Andre Villas-Boas is adamant Roman Abramovich will grant him time to rebuild Chelsea in his own image despite a third defeat in their last four games against Liverpool yesterday. The Stamford Bridge side stand 12 points off the pace in the Premier League after Glen Johnson's late winner for Kenny Dalglish's team, but the Portuguese is confident his billionaire benefactor did not pay £13m to recruit him from Porto simply to pension him off four months later.
"We have set out to build something new at this club and the club is committed to the future we are building," said the 34-year-old. "The owner did not pay €15m to get me out of Porto to pay me another fortune to get out. Our commitment is to the club and what we are doing in the future. We have the talent to compete in all competitions, and that's the perspective we take at the moment."
Villas-Boas admits, though, that his side's travails in recent weeks have left them no room for error if they are to compete for the Premier League title. Defeat at Queen's Park Rangers was followed by a chaotic loss at home to Arsenal, with Liverpool's victory here – achieved despite Daniel Sturridge cancelling out Maxi Rodriguez's opener – representing the first time in Abramovich's decade in English football that Chelsea have been beaten in consecutive games at Stamford Bridge.
"The situation in the league is not good for us," he said. "It's not impossible to turn it around, but it's not the brightest of starts for Chelsea in the Premier League in the last 10 years. It doesn't look good being 12 points behind the leaders [Manchester City], a strong leader, but the December fixtures give us hope. The belief is still there.
"City are playing well, that is the end of the story. Manchester United are playing well, and they are in front of us. Arsenal are playing well and recovering. Newcastle are playing well, as are Liverpool. We are going to have to play well to get the results we need.
"The last time [a team recovered a 12point deficit in December] was a long time ago, but that does not mean we cannot do that. We have won at places where other title contenders have lost, so it is even. We have to go to Newcastle and try to win the game. At the moment the perspective is we need to win every game if we are to maintain a title challenge."
The suspicion among outside observers is that Chelsea will struggle to do that without substantial changes to their defence. David Luiz, the Brazil international centre back, has attracted the bulk of the opprobrium, with Gary Neville suggesting during the television coverage of this game that the former Benfica defender looked like he was being controlled by a "10-year-old playing PlayStation".
Villas-Boas, needless to say, retains faith that his defence can be improved without resorting to Abramovich's cheque book in January. His response to Neville's criticism, though, suggests a man who is troubled by his defence.
"Gary was a fantastic defender and I have nothing to say about his opinion," said the Portuguese. "It's a stupid approach to an opinion, but if that's the way he wants to take the game, that's ridiculous.
"Of course we can [solve Chelsea's defensive problems with the current squad]. We need to organise ourselves a little bit better. When you are conceding in situations like this, and being so low in the League, you focus on the details that you have to get right. That's exactly what we're doing and where we have to improve."
Villas-Boas was, however, quick to praise the form of his captain, John Terry, at a time when the 30-year-old defender – who, like Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, warmed up in a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Kick Racism Out Of Football" – is under investigation by the Football Association and the Metropolitan Police for allegedly racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.
"I do not think it has affected him," said Villas-Boas. "There are ongoing investigations that set you in different compromises [sic], but I don't think it has affected his approach or performances."
The Chelsea manager can, at least, rely on the support of the man who compounded his woes yesterday. After expressing his condolences to reserve goalkeeper Brad Jones, whose five-year-old son, Luca, died on Friday, Dalglish insisted that nobody in football would question the work of Villas-Boas, no matter how disappointing the club's current form on the pitch.
"Nobody in the football profession will be questioning him," said the Scot, whose side now stand level with Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham on 22 points.
"I don't know the lad, but he had a fantastic CV at Porto. I don't know what the criticism will be, but there is huge respect for him in the football profession."