The defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday prompted Andre Villas-Boas to cancel Sunday’s scheduled day off. The players were told to report to their Cobham training ground at 10am by AVB on the flight back from Merseyside.
This apparently angered some of the players and prompted Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to call ‘clear the air’ talks between the squad and its manager. A meeting which took place in the privacy of the teams dressing room was intended to bridge gaps between manager and players.
However, this meeting turned stormy as AVB and Roman Abramovich tore into the players blaming them for the clubs recent slide out of the Champions League places.
Senior players responded furiously questioning AVB’s tactics, management techniques and team selection, all questions which have been raised by the Stamford Bridge faithful regarding AVB’s apparent treatment of Frank Lampard and seemingly adament refusal to use new signing Gary Cahill.
After this fiery exchange of words Roman Abramovich spoke to the players alone and made it clear that AVB has his full backing and support. He told confidantes he is determined to back his judgement of Villas-Boas having appointed the former Porto man himself during the summer.
Is Roman Abramovich prepared to back AVB for the long haul? Well this encounter in which the Chelsea owner stood by his manager over the senior players would suggest the winds of change are sweeping through Stamford Bridge. This backing must be reinforced during the summer allowing AVB to reshape the Chelsea squad with players he knows and trusts which unfortunately for some may mean the Chelsea exit door will be busy this summer.
Mr. Abramovich his well known for his hiring and firing of managers and he has made it clear to AVB that although he has his full backing and support now, qualification for the Champions League is the minimum requirement this season. This support however may be tested if Chelsea’s current league form does not improve and they suffer defeats on Saturday to Birmingham City in the FA Cup then to Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League.
A question on Chelsea fans lips is how did this story find its way into the national press? The meeting took place within the training ground dressing room away from the media which implies there is a leak inside Stamford Bridge. Now we all know the media have their ways of finding stories but considering the obvious rift between the players and the hierachy of the club the leak could be almost anyone at the bridge.
This supposed ‘clear the air’ meeting seems to have caused more problems than found solutions. Although the players are clear that AVB has the backing of Abramovich you’ve got to wonder now whether the players feel a rift between themselves, the manager and the owner. With rumblings continuing of the return of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho – fuelled this week by comments made by Porto chairman Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, claiming AVB needs time to mould his own team but can’t do this while players exchange text messages with Mourinho.
One thing is for sure all is not right at the Bridge; will things improve while the players are not playing for the manager and while the fans have turned against AVB?
The only solution may be to revamp the squad but does Roman Abramovich believe in AVB enough to back him to the tune of hundreds of millions? The summer of 2012 promises to be a summer of change but will it be AVB or players heading for the exit door?
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