Villas-Boas more Pep talk than Jose on first Chelsea team-building day
Published 07/07/2011 | 05:00
Comparisons are inevitable between the new Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas and his mentor Jose Mourinho, under whom he worked for seven years from 2002-09, at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale.
Yet it is the methodology of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona that is a greater influence on his day-to-day work.
That was made clear yesterday when Villas-Boas met the Chelsea players for the first time, at 9am in the sunshine at their training ground. He introduced his backroom staff and broadly outlined his approach to training, which will include much more work with the ball, particularly after the early stages of pre-season are over.
The 33-year-old former Porto manager spoke of his belief that success comes when players and staff work together, and he rammed home his message that they all "motivate each other" through greater collaboration, better communication and stronger support.
The players were also reminded of their responsibilities as representatives of the club and were given a revised and expanded version of the club rules, but the tone was said to have been respectful, not confrontational.
Then it was down to business. Villas-Boas and his No 2 Roberto di Matteo were all smiles as, at 10.0, captain John Terry led the players on to the training pitch for some ball work.
The players then underwent physical tests, before another training session in the afternoon.
Over the coming days and weeks Villas-Boas will attempt to shape Chelsea to his own design which, while in some respects influenced by Mourinho, will ultimately come to more closely resemble the great Barcelona side of Guardiola.
Or at least that's the plan. Villas-Boas made it clear at Porto last season that Guardiola is someone he would like to emulate.
"Guardiola is always an inspiration for me because his methodology gets his team playing fantastic football," he said.
"I left Inter to go and do my own thing (away from Mourinho), and Guardiola's quality and philosophy were a template for me every day.
"He embodies the philosophy of Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels -- very important people who emphasised the importance of spectacle in our beautiful game."
Having failed to tempt Guardiola away from Barcelona, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has opted to recruit someone cut from the same attractive and ambitious cloth.
Villas-Boas also comes with the added bonus of having worked closely with Mourinho. Like Mourinho and Guardiola, he shares a devotion to preparation and thoroughness, and that will be one of the major changes at Chelsea, after the more relaxed reign of predecessor Carlo Ancelotti.
Villas-Boas will hand out personalised DVDs and dossiers to each player as pre-season progresses, and they will be heavy on detail.
His dossier on Newcastle written in 2004 in his role as opposition scout for Chelsea is available to read on the internet.
It runs to four pages of tightly written text and contains 24 diagrams dissecting the various tactics and formations adopted by the Magpies. Chelsea won the game 3-0.
The three young managers also share an unshakeable belief that unity and togetherness is the way to succeed.
Villas-Boas' attempt at a sound bite by calling himself the "Group One" at his unveiling last week was clumsy, but did reinforce his philosophy of collective responsibility. Tactically all three manager are also similar, favouring a 4-3-3 formation.
However, like Guardiola, Villas-Boas believes the best approach is to dominate the opposition through your attacking abilities, rather than the more defensive, cautious method favoured by Mourinho's sides.
When Villas-Boas said he was a "proud defender of the beauty of the game" in his first appearance as Chelsea manager, he was setting out a very different pitch to that of Mourinho, who directed his Inter team to concede possession to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final second leg last year so they would not lose their defensive shape.
Like Guardiola, Villas-Boas believes his role is to create an environment in which players can blossom.
At Porto last season, he said: "My job is to nurture talent, to allow players to explore their capabilities to the full. You have to free them and let them make their own choices. I'm no dictator."
Players at Porto embraced this approach. The captain Helton said: "It's the freedom he gives us. He looks after us."
This contrasts with the rigid instructions that Mourinho handed out to his charges during his time at Stamford Bridge, so much so that former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman once said he became afraid to shoot for fear he would be criticised for missing the target and losing possession.
Villas-Boas has also built a reputation for being kind and understanding to his players, again in contrast to the dictatorial Mourinho, who does not think twice about freezing certain individuals out of the picture.
Helton said of Villas-Boas: "He's a great guy. He's a friend more than a coach, and he treats all the players the same." (© Independent News Service)