AVB deserves credit for Chelsea success



If there's one person whose mind you wouldn't have minded a little root around in last weekend, it was probably Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas. Playing his first game against the club who sacked him some nine months ago, his dangerous and efficient Spurs side were eventually undone by a simply masterful performance from Chelsea.

Way back in March, when the idea of blue ribbons adorning the Champion's League trophy would have been taken as seriously as a degree from an art college, Chelsea sat 5th in the league table, some three points behind Arsenal, and decided it was time for a change. After a grand total of 256 days, two hours, 17 minutes, and 16 seconds in the job (don't ask me how I know that) AVB was told to pack up his beard trimmer and leave. His assistant, Roberto Di Matteo, was given the job after a number of more experienced gaffers elected not to touch the position with a bargepole.

Given how things have gone since then, you'd be hard pressed to find any Chelsea fans who would look back on the decision as a bad one. Illustrious European honours were gained, cash was splashed in the summer, and it looks like they might have a serious title challenge on their hands. But if you actuality stop and consider what it is that's making the side look so revitalised and threatening, it's arguable that the manager in the home dugout on Saturday is deserving of more credit than Di Matteo.

When Villas-Boas arrived at Chelsea, it was obvious from the get-go that he was keen to stamp his mark on the side. Possibly wanting to avoid any chance of Jose Mourinho's name repeating on him more often than a cheap burrito, the mainstays of that famous side had their playing time dramatically reduced. Drogba, Terry, Lampard - the poster boys of the old guard - were all sent to have their backs waxed while the new boss plotted for a future without them.

There's an old saying about not being able to make an omelette without breaking some eggs. This is all well and good, unless the eggs you're breaking are so popular with the rest of the items in the fridge that the milk turns sour out of spite.

Yet John Terry has been in and out of the side this season, allowing Gary Cahill to come in alongside David Luiz. The result? Chelsea now boast the meanest defence in the League. Frank Lampard's participation has been primarily from the bench. Chelsea's midfield now has contributed more goals and assists than any other team in the league. Didier Drogba now orders his meals by just pointing at a picture on a menu, and Fernando Torres has stopped looking like a child just trying to play him in a school panto. Notice a pattern?

Elsewhere on the pitch, Juan Mata, a Villas-Boas signing, has arguably been Chelsea's lynchpin this season, while Ryan Bertrand, who was given his first start by his former boss, is fast emerging as a useful young player for club and country. And Lille turned down a bid from AVB for Hazard last season as well... just saying.

Roberto Di Matteo deserves some credit, certainly. There's no way Chelsea would have beaten Bayern Munich had their key players spent the game tripping over their bottom lips, and his subtle tweaking of AVB's high pressing 4-2-1-3 into a more solid and fluid 4-2-3-1 made an instant difference, but Chelsea ultimately sacked a manager who was in the process of laying foundations. Foundations that the next manager has resoundingly profited from.

Sometimes the legacy of a former manager is obvious (if Tito Vilanova wins anything at Barcelona, for example, the word “Guardiola” will probably be used before “congratulations” in the press conference), but even when its not we should hand out praise. A thorough look at Chelsea's current strengths, as well as their potential for growth, reveals that, despite his short tenure, Villas-Boas is due a lot of credit.

Saturday's thrilling 4-2 win will have been hard for Andre to take, but given that Chelsea are still following the blueprint he laid out, don't be surprised if he secretly enjoyed watching them play. There's still yet to be a consensus on why he failed at Chelsea, so maybe it's time to admit that, in fact, he didn't.

At Tottenham, he's slowly starting to rebuild his reputation in this country. More importantly, he's showing signs of having learned from his errors at Stamford Bridge. Spurs didn't simply sort the list of available candidates alphabetically and pick whoever was at the top, he was given that job because they believe he's a manager who can take the side back into the top four. Don't be surprised if Chelsea live to regret thinking otherwise.