Ed note: The most in-depth exploration of Andre Villas-Boas's interview that I've seen in English. If you're a Chelsea fan, you should read this.
A Portuguese insight into what was really said by André Villas-Boas to TSF last friday in an exclusive and in depth interview about his current Chelsea team affairs
About Club Philosophy:
- AVB vehemently stresses that he is all about "iniciative football", taking the game agressively to the oponent's half, and that he would never, ever, play like City does (yes Graham, he DID take a snipe at City, although he was a bit hesitant to do it at first, and apologized for it), he refuses to do it.
And how does he see City playing? - Like a well-organized defensive team, that thrives on the error of the opponent, and lives off the talent and efficacy of his star strikers. He goes on to say that living on the error of the oponent is a very negative way of playing.
He talks about City as a counter-atacking team that creates few chances, and is all about using the space given by the opponent, instead of creating it from the start. He goes on to state that City is actually an italian minded team, and he does not share such philosophy. His own is of agressive possession, and tecnical football, with a high line, and forward pressing. Taking the game to the oponent's area.
About Team Tactics:
- He stresses many times throughout the interview that there was a crucial moment in the season: The run of bad results that started in the end of October and in the QPR game, that resulted in a loss of faith in the way the team was playing and a panick return to the old ways.
AVB says that at Chelsea this has been the usual through the last decade: in moments of bad results, the team always regressed to the old way of playing, as a mecanism of self defense, to feel secure, and that is one of the reasons why Chelsea's game has stayed the same and did not evolve, even with other managers. When the things got ruff, the players lacked confidence, and got back to the usual and safe play of the old days.
He says he has been trying to motivate and convince the team to continue the way of playing that was used in the start of the season, but that in the pitch sometimes the players aren't confident enough to do it.
Confidence in what? In the high line, in forward pressing, in possession football, so the team tends to play deeper (and slower) in her own half than intended.
4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1?
AVB says that at the start of the season Chelsea was able to field a confident midfield with only a 6 and with two 8's. The 8's played in between the oponent's lines (in between the midfield and the defense), a midfield confident in direct, incisive passing to the 8s, but, because of the lack of confidence from the players in their passing (due to some bad results) it now had to revert to a double pivot to ease the transitions to the atack. He stresses that he does not intend to use a typical defensive double pivot with two defensive midfielders ("dogs" that track the oponent, he called them), but of two 6's gifted on the ball that are able to link the play up to the number 10.
The use of a number 10 in the current tactics is explained by the need to add creativity, and by the lack of the two 8's, fielded earlier in the season. He than add's that by shifting Mata to the middle, he would need an explosive, incisive left winger, able to take oponents one-on-one, à lá Robben.
He adds that Kalou could be that player (although he didn't sound very confident, i must say), but that the new contract is in still in negotiations.
He explained the Napolli selection in this way, saying that the usual left flank of Cole, Lampard (on the inside), and Mata drifting inside is very atacking and that it had cost Chelsea many goals throughout the season because it exposes too much the left flank, and that he was trying to mitigate the danger of Napoli's right flank.
The Project, New Season and New Signings
The Project: change Chelsea's philosophy, not to a Barcelona, because it would be impossible to emulate it, but to atacking, technical, possession football. "The Iberian Way" he called it.
New Season: AVB sounded as passionate about the new season, as he did about the project when he joined Chelsea. Having heard the interview one cannot fail to notest that he is indeed pulling all his eggs on the next season basket. Why? He hints subtly that he expects the board to give him the conditions, namely players...
New Signings: in the interview you get the idea he is definitely looking to deeply reinforce the team: an explosive winger, a midfielder à lá Modric, and maybe a left back. About Hulk he did add that he would be a player that would fit in Chelsea, as would Moutinho and Álvaro Pereira, but that he wasn't looking into him specifically. "There are many players that would fit in that role" (of the explosive winger), he add's vehemently.
(Note on Hulk's release clause: YES, it's 100M€, but no, Porto does not expect anyone to pay it. It's only used to avoid teams stalking the player, and to drive the price up. Anyway, Porto is now more willing to sell for a lower price than ever as it needs the funds and the player is thriving to go to a top league. I would say that Hulk is buyable for a 40-50M€uros fee)
He says that Torres was finding his confidence and role on the team, playing well until he got sent off. And when he returned he had lost a month and had regressed. He says he will not build the team around one single player, but will do all he can to help him find his role on the team. He compare's Torres to Sheva and Kezman. He says it was the same problem with them (as was with Falcão in Porto last year, but resolved sucessfuly) when he was at Chelsea as part or Mourinho's staff and that they are doing extra job in training to make him find his way to goals, but he aknowledges that the essential work has to be done by Torres on the field playing and scoring to get his confidence up again.
He is very praiseful about Lampard, says that he must be on the top 5 most used players at CFC, that he enjoys his goals, but that it does not have to be all about the goals that a player scores, but also what he gives to the team generally. He believes he has a place on the english squad for the Euro.
He stresses that he believes that he has the owner's backing and belief, and that it is essential for the success of the project (new players and power over the squad?), but that also is a culture of lack of pacience at Chelsea, the search for instance success, and that he knows that one can't ever be sure under Abramovich and such a club culture.
On the Media
He get's angry at this point. Not about the english media, but that the portuguese media takes the tabloids media as serious and honest journalism, and report on false stories published by sensacionalist papers in England, as if they were credible sources. He gives as an example of such rubbish the Drogba team talk at halftime at Birmingham. That it was such a blatant lie that he was thinking of banning the specific reporter from Cobham and Stamford Bridge.
My thougths about the interview: He is very, very inteligent tactically. He knows what he is doing. :)
But he is no Mourinho, specially in the way he comunicates and uses the media to get his ideas across. He is sometimes too inteligent and complex for his own sake (and the deep mumbling voice doesn't help either). Mourinho always as an idea that he wants to get across, he does it in a very direct way. I think that it is a hinderance to AVB in his relation to the media, the fans and the players. He does however aknowledge several times that a manager is a seller of dreams (citing Marcelo Bielsa) to his players and the fans. He gives as an example the work being done by Luis Henrique (former Barcelona midfielder) at Roma, that almost caused a riot in the club with his new foreign ideas (possession football) but that was eventually able to sell them to the players and club and was now getting his results.
As for the use of Meireles and Bosingwa only because they are portuguese, i must say that it is total rubish. I do think he rates Meireles as a tactical, usefull and inteligent player: He plays the one-two's, he's diligent in defense and in ofensive pressing, and is always playing off the ball, making himself playable for his teamates. The problem is that Meireles is not that good of a player, he tries all the right things (tackling, through balls) but often comes short. Meireles is in the same mold of the player AVB really rates: Moutinho (and Modric), the diference is lack of quality. And i think it is now obvious he was a third choice, because the board was unable to give him the players he wanted (and clearly expects to receive in the summer). When he fields Meireles instead of Lampard he is thinking tactically about all the contributions Meireles can give the team . Unfortunately for us all Meireles keeps letting him down lately (earlier in the season he was doing well).