AVB needs senior players on side
Andre Villas Boas needs to have the support of his players if he is to succeed at Stamford Bridge.
When Andre Villas Boas arrived at Stamford Bridge he came with a long-term vision of creating a younger, more creative team that would be dynamic and press high up the pitch. He has had plenty of money to spend in trying to achieve this goal and has brought in the likes of Juan Mata, Gary Cahill, Lukaku and Raul Meireles. Probably because managers at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich have had little time to implement their ideas, his problems, in my view, stem from trying to do things too quickly.
The question for the owner now is does he afford this manager the time to develop his philosophy on the club that others before him haven't had? I believe the answer to that is 'yes'. He is a young manager with limited experience but he will have learnt a lot from serving his apprenticeship under Jose Mourinho, from his success at Porto and also from what has happened this season.
Yes, he has made mistakes. One example was when in the early part of the campaign he tried to play a high defensive line with John Terry at centre-half. His captain is the best defender at the club and yet the most uncomfortable playing so high up the pitch.
Most recently on Tuesday night, AVB made a mistake with his team selection against Napoli. Eyebrows were raised when Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard were named on the bench. I would have definitely played at least Cole from the start, but the omission of Michael Essien was the most puzzling decision of all. In an away game against an excellent attacking side, you need at least one, if not two defensive midfielders and Essien would have made a difference.
Perhaps, his most damning mistake of all though has been his inability to deal comfortably with the senior players. There is clearly a problem behind the scenes and that needs sorting out and fast. I know that the manager is the most important man at the club and that he needs to have authority but he also needs to have the dressing room on his side. AVB needs to recognise that the likes of Drogba, Lampard, Terry and Cole will have a big influence over the rest of the squad and that he needs them onboard. I get the impression that he can be aloof at times but players of the calibre I have mentioned deserve respect and a decent explanation as to why they have been left out.
I do, however, have some sympathy with him on this issue. These players appear to have too much power. My guess is that he is trying to erode that and quickly. He has made the first steps by showing the exit door to both Alex and Anelka and, if he is given the time, others will almost certainly follow in the summer.
Whenever Sir Alex Ferguson has felt his judgement has been questioned or that a player has become surplus to requirements he has simply parted company with them. Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham and Roy Keane have all been there, but this has been done over a period of time.
The problem for AVB is that he has inherited a situation where he is trying to make all his changes at once. But he must also realise that although someone like Lampard may not be able to play every minute of every game anymore he is still very valuable. He has got nine goals in 21 Premier League matches this season. The England midfielder is also not a trouble-maker; he is a good pro who could continue playing sporadically for a number of years yet. Again cast an eye to Old Trafford where Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs continue to have an impact.
For me, all eyes are now on Roman Abramovich. He has had seven managers in the last nine years and seems happy to hire and fire at will with money no object. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked just a year after the winning the double for goodness sake. But will he hold his nerve this time after spending £13 million enticing AVB to Chelsea from Porto.
This is very much a transitional period and I would like to see him given the time to get it right. The holy grail for the owner though has always been the Champions League and with them facing an uphill task to get past Napoli, finishing in the top four could prove pivotal in the future of the current manager. I will be at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to see them take on Bolton and three points are an absolute must!
Matt Holland is a retired footballer who played for Charlton and Ipswich. He was also an international player for the Republic of Ireland.