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Andre Villas-Boas: Some Complaints

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In the wake of the Chelsea vs. Swansea City clash, there's been a lot of grumpiness directed at... well, pretty much everyone. In particular, though, there's been plenty of animosity towards Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas, who many are blaming for the result at the Liberty Stadium and for the relatively quiet transfer window. Let's go through the most-cited complaints.

  • The lineup. Villas-Boas was slated before the match for failing to include Gary Cahill in the starting eleven and for having Florent Malouda start in the midfield. Addressing the latter point first, it's probably worth pointing out that the following players were unable to start against Swansea: Frank Lampard, Ramires, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel. This leaves (assuming 4-3-3) three players for three positions, so it's not exactly a huge surprise that Malouda got the start.

    The Gary Cahill question is understandable, but still baffling. Prior to Scott Sinclair's volley, Chelsea had conceded one goal in the entire month of January, so it's not as though they were going through a major defensive crisis that required a shaking-up. Furthermore, anyone who thinks Gary Cahill is better at centre back than Branislav Ivanovic is vastly overstating the former Bolton man's ability. You could make the argument that Ivanovic is more capable of dealing with Sinclair than Jose Bosingwa, but that would be ignoring that Bosingwa destroyed this man all game and then more or less scored the equalising goal.

    The only reason I can think of to have Cahill on the pitch would have been his ability to on set pieces, which is something that nobody seems to be talking about. Instead, fielding Cahill - a fairly adequate centre back, but no more than that - is being treated like some sort of magic bullet. It isn't, and just because he's a player who hasn't had much of a chance to disappoint us doesn't mean he's actually good.
  • The transfer window. "Andre Villas-Boas is only focused on youngsters." This might sound like a strawman (and it's stupid enough to be one, frankly), but somehow it's being said anyway. So, let's go back to the basics.
  1. Andre Villas-Boas's title is First Team Coach. Chelsea have a Director of Football who is in charge of the whole organisation, from the youth and reserve teams on up. Michael Emenalo is the one responsible for buying, say, Kevin de Bruyne and loaning him back, and attributing the youth policy to Villas-Boas is insane. Yes, the manager will be consulted when considering buying players, but at the end of the day, it's not his call.
  2. We don't know what's going on behind the scenes. We simply don't know how close Chelsea were to signing, say, Javier Pastore or Luka Modric last summer. We don't know how close they were to acquiring Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk or Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina. All we know is that some moves did happen and some didn't, and trying to extract shades of grey from a black and white world is just asking for trouble.
  3. Since joining Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas has introduced four players to the first team that had yet to see any significant playing time for us: Juan Mata, Oriol Romeu, Raul Meireles and Daniel Sturridge. At least three of them have been unequivocally successful.

There are plenty of actual reasons to criticise Villas Boas. Chelsea are having a bad season. He isn't comfortable with the press, seems to be getting his tactics wrong fairly consistently, is running a team that appears to have the motivation of Eeyore having a particularly bad day and may well have stunted the development of Ryan Bertrand and Josh McEachran by refusing to give them playing time or sending them out on loan.

But for goodness sake, it'd be nice if we could on criticism that's actually valid rather than call for his head over things that make us look like lunatics.

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