There's some interesting stuff out of the Guardian today regarding the plans Andre Villas-Boas had for Chelsea. It's fascinating to hear about how things might have been had The Project been allowed to continue (and our continued obsession with a man who no longer works for the club is also interesting).
I don't mean to steal their work, but I might as well quote them since otherwise it'll just be me paraphrasing these two paragraphs:
Villas-Boas was not only determined to sever his ties with Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, as well as Didier Drogba, Paulo Ferreira, Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda, but was not convinced by Cech's performances and had talked to Roman Abramovich about selling the man who once had legitimate claims to be recognised as the best goalkeeper in the world. Rui Patrício, the Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper, was one possible replacement and Villas-Boas also wanted to bring back Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea's 19-year-old Belgian, from a loan spell at Atlético Madrid in which the teenager has excelled.
Cavani, the Napoli forward, had been identified to replace Drogba on the back of the Uruguayan's brilliant performances in Serie A and the Champions League, while Villas-Boas had also asked Abramovich for the money to sign Hulk, the Brazilian striker who had helped him win the Portuguese title with Porto. The initial advances had already been made for both players, with Abramovich particularly involved in the case of Cavani, and it may still be that one or both of them is targeted regardless of who replaces Villas-Boas on a permanent basis.
Wowser. Can you imagine a Chelsea team without Lampard, Essien, Drogba and Cech? All leaving in one summer? The idea of a shakeup that large actually coming to pass frightens me - it's the sort of thing I'd try to do if I was playing FIFA or Football Manager or one of those other video games you cool kids love so much. And Villas-Boas, apparently, was prepared to do this in real life.
If you think about it, everything starts to make sense at this point. Villas-Boas' project was to completely rejuvenate the team, and everyone knew it. They'd probably have had some idea of who was going and who was staying - this was hardly a well kept secret - and I'd have my doubts as to whether someone as inexperienced as Villas-Boas would have been able to keep a bunch of players who knew they were on their way out motivated.
It's very easy to cast the 33-year-old as the villain of the story, and I think we can all accept that there was some fairly naive man-management going on behind the scenes at the club, but demonising Villas-Boas doesn't tell the whole truth. If he really was brought in with the idea of discarding the old and bringing in a new Chelsea featuring Hulks and Edinson Cavanis, Chelsea should not have put him in a position where he was required to use players he wanted to discard to win games. That's a situation that just isn't going to work, and every time Villas-Boas pointed to 'the project', I imagine it'd have made things even worse.
Ultimately, the deconstruction of the team needed to happen last summer for Villas-Boas to have been successful (not that his success would have been guaranteed with a different set of players). Instead, he was brought on a year too early, and Chelsea are paying a very, very steep price.
What an odd situation.