Andre Villas-Boas conducted a session with the media yesterday, discussing team news and issues ahead of the crucial match against Newcastle. For those of you who missed it, he ruled Josh McEachran out for probably a fortnight (not that most likely made any difference) and also confirmed Essien's continued absence.
He revealed earlier in the week that Torres would again battle with Drogba for the central striker position, with many media outlets taking the angle that he will select the Ivorian up front and relegate Torres back to the bench.
It was, by the way chelseafc.com depicted it, a pretty normal press conference, with the usual innocuous quotes complimenting the other team - no snappy Mourinho mind games there - and the optimistic suggestion about overturning our run of results. I did notice though in the Guardian there were a few more sapid comments made by the Portugese which Chelsea decided not to run through their official channels.
Villas-Boas spoke more in depth about his plan and philosophy for the club, starting with some interesting discussion about the security of his job in regards to the future that he and Abramovich have planned for the club.
"I will keep my job, I am very confident. I was brought in for a three-year project. When you set out on a contract you believe in the evolution of a philosophy, of a style of play, of winning the most amount of trophies in that period. Also there is an objective to invert the way that Chelsea plays."
It seems like Villas-Boas is insinuating that his arrival at Chelsea signaled something much bigger than just "winning the Champions League" (not meaning to say that we wouldn't be able to, or shouldn't try to). While success is still chased for success' sake, it seems that his appointment involved a widespread change of our pattern of play and philosophy. You probably already you knew that though, so let's move on to a more interesting quote:
"At Porto, what we'd do is try to involve the player in the No6 position in the buildup. You've seen Oriol [Romeu] and Mikel [John Obi] more involved and Raul [Meireles] has also played.
"The midfield rotation was the most important [at Porto] because our No6 sometimes lost position to become a more attacking midfielder and this was surprising [to opponents]. We tried to introduce it here but decided it didn't work. It's a balance in the Premier League and the fact that transitions can hurt more than in Portugal, where teams have the tendency to play from the back. Transitions here are more direct. It makes it important for the No6 to stay in position."
The role of the holder at Chelsea has always been a pretty hotly-debated contest. Since Makelele did it so well, we've really struggled to fill the void the diminutive Frenchman left. Villas-Boas is the first manager to really tweak the play of the holder, looking to engage our 'no.6' more in the play. This also explains why Meireles was seemingly signed as a holding midfielder, and why Romeu is playing so well at the moment, considering the "static" positioning of the holder is crucial to the execution of the Barcelona, and hence now, our system.. This quote shows us a little bit of Villas-Boas naivety, but also his willingness to accept failure and change.
"You can work it in two different ways. On a more aggressive defensive transition to prevent you getting exposed, and you work on the relationship between the line and the goalkeeper and the goalkeeper's response. You've all seen Petr Cech, Ross Turnbull and Hilário more involved in communication with the defensive line in the way they come out of goal to control the space behind.
"Bearing in mind that we were a team that suffered five goals [Arsenal] and that United suffered six against Manchester City we have 17 goals suffered [in total]. Manchester City haven't suffered a beating but still they're on 12 so we are speaking about a difference of five. Is a difference of five goals so aggressive in terms of the philosophy? Does that mean the philosophy is all wrong?"
This is a great quote, because it's so true. A sore point for Villas-Boas has been criticism of our high line - see his comments post-Liverpool (the first one) - and it's clear he doesn't want this perceived interpretation of our losses this season to spread more than it has already. One would guess is that because it's so obvious the defence is miles higher up than they used it, fans, looking to explain losses, immediately jump to the obvious thing, which is the high line, when in truth it's something much more than that.
It's a little strange that he speaks of it working in two different ways, but then he really only talks about one. Perhaps this quote was truncated by the source, The Guardian.
All in all, it's good to see Villas-Boas engaging more and more with the media - perhaps he's been doing it the whole time - but seeing more of this kind of stuff being published does liven up the day instead of being forced into reading hapless journalism like this "best XI analysis" from Goal.com - where just one of it's suggestions is that the diamond is *clearly* our best formation.