Why is AVB so upset?


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The Independent Online

If Andre Villas-Boas wanted to know what a true monstering from the English press feels like, he would have been advised to seek out Graham Taylor at Stamford Bridge, where the former England manager was a radio pundit for Chelsea's Champions League win over Valencia on Tuesday.

No one copped it worse than Taylor during his England demise, so it would have been interesting to know what he thought of the invective Villas-Boas launched late on Tuesday night against what he said was the media's "continuous persecution" of his Chelsea team.

In his post-match press conference, the young Chelsea manager declared that the result was a "slap in the face" for his "critics". He got stuck into Gary Neville and he ended with a real twist of the knife. "It's unfortunate for you guys," he said, "because you'll have to write about Chelsea finishing first."

In the crowded press room at Stamford Bridge, bewildered expressions were exchanged. On the whole, the general tone, even among some of the highest-profile columnists, has been that the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, must strive for stability and give his bright young manager a chance.

It has not been easy for Villas-Boas over the last few weeks, but any Chelsea manager who loses five out of 10 games – his record before Tuesday – will find himself under pressure, and it will not just be the newspapers or the phone-ins asking questions. This is Chelsea, where the owner has sacked five famous managers in eight years.

With the benefit of greater reflection, you have to wonder whether there was another purpose behind Villas-Boas's words. Like all managers he needs something for his squad to unite against and what better than the vague notion of "persecutors" in the press? A convenient bogeyman and a lot less contentious than taking on an establishment figure like Sir Alex Ferguson or, as Mourinho did, Uefa.

A big problem for Villas-Boas is how he will ease the ageing fans' favourites – Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech et al – out of the club without the whole place descending into civil war – and taking his career down with it. So what better way to sharpen yourself for those battles than with a pop at the beastly press? It is a guaranteed vote-winner with the fans and none of the players are ever going to disagree. Forget the media, Chelsea is where the future of Villas-Boas will be decided.