Thursday 22 February 2018

Villas-Boas keeps focus on bigger picture

Chelsea 3 Wolves 0

Jim White

"Wait and see." It is unlikely Andre Villas-Boas will utter three wiser words this season than those he used after Chelsea had dispatched a woeful Wolves with ease.

Sure, the victory ended an embarrassing sequence of defeats for the Londoners. Yes, it closed the gap on others higher up the Premier League who engaged in a stalemate at Old Trafford. Indeed, the game may have given an intriguing glimpse of the shape and personnel he wishes to develop at the club. But there was no triumphalism from the manager, just a curt reminder that greater challenges lie ahead.

"It was not a game of life-or-death," he said. "That game will come against Valencia in the Champions League (next month) when the team who wins will qualify. (Today) we were expected to get three points." The word "expected" qualifies as the understatement of the season.

If ever there were a set of guests to welcome in the midst of a crisis, it was this Wolves side. Missing four regulars to injury and suspension, Wolves were generous to a fault. Within the first five minutes, Ashley Cole was left isolated in so much space on the left wing he was in danger of succumbing to agoraphobia. Meanwhile, John Terry and David Luiz, a centre-back pairing that has shown all the solidity of a half-set blancmange, were gifted an untroubled afternoon.

It was a perfect opportunity for Villas-Boas to give a Premier League debut to Oriol Romeu. The young Spaniard responded with a faultless performance in the holding midfield position, doing several things -- tackling, maintaining the line, passing the ball to a team-mate -- which have recently seemed beyond the usual incumbent, John Obi Mikel.

With Ramires and Raul Meireles joining Romeu in the greedy seizure of possession, allowing Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge to run the visiting defence ragged, this had the shape and look of a Villas-Boas side. Still, as a sense of superiority was restored to the Bridge, what would have made the crowd's day was for Fernando Torres to be promoted from the bench, sensing opponents this supine offered the perfect opportunity for the £50m misfit to restore his scoring mojo.

Villas-Boas, however, was not one to be swayed and he decided to give Torres no more than a 15-minute cameo which proved entirely fruitless. For this manager, the collective is all.

"It's not about me personally," he insisted, when asked if the result eased the pressure on him. "It's about this club, and at the moment this club is fifth in the table. We just have to continue our work." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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