FanPost

On How I Predicted Early Villas-Boas Exit 5 Months Ago

Was it Theodore Roosevelt who once said that the key to success was getting along with people? If so, there is much to be said for the argument that there was no going back for Andre once he'd made that admission. What admission? You know, that one. The admission that he had lost the support of particular, unidentified-but-come-on-we-all-know-who-they-are members of the playing staff. But, if I'm honest, what struck me about that interview was that the reveal itself seemed almost epiphenomenal. Partly because we all knew it was true, yeah, but also partly because his irritating manner of articulation was, by this stage in the season, becoming so unbearable that I felt I could stand it no longer.

To me, infact, it seems that the relatively short-lived reign of Villas-Boas was in many ways macrocosmically mimetic of his now almost infamous conversational manner - it didn't always make sense, to be sure, and it consistently seemed to suffer from largely unnecessary complication, disorder and disorganisation.

An example? See if this attempt at simulating an AVB response to being fired seems accurate:

"Sure, sure. Everybody has their own interpretation of this relationship between myself, and between the club, for sure. It is not a very honourable dimension for myself, to lose this position on such an early indication of my abilities. We have suffered from a syndrome which is always prevalent at a club of this size, and of this capacity. What I must do now is move on, and put myself in contention for other managerial and coaching positions, and fulfil my project to its full completion elsewhere."

Observe how almost every clause attempts to convey a specific propositional meaning. Now observe how each one almost snaps under the tension of its own ostentation. What does this do to the message? It undermines it entirely, of course. And what is successful management if not successful communication? Whether it is itself the fundamental factor (or merely one of a number of vital prerequisites) in coaching success is obviously arguable, though I think the significance of communicative ability in coaches is often enormously understated. (As a sidenote, it would be pretty interesting to analyse the performances of foreign PL coaches, like Mancini, pre- and post-translator, and compare the results - coaches often, though not always, establish little-to-no observable relationship with the media during those early months... they serve almost as kind of rogue periods).

Anyway. Anyone with an A Level in English should remember that pithy Marshall McLuhan phrase from the early sixties, "the medium is the message". As most Chelsea fans would almost invariably point towards the managerial period of Mourinho as comprising the "Golden Years", it seems apt, though arguably fairly way-worn, to compare the two. Here, though, let's be specific to the way the two communicated messages, and how the medium came to be a vital instrument of consequence in both cases.

During the Mourinho period, it was was often similarly difficult to distinguish between what exactly Jose was saying and how he was saying it. That is to say, the medium began to involve itself in all kinds of mischievous ways with the message. Did his little bit about being scared of bird flu accurately convey his sense of managerial calm? Or did it more importantly succeed in warming the fans and media to him and his playful, self-confident sense of humour? Surely the latter. Mourinho was light-hearted, sarcastic and comical. "Come on, gotta love Jose!" He seemed a figurative barathrum of confidence. When something went wrong and he lost that casual veil of cool, he would redeem it by... taking the piss. Think, "we laugh, we spoke, we speak, we drunk, and to be fair, when we go to Man United, I will bring a very good bottle of wine. Because the wine we drunk was very bad". Can anyone imagine AVB saying something like that? No, because he, contrarily, came across, like his ridiculous syntax and grammar, as contrived. Intelligent? Sure. But difficult and unapproachable. What a surprise, then, that it was not his tactical inability which brought about his downfall (he made mistakes, sure, but I can't think of a single instance in which he sent out a team tactically unable to win should they have played to, or beyond, their abilities). His sacking came about because he created a boring, hostile, uninspired relationship with the media and with the Chelsea playing staff. That could only logically bring about bad performances, and thus he quickly met his demise. Managing a team like Chelsea is a unique experience. It involves a completely distinct set of skills from, say, managing Swansea. The talent is there. The trick, as Jose might tell you, is in manipulating situations. It is in creating both a public and private environment conducive to players performing to the best of their ability. I hope you will not doubt my sincerity when I say that, after watching the first 3 or 4 press conferences Villas-Boas gave, I anticipated this, and after the post-QPR press conference in October, I was convinced enough to swiftly make a fairly sizeable bet that he'd be gone by the end of the season.

Managerial moral of the story? To fans, football is sport; to journalists, it is entertainment. Act accordingly.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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