager was the proverbial hot seat but just four months in he probably did not expect to find himself in the electric chair. The Portuguese insists his side's form is such that he is not surprised by whispers demanding his swift execution, but he can take solace that he is not alone on the road to perdition.
In truth, Villas-Boas's assertion yesterday that there were "no excuses" for three defeats in the last four Premier League games, that at such times it was natural that "the head of the manager is called for execution" said more about the persecution complex he appears to have inherited from Jose Mourinho, his erstwhile mentor, than it did about any groundswell of support for the notion of his dismissal.
"I understand at the moment why we are going through this, so I am not worried about the comments," he said, ostensibly unaware that defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, in particular, have been greeted by pleas from punters and pundits alike that Roman Abramovich's firing squad should not yet train their sights on the Portuguese.
"I want to get my team back to winning ways. As we enter a run of results, we do not want to go into the negative spiral this team went through last year. The emotions these players lived then are enough to make them want to avoid that stigma again."
The shadow of that calamitous run of 10 points from 11 games, a winter of discontent which in effect sealed Carlo Ancelotti's fate, looms large over Chelsea. To many, it embodies the fatal flaw in Abramovich's top-down ownership model: that he is more inclined to decapitate than to strike at the heart of the problem. The managers change, but the issues remain the same.
Villas-Boas, yesterday fined £12,000 for his comments about the referee Chris Foy after defeat at QPR but expected to ask for written reasoning of his punishment, has been heartened that his senior players are standing behind him. They have faith in him; he is happy to return the compliment.
David Luiz, such a target of scorn, "will evolve into one of the best central defenders in the world," just like Gerard Pique. Alex, a bit-part player under his regime, was a "coup" and he remains "one of the best readers of the game".
And, most crucially, Villas-Boas remains absolutely adamant he can implement his high-intensity style with a group of players largely assembled to win the league title seven years ago.
"These are players of immense talent," he said. "They can adapt to different styles. When we played with a high line against Liverpool, we scored and might have scored again.
"We are happy with the way we are playing. The philosophy will be the last thing that is changed."
Aside, Villas-Boas must hope, from the manager.
- More about:
- Andre Villas-Boas