Premier League - Meet Chelsea's new manager

Wed, 22 Jun 12:46:00 2011

He's been likened to Chelsea great Jose Mourinho, but just who is new Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas?

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Like Mourinho when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, Villas-Boas is young (only 33), well educated and Portuguese - and like the former Chelsea boss he had no real pedigree as a footballer but still led Porto to a domestic and European treble in his first full season.

Both did their early coaching apprenticeships under Sir Bobby Robson, and Villas-Boas even worked for Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale before taking the plunge as a manager with Academica Coimbra.

But what about Villas-Boas’s management style, personality and character? Is he a charismatic leader like Mourinho? A fan, journalist and player’s dream but a chairman’s nightmare with outspoken outbursts and a tendency to drift into Ahmedinejad-style conspiracy theories? Do his teams look to win at all costs, regardless of style and panache? Or is he calm and collected, a friend of the players and a devotee to attacking football?

His background

Similar to Mourinho, Villas-Boas is from a wealthy Portuguese family (although with an English grandmother) and as a youth juggled his ability as a decent amateur player with his school and Uni studies.

While Mourinho came from footballing stock - his father was a professional and he himself played lower-league football for a couple of years - Villas-Boas never really played beyond amateur level and his break in coaching was as much through chance as anything: aged 16, he happened to live in the same apartment block as then-Porto coach Sir Bobby.

The two became friendly and Villas-Boas was offered the chance to intern at his boyhood club, doing his UEFA C badge aged only 17 and staying on while studying at Uni after the Englishman moved to Barcelona.

After graduating, the 21-year-old took a job coaching the British Virgin Islands before joining Porto again as an assistant scout under Mourinho, who he followed until 2009.

"What he did have is a determination to be the best he possibly could be," his former UEFA tutor, Scottish FA football development director Jim Fleeting, said. "He had a drive to find out as much as he possibly could about the subject he was dealing with.

"He had a great attention span, he was a very good listener, and he was very good at putting things across on the field. These are the kinds of skills that good coaches have."

His management record

Reportedly Mourinho was not happy that his protégé had left him so soon, but the chance of managing relegation-battling Academica was too much for Villas-Boas to ignore.

Villas-Boas saved the Coimbra club from relegation, guiding them to mid-table safety, and was promptly appointed Porto coach.

Not exactly the toughest job in European football - they had won 19 league titles and six of the last seven - but they came a poor third the previous campaign.

Expected to challenge at the very least, Villas-Boas nonetheless won in style as his team utterly dominated the domestic game and fired their way to Europa League glory, with striker Falcao scoring a record 17 goals in 14 games.

That, it seems, was enough for Chelsea, who know him well from his time working as a scout and decided that £13 million was no mean risk for a man who, at 33, is eight years younger than Mourinho when he took charge.

His coaching style

Villas-Boas is a more of a laid-back, cool customer than Mourinho, less inclined to explode at press conferences and devise bizarre, paranoid conspiracy theories. He is affable with the press and officials and is more chummy with the players than the distant, aloof, but no-less adored Jose.

He is still a top motivator though - the first thing he did after taking the Porto job was to make the team watch videos of bitter rivals Benfica celebrating their title win that summer.

Porto striker Hulk said: "That Villas-Boas was so young did not affect his work. We considered him to be experienced because of the way he spoke with us and the way he gave us space. He is a great person and a great coach. He has everything he needs to be the new Mourinho, even if he does not like to be compared to Jose."

With his academic, tactically-inclined background, Villas-Boas prefers a highly-organised, meticulous approach to planning and coaching that is reflected in his teams’ style of play - nicknamed 'Playstation Football' by some - and driven by game-to-game strategies focused on exploiting opponents’ weaknesses and countering their strengths.

A now-infamous leaked scouting report about Newcastle United from the 2005-6 season gives an insight to his methods. While the learnings are hardly bombshells - Jean Alain Boumsong is pinpointed as a weak link, with the partnership between Alan Shearer and Michael Owen the main threat - there are little gems that with hindsight show his judge of a player.

For example Charles N’Zogbia was later deemed surplus to requirements by Toon, but Villas-Boas spotted the beginnings of the excellent movement and speed in defensive transitions that have made him one of the more sought-after players in England; furthermore, while fans of Arsenal and Manchester United may wonder why they never looked to keeper Shay Given, the Irishman’s weakness at coming for crosses is shown to be a major cause of conceding through the second ball.

Most importantly though is the thoroughness and attention to detail that his bullet-points and annotated diagrams give, all in powerpoint: Boumsong’s positional weaknesses and Nolberto Solano’s runs inside are detailed visually, incisive and easy to understand both for staff and players.

Calm, collected, intelligent and thorough - there is more of an air of the Jose Guardiola or Frank Rijkaard about Villas-Boas, although it is said that he does not react well when put under pressure at press conferences. But then who does?

His playing style

'Playstation Football' was alluded to earlier, and it is not just the organisation and work-rate of his teams that resemble a video game: they dominate possession and score bagfuls of goals.

Like Mourinho’s Chelsea, they work incredibly hard off the ball and use a 4-3-3 formation, but unlike Jose’s teams he does not favour a direct approach to the counter attack, instead asking them to retain possession and stay patient - much like Barcelona and Spain.

Indeed, last season they went unbeaten domestically, drawing three SuperLiga games and winning the remaining 27, racking up 84 points: four more than Manchester United did en route to the Premier League in eight fewer games.

They scored 73 goals in 30 games and conceded a meagre 16, while in Europe they simply blew away the opposition, scoring five goals in four consecutive matches en route to the final.

So will he succeed?

In theory, he brings the organisation and motivational ability of Mourinho with the attractive style of Guardiola.

What we don’t know, though, is if he has the ‘alpha’ character required to deal with the egos and factions - dressing and board-room - that come part and parcel with the Chelsea job.

That is what did for Luis Felipe Scolari and, it could be argued, Carlo Ancelotti: the rails came off for the Italian after the sacking of nice-guy assistant Ray Wilkins, who was able to unite the players with his understanding of British, French and Latin culture.

If Villas-Boas can rein-in and get the best out of the likes of Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres, Chelsea have the resources, players and every chance of returning to the summit of English football - and gain the European trophy Roman Abramovich almost pathologically craves,

Reda Maher - follow me on Twitter @Reda_Maher / Eurosport

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