Rory Smith: Is Villas-Boas heading the way of his predecessors?

A stagnating squad, transfer failures, faltering form. The Chelsea manager faces an unmistakeable sense of déjà vu

To Andre Villas-Boas, it is "a negative spiral". Carlo Ancelotti, seeking the comforting delusion of euphemism, referred to it as "a bad moment", even as it spanned 11 games and four months. Luiz Felipe Scolari denied it was a crisis. Jose Mourinho, ever different, insisted it had to do with eggs and omelettes. Chelsea, locked in a vortex of fear and doubt, have been here before. They are becoming the Premier League's ouroboros, a serpentine club condemned for eternity to eat their own tail.

The fates of his predecessors will provide Villas-Boas with scant comfort as Chelsea consider the possibility of being eliminated from this season's Champions League before Christmas; their Premier League form is such that they may be out of next year's before long, too. Under such circumstances, his employment into the new year would seem far-fetched.

The 34-year-old, though, will know the parallels run deeper than simply the demise of those spectres who haunt his post. Like Mourinho, Ancelotti and Scolari, he finds winter bringing discontent to players and staff, his tactics questioned, his attempts to re-energise the club asphyxiated. Villas-Boas is exhibiting the symptoms of Chelsea's chronic infection.

 

Jose Mourinho

It is easy to identify the Special One's exit as the moment Chelsea stopped being a club on the brink of becoming football's newest superpower and reinvented themselves as a dysfunctional state. After all, Mourinho had won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup in his three seasons, only to find himself out of favour with Abramovich after a run of three games without a win.

As with all his successors, though, it is not the nosedive in form that precipitated his departure so much as the tensions behind the scenes. It is telling that Mourinho's dissatisfaction stemmed from clashes with Abramovich over transfer policy; as much as anything, it is the Russian's refusal to overhaul his squad that has ensured Chelsea are dogged by déjà vu.

Mourinho wanted to sign a central defender in January 2007 but was refused; Chelsea's spending had been done the previous summer, on Andrei Shevchenko, foisted on him by his owner. Together with the unwanted apparition of Frank Arnesen as head of youth development and Avram Grant as director of football, the Portuguese felt undermined. On 30 September 2007, he walked.

 

Luiz Felipe Scolari

The Brazilian, too, thought he was undone by Abramovich's intransigence in the transfer market. "Everyone knows he needed to make the team younger," said Acaz Fellegger, the former Portugal manager's spokesman. "The same team had been together for four years."

A side too old to change, a club unwilling to undergo a revamp of the playing squad. "Scolari had wanted Robinho but Chelsea didn't want to spend the money," added Fellegger. "Others were supposed to follow in the January transfer window."

They did not, and Chelsea's form collapsed. On 9 February 2009, Scolari was summarily dismissed. It was said he had lost the faith of his senior players. Not nearly so quickly, though, as he had lost faith in them.

Carlo Ancelotti

It is the dark days of last winter that will haunt Villas-Boas most. Ancelotti, to some extent, only has himself to blame: winning the Double last year went a long way to convincing Chelsea that a generation of players bought largely by Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri could still compete.

The Italian, though, was not responsible for the departure of Ray Wilkins, his trusted assistant manager, and his replacement by Michael Emenalo, weakening Ancelotti's standing in the eyes of the players. Nor, it seems, did he wish the arrivals of Fernando Torres and David Luiz, for a combined £74m, in the January transfer window. In one fell swoop, Chelsea's squad was unbalanced and funds for reinforcements disappeared. The "bad moment" never really ended. Ancelotti was fired less than an hour after the season finished.

 

Andre Villas-Boas

And so to Villas-Boas. He has failed to overhaul an ageing squad, partly through his own inaction – he has abundant say in transfer matters but failed to accomplish all he might during the summer – and partly through his inability to force high-earners out of the club.

His team lacks pace and intensity, as well as balance, testament to years of mismanagement in the transfer market. Their play lacks cohesion. Emenalo, now technical director, remains a powerful figure, while rumours persist that Roberto Di Matteo, his assistant, is neither happy nor popular at the club he graced as a player. The parallels are clear. All that differs is their fate. For now, Villas-Boas seems safe. History weighs heavily upon him.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice