Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge in London, England. Chelsea plays Manchester City on Monday, December 12, 2011. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Andre Villas-Boas, his tactics and his players have been much maligned by the media this season. With a win over Manchester City, Chelsea can shut them up.
Despite his limited managerial experience, the hiring of Andre Villas-Boas by Chelsea was lauded by most. There were plenty of those -- mostly elderly and career print-media English people -- who believed that Chelsea needed a manager who was proven in the Premier League, but these are also the people who invented the "wet and windy Tuesday in Stoke" meme. Not only did Villas-Boas win a treble during an undefeated season with Porto, he was different than every Roman Abramovich hire in the post-Mourinho era.
The hiring of Villas-Boas was not only a sign that Chelsea were ambitious and looking to play a beautiful style of football, but a sign that Abramovich is not necessarily the reactive and impatient man that he is often perceived as. A commitment to a 33-year-old manager with no Premier League experience should also be a commitment to patience and a long-term plan. There is no reason to believe that Villas-Boas will be fired mid-season, regardless of how poor Chelsea performs, and there is no reason to believe he will not be Chelsea's manager next season if the Blues finish in the top four.
Of course, that's not what the vast majority of the English media wants you to think. With Chelsea out of the top four and struggling in Champions League, tired cliches began to emit from the English media machine. This isn't exactly new -- they do this every time Chelsea loses more than one game in a month -- but it was a bit jarring to many Chelsea fans, in addition to neutral football fans who don't look for every opportunity to proclaim that someone is incompetent.
Take, for example, David Luiz. Former Manchester United defender and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville recently referred to the former Benfica man and Brazilian international as a defender who appeared to be "controlled by a 10-year-old in the crowd on a Playstation." He's not the only one who has slagged off Luiz; he is the English media's favorite whipping boy at the moment. If he misses a tackle or commits one bad foul, it is taken as a sign that he has no business playing for Chelsea.
Luiz, his play and how he is perceived by fans and the media is the ultimate instance of short memories and knee-jerk reactions in football. Does no one remember how widely praised Luiz was last spring? Many of the people who are now slagging him off were praising him for rescuing Chelsea's season just six months ago. His overall form has been poor to start the season, but he's making just as many amazing plays as he is mistakes. The shift of how he is perceived by media has shown that the supposed neutrals are just as fickle as the worst fanboys.
Though many supporters of Chelsea will disagree, this does not happen because the media has a vendetta against the Blues. Our own Chelsea blog We Ain't Got No History pointed this out brilliantly. Chelsea isn't a media target because the media hates Chelsea. They're a media target because it's easy to target them. They have fired managers in the recent past. Arsenal and Manchester United have not. Therefore, when journalists are looking for an easy, lazy story about a manager getting sacked in the morning, they target the Blues.
I don't necessarily echo the sentiments in this post from We Ain't Got No History, simply because I don't do the aggressive tone thing very well, but I can't disagree with any of the (angry-sounding) arguments produced below.
They're not out to get us, guys. They're just incompetent, clinging to cliffnotes of the last decade like little lifeboats in a sea that they can't quite comprehend. It must be immensely stressful, trying to hold down a job that a voice-to-text application could manage with twice the accuracy and 100 percent less random malice, and when one couples that stress with looming layoffs - a threat that their own inherent worthlessness has precipitated - the rank and file of the media must be under some serious strain. So perhaps we should forgive them when they reduce the entire goddamn world to irrelevant truisms.
As long as it's possible to spin Chelsea's failings into a story, the media will spin it into a story. It's obnoxious, but people read it. Being that I am very much aware of it, it's obvious that I read it. They're doing something right, in that regard.
Still it's obnoxious that so many people seem to want Villas-Boas and Chelsea to fail. What's not to like about this guy and this team? Besides John Terry and Ashley Cole's personal lives, of course. There's not really anything to dislike about the football, which is more than one can say about the current Manchester United and Liverpool sides, or Manchester City's previous sides under Roberto Mancini. The former two are playing anything but ambitious attacking football at the moment, while the latter were extremely defensive before this season, despite the fact that they had hundreds of millions of pounds worth of talent on the pitch. Chelsea are trying to be fun and entertaining, but falling slightly short of expectations. Hey, at least they're trying. Additionally, they can go to third place with a win on Monday. Why all the hate?
Even if one of his central defenders is actually playing like he's controlled by a 10-year-old playing Playstation, isn't that awesome? There's nothing wrong with managers putting winning first and fans wanting their teams to provide results over style, but if you're a neutral, don't you want Chelsea and other clubs to play defenders who look like they're on video games?
I have absolutely no bias for or against Manchester City or Chelsea. As a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, a club in direct competition with Chelsea but likely not in direct competition with City, I should probably be rooting for Chelsea to fall on their faces and fail miserably. Instead, I'm hoping they win on Monday. I'm hoping they win big. I'm hoping that they crush the living hell out of City.
Why? Because I want Andre Villas-Boas to succeed. I want Chelsea to win big matches playing attacking football with a high defensive line, and I want it to happen so lazy fans, bloggers and journalists alike can put on their thinking caps and figure out something else to talk about.