Things can only get worse: AVB's rallying cry

Chelsea fans look away now. Manager says 'we can go further down' and expect a trophy drought

Andre Villas-Boas's position is already under intense scrutiny but the manager has warned the period of transition he is attempting to introduce at Chelsea means things could get worse before they get better at Stamford Bridge.

Villas-Boas's immediate job is to revive a campaign that is in danger of falling apart, with his side outside the Premier League top four and in danger of exiting the FA Cup and Champions League.

The manager, though, has always insisted his task is to implement long-term changes to a playing staff and style while maintaining competitiveness. Recent performances, played out against a backdrop of conflict between the manager and key dressing-room figures – notably, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard – suggest not everything is going to plan, and the manager's decision to highlight Milan's four-year period without a trophy as an example of the consequences of change will do little to dilute the sense of impatience around the club.

Villas-Boas restated his commitment to do things his way with his team selection in Naples in midweek. Cole, a critic of the manager's tactics following the recent defeat at Everton, was left on the bench along with other senior players including Lampard and Michael Essien, and the manager has made it clear that he will attempt to move on anyone he believes stands in the way of change.

"It is normal, I think, to expect resistance and disappointment," Villas-Boas said yesterday. "But first there must always be a sense of responsibility to the employer. To avoid the change or being part of it the players have to continue to perform, either you continue to perform or you stop performing and you become part of the change. It is normal. The players have been excellent in accepting this as part of a job that needs to be done.

"There is an understanding it is needed. A lot of clubs have gone through it in the past. Milan went four years without a trophy to go through a major cycle of change. But I think it's perfectly normal. I think our battle is the results, the negative results. When you go through a run like this you try to look into everything and you continue to solve things but football is very chaotic. If the penalty against Birmingham [in the FA Cup fifth-round tie last Saturday] goes in we know we can win, but we draw, and that makes things harder."

Villas-Boas may feel luck has deserted him but he remains convinced Roman Abramovich, the club's owner, backs him, despite continued links with former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.

Abramovich's support for previous managers could hardly be described as unwavering, and will be tested if, as the Portuguese suggests, the battle to finish fourth does not run smoothly.

Victory over Bolton at Stamford Bridge today will move Chelsea ahead of Arsenal and back into a Champions League spot, but the positions could be reversed if Arsène Wenger's side beat Tottenham in tomorrow's north London derby. After the last round of league matches, Villas-Boas has prepared the ground for further disappointment.

"If Arsenal hadn't scored in the last minute with a player who has already gone back to the US [Thierry Henry], we'd be fourth," said the Chelsea manager. "The fact we went fifth changes opinion. Things can further go down still and I need to prepare you guys for that. Still go further down because of the fact it is so tight in the battle for fourth place. A win will give us further belief. If we win and Arsenal win we will stay fifth but be closer to third, seven points behind Tottenham. So that is an extra stimulus, extra motivation before that Tottenham game we have to come."

If the coming three weeks deliver the results Villas-Boas wants, his plea for more time will receive a more sympathetic hearing from the Chelsea hierarchy. If not, his long-term plans may count for nothing. "We are in a hurry for everything and this sense of urgency and emergency does not respect time," he said. "Sometimes it is needed. I think there is full understanding of the owner in that sense. What would a managerial change add to this situation?"

The manager's team selection will be closely examined but it seems unlikely there will be a recall for Fernando Torres. The striker's shattered confidence received another blow yesterday when he was omitted from the Spain squad to face Venezuela after failing to score since last October. "He is a lad we appreciate a great deal and it pains me to leave him out but I wanted to be fair," said Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project