Can Villas-Boas survive if Chelsea are relegated to the Europa League?

Roman Abramovich would be forgiven for making the £3 billion pound court case he is currently embroiled in the focus of his attention at present, although it is unlikely that Chelsea’s recent run of five losses in the last ten games will have escaped him. Despite an indifferent start to the season, the prevailing opinion seems to be that Andre Villas-Boas needs time, that the revolution he envisages will not happen overnight and that the signs are encouraging, even if results have been less impressive.

Abramovich has a reputation of dismissing managers at the first sign of danger, but Chelsea have been here before and he resisted the urge to pull the trigger, 12 months ago in fact. Carlo Ancelotti’s side lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland last November and won only two of the next 11 games. Chelsea were in a stronger position than Villas-Boas’ charges ahead of this run and managed to improve significantly in the new year, but the damage was done and despite clawing their way back in to contention, they were unable to repair the damage.

Ancelotti had accumulated a degree of goodwill by winning the domestic double in his first season in charge the previous year, but this relative failure ultimately cost him his job. Whether or not Villas-Boas will be afforded the same luxury remains to be seen. Chelsea were certainly impressive in beating Newcastle 3-0 on Saturday. A vital game with Valencia on Tuesday however will decide their Champions League fate and passage to the knockout stages is a must. The ignominy of a Europa League campaign may seal his fate.

Chelsea have shown signs of the more expansive, attack minded style of football that Villas-Boas is working towards. Chelsea are however struggling to emulate the feats of the manager’s previous club, Porto, which plundered 73 goals in 30 games when securing the title last season. His transfer policy appears to be geared towards an influx of youth, but without dispensing of the old guard, the transformation remains an aspiration. The likes of Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are all demonstrating signs of wear and tear, yet remain dominant influences on and off the pitch.

A high defensive line is exposing defensive deficiencies that were previously dormant and the lack of a dominant presence up front is resulting in the absence of an adequate end product. The right balance in midfield has thus far proved elusive and Villas-Boas has struggled to integrate his new signings, with Lukaku more likely to be shipped out on loan than establish himself in the first team and Oriol Romeu a peripheral figure to date. Juan Mata has been an extremely positive influence, already contributing 7 assists, trailing only David Silva in that category. He may yet prove to be the key to unlocking the mislaid talents of Fernando Torres.

Villas-Boas is more honest and sensitive than the antagonistic, arch media manipulator Jose Mourinho and is more vulnerable as a result, but he has endeared himself to the Chelsea faithful who are keen to avoid more managerial upheaval. Currently fourth in the Premier League, a possible double dose of the Europa League looms large. Potential will need to be realised at some point if Chelsea are to retain their annual Champions League berth and Andre Villas-Boas is to remain in charge.

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