Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas came out fighting after watching his side crumble 3-1 to an impressive Napoli side in the Champions League first knock-out round.
The Portuguese insisted he picked the right side, despite leaving out Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres – a clear sign that he is keen to take on a dressing room that has wielded too much influence than is healthy in the recent past.
“You can have your opinion but it was based on what was the best team in my thoughts,” he said.
“We will analyse strongly what we did wrongly because a couple of things need to get better. It is not impossible to recover from 3-1.”
“I had a conversation with Ashley and Frank. Through the players that they are and the players with the experience they have, they felt they could have helped the team,” added Villas-Boas.
“That’s perfectly understandable.”
The final part of the quote suggests Cole and Lampard made their feelings known about their demotion, providing a real test of the manager’s authority.
With their premier league odds growing by the day given the 17 point deficit between themselves and the leaders and a tricky FA Cup fifth-round replay away to Birmingham coming up on 6 March, the Champions League could be the only trophy left to win when they host Napoli in the second leg on March 14.
But punters who bet on the Champions League are hardly flooding to back the Blues after their first leg display, which could have been a lot worse than the eventual 3-1 scoreline.
The silence from the Chelsea board is deafening, though the news that Roman Abramovich has been to training and held meetings with the players is not good news for Villas-Boas. You do wonder though just what benefit Abramovich can bring, he is no football manager, he simply has a lot of money. And while that can buy you pretty much whatever you want, it can’t guarantee success at football, something he clearly doesn’t like given his tendency to fire managers the moment they don’t deliver instant success.
Maybe after churning though seven managers in eight years Abramovich could look elsewhere for the root of the problem, namely the players – or even himself for causing such instability by changing the man at the top so regularly?
It seems to me that Chelsea need to go through a painful spell of regeneration, where new players replace the old. But there is fierce resistance to go through that change, stemming mainly from the senior players, meaning they continue to stand on the precipice, with successive managers coming and going, merely adding to the problems.