Tim Rich: He may coach like Mourinho but Villas-Boas doesn't speak like him
Wednesday 27 July 2011
There is too much that links Jose Mourinho to Andre Villas-Boas for there not to be comparisons. They came to Chelsea from Porto immediately after winning a European trophy. They began management young, neither had much of a playing career and they possess the kind of acute intelligence not always to be found in football. And yet in one respect they are very different.
Villas-Boas does not talk like Mourinho. He will not be calling Arsène Wenger a "voyeur" any time soon. He will not be making outrageous statements about himself and is unlikely to drive referees into retirement.
Perhaps Chelsea will be grateful for that. The world of Premier League football is a small one with a big collective memory. Just as Derby County eventually tired of Brian Clough's appearances on Parkinson and his handing out of free tickets to striking miners, so Roman Abramovich showed little patience with Mourinho when results, however briefly, began to wear thin.
Pre-season in whatever sport is a phoney war. When he was preparing to lead England on a tour of the West Indies that was lost 5-0, David Gower observed that the only thing he could really say before the Test matches began was: "We hope to do well".
In his press conferences held across Asia, Villas-Boas has made only one observation worth noting, the realisation that, if he does not deliver trophies to Stamford Bridge quickly, he will become the latest of Abramovich's managers to fail to see out their contract. At least he is under no illusions.
In all other respects he has played a straighter, deader bat than Gower ever did. There have been two issues on the tour; Chelsea's lack of activity in the transfer market and the form of Fernando Torres.
When addressing his transfer policy, Villas-Boas had said that it would be pointless to begin heavy spending without first assessing the players he has inherited. There have been some interesting tactical experiments, such as playing Frank Lampard on the right of midfield, and already there is the sense that, like Mourinho's Chelsea, the one run by Villas-Boas might be very hard to beat. Thus far they have not conceded a goal in pre-season.
Torres's lack of form is the elephant in the room. Villas-Boas could point out that Torres is a World and European champion who has scored beautifully-taken goals for every previous side he has played for. Villas-Boas would not know Gower, another who was often hopeless at warm-up games and who in 1986 went into an Ashes Test having bagged a pair in a state game against Western Australia. Naturally, he made a century when the shooting started for real.
Instead, he has insisted he is not interested in "individuals" – even an individual his employer paid £50m for. He is interested only in the "forward sector" and Torres is one of four strikers. Villas-Boas has given no hostages to fortune; he has neither put pressure on his most valuable asset nor backed him publicly. When Chelsea kick off their season at Stoke on 14 August, he hopes to do well.
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