Chelsea season preview – Can Villas-Boas step up to the challenge?

Andre Villas-Boas has arrived at Chelsea with a new recruitment of backroom staff in what has been the start of a new era at Stamford Bridge. The young manager caught the eye of the Chelsea board with his new ideas and in-depth tactical approach to the game, and the club has given him their full backing. However, that could quickly change if he fails to deliver silverware come the end of the season.

The challenge is immense, and for Villas-Boas everyone seems to have already written off his chances, with some saying he is too young to control the dressing room, while others insist the fact he has never played the game will leave him handicapped when it comes to managing in the Premier League. But the new manager has refused to be drawn out by such issues and has done well in his preparation for the start of the season.

Since his arrival he has brought a new sense of style to the club. His unique training regimes have been praised by many of the senior players, while his handling of the media is commendable. In what has been a successful pre-season, the manager has done well to evenly distribute minutes to each of the players in the squad. And it is easy to see many of the younger players respect him for that.

The most impressive of Villas-Boas’ efforts so far has been his dealings in the transfer market. A patient approach has seen him take time to scout good talent for negligible fees, as compared to Chelsea’s usual extravagance in the market. But most importantly, he has been willing to sign relatively young players. Romelu Lukaku, Romeu Oriol and Thibaut Courtois are all under 20 years of age and represent a welcome change in the Blues’ spending habits. It appears the club are finally building for the future, rather than buying aging stars.

One area in which the young Chelsea manager will be tested is keeping all the players in the squad happy. Andre will face a big dilemma in choosing from an abundant list of forwards including Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge, Lukaku, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou, all of whom would want a starting place in the side.

Sturridge has done everything possible to warrant a first-team position, and if he is sent out on loan again he may simply choose not to return, while Lukaku has made it clear he does not wish to be loaned out by the club. Salomon Kalou is also one who has often talked about leaving in search of regular football if he is denied it at Chelsea. This in mind, it is hard to believe that Villas-Boas can keep all the players happy and it will be interesting to see how he goes about it.

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Chelsea’s first game is a tricky visit to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City. It is a tough start for the young manager, especially with Michael Essien, John obi Mikel and David Luiz sidelined with injuries, while the in-form Sturridge is suspended for the first three games of the campaign. One thing for certain is all eyes will be on the Villas-Boas’ first game in charge of the Blues. And he will have to send a strong message not only to the board, but also his rival managers.

Manager – Andre Villas-Boas: The 33-year-old Portuguese will have a lot to prove during his first season in charge. His accomplishments at Porto will be long forgotten by the board if he fails to hit the ground running. Now becoming the youngest manager in England, Andre will also have to earn the respect of his peers in the Premier League, and prove he deserves to manage one of the biggest clubs in the competition.

Key signing – Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea made arguably the biggest signing of the summer by luring Lukaku to the bridge. A powerful and intimidating force, the 18-year-old striker is dubbed ‘the new Drogba’ and cost the Blues a fee in the region of £20m. Lukaku has constantly reiterated his love for the club, as well as his desire to be mentored by his idol Didier Drogba – an aspect which could make him a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge overnight.

Key departure – Yury Zhirkov: The Russian’s departure paved the way for the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, however Zhirkov’s ability to cover as left-back for Ashley Cole in case of an injury will be missed. Should Cole face a spell on the sidelines this season, the manager will have to call upon the inexperienced Ryan Bertrand or Patrick van Aanholt to fill the void.

Possible XI:

Cech

Bosingwa – Ivanovic – Terry – Cole

Ramires – Oriol – Lampard

Anelka – Drogba – Malouda

Find the latest Chelsea Premier League betting odds at OLBG.com

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