Sunday 18 March 2018

Villas-Boas weaves stylish Blues outfit

Chelsea 3 Everton 1,

Jonathan Liew , at Stamford Bridge

The fault line between a manager and his predecessor is too often overstated in football. But although the differences between the Chelsea of Andre Villas-Boas and that of Carlo Ancelotti are subtle, they are far from cosmetic. The primary objective of Ancelotti, as with most managers, was to assemble a winning machine.

Clearly Villas-Boas wants to win, but what is clear from his first few months in English football is that he holds rather loftier ambitions as well.

Thread by thread, Villas-Boas is weaving his squad to fit a larger ideal. It was evident in the effortless fluidity of their forward line against Everton; a gifted quintet so immaculately drilled they could take on the role of another as easily as slipping on a jacket.

Juan Mata started in the channel, tacked to the left, floated into the centre, meandered out to the right. Ramires would begin moves in the centre circle, continue them on the right flank and then charge into the box like a centre-forward. Daniel Sturridge would plough on the right touchline or make decoy runs to create space for Jose Bosingwa.

It makes Chelsea's forwards confoundedly hard to mark. Everton lack nothing in terms of preparation or organisation, yet at times they were reduced to spectators on their own 18-yard line. But it is also emblematic of the intuitive style of football Villas-Boas, 35 today, is trying to bring.

"We're playing more attacking football than in the past," Sturridge said. "Under Ancelotti, we did score a lot of goals, but now we're playing with a lot more style than we did before. This manager emphasises attractive, attacking football, and to win in style. It suits every striker at this club."

Not everyone will fit into the new jigsaw. For all his recent fecundity in front of goal, Frank Lampard is still in the process of realigning his game. Dainty diagonal balls over the top do not come naturally to a player more comfortable with a give-and-go ethic, and Villas-Boas appeared frustrated at some of his distribution efforts.

Sturridge's fourth goal of the season, created by Mata's sublime diagonal chip, came as something of a relief to Chelsea, who had struggled to break Everton down early on. John Terry ended the game as a contest with a header from a Lampard free-kick on the stroke of half-time. Ramires's third on the hour rendered the second period pointless, despite Apostolos Vellios's close-range finish late on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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