Villas-Boas eager to arrest 'negative run' tonight at Leverkusen
ANDRE Villas-Boas last night spoke of "low blocks" and "medium blocks" when discussing Chelsea's bold tactics and various ways of defending -- but also of chopping blocks.
"When results like this happen," the manager said, analysing his team's perilous run of form, "the head of the manager is called for execution."
It was a touchy response. No one is calling for Villas-Boas's head. More they are fretting over whether he will be given the time to create the "new Chelsea" he has declared he is pursuing (the history of the club makes this a relevant doubt). At present, the noises are rightly encouraging from within the club, but that always comes with a heavy qualification. Support can quickly dissolve.
There was a customary defiance also from the Portuguese as he again maintained that he would not change his tactics -- either in the Premier League or the Champions League, where Chelsea resume action tonight away to Bayer Leverkusen. "I want to get my team back to winning ways," he said, "and we'll try and do that against Leverkusen."
Indeed a Chelsea victory would give them a place in the knockout stages for the ninth successive season.
A draw would be acceptable, with a home tie against Valencia to come. A defeat -- against a German side brimming with confidence and with former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack -- would fray nerves for that match if the Spaniards beat Genk at home.
But after three league defeats in four matches, Villas-Boas knows he must quickly address domestic matters also. A significant reason why Carlo Ancelotti was sacked was because the "bad moment" of poor form last season lasted far too long. Villas-Boas has to arrest any decline.
"We can turn the results around," he said. "The emotions that these people (players) lived last year are enough to make them want to avoid that stigma this time."
One of those "people" is Florent Malouda and the Frenchman also spoke, boldly declaring that "excuses were for losers" when asked to explain the poor form that culminated in the loss to Liverpool.
"There's no reason to panic. Everyone wants to give us advice or point at the manager. For us, we have to take our responsibility on the pitch. When you don't get the results, everyone is trying to make the players speak and try and give specific reasons, but we know and we've been speaking inside the club. We know there's a lot of adversity, maybe more than in the past."
That "adversity" has included a sense of injustice at refereeing decisions and Villas-Boas was informed yesterday that he's being fined £12,000 by the FA for his comments after the 1-0 defeat to QPR. He was critical of referee Chris Foy, who sent off two Chelsea players, but will now ask for the written reasons for his punishment before deciding whether to appeal.
"We were playing fantastically well in the period up to the QPR game," Villas-Boas said. Results have fallen away -- "football is about moments and at the moment we're in a negative run" -- but there will be no change of approach. "We don't speculate in games," Villas-Boas stated. "We are on the right track. It can take more or less time, but that's not an excuse for the results we've been having.
"We have set out to propose a different way of playing. It has been visible to you guys. The players and I believe it's the right way. But you need results to gain this consistency and the confidence to play at this level and keep the philosophy. But the philosophy will be the last thing that will be changed."
The personnel might, although Villas-Boas mounted a cogent defence of his under-fire defender David Luiz -- comparing him to Barcelona's Gerard Pique who faced, he said, similar criticism when he was at Manchester United. "He (Luiz) will evolve into one the best central defenders in the world."
And that, of course, is often defending in what would be termed a "high block", which means far up the pitch. (© Daily Telegraph, London)