AVB happy with tactical talk

Tuesday night’s vital Champions League victory against Valencia saw

the Blues abandon the cavalier approach that has been the hallmark

of Villas-Boas’ reign in favour of a counter-attacking style,

something that paid off spectacularly. Villas-Boas denied this had

been his tactical masterplan prior to kick-off, revealing Chelsea

had naturally dropped deeper after taking an early lead in a game

they needed to win to be certain of a last-16 spot. The

34-year-old’s entire football philosophy is built around his sides

defending high up the pitch but after consulting his players at

half-time on Tuesday, he opted to continue with the status quo at

the restart. He said: “I asked that question at half-time: what is

your level of comfort with what you’re doing? And they said they

felt well. So we continued like that.” Villas-Boas eventually

changed things midway through the second half in response to

Valencia’s substitutions but the consultation with his players is

evidence of the democratic approach the Portuguese wants to instil

at the club – in certain areas. “I’ve always believed in that,” he

added. “We incentivate decision-making. Their feedback is decisive.

Their actions in the game, too. We always believe that it’s them

that take us into success.” However, with Villas-Boas tasked by

billionaire Blues owner Roman Abramovich to get the club playing

more expansively, Tuesday’s tactics look set to be the exception

rather than the rule. “Different strategies work for different

oppositions,” Villas-Boas said of the approach, which was a

throwback to the Chelsea of former mentor Jose Mourinho. “This

won’t be the Chelsea that we are creating, for sure.” Villas-Boas’

relationship with his squad has been one of the talking points of

his reign. He has repeatedly dismissed reports of dissent in the

camp over his methods, while it has now emerged that his players

are being encouraged to celebrate with the coaching staff whenever

they score a goal in a bid to demonstrate a united front. The

easiest way to for unity to be achieved, of course, is by winning

games and beating City on Monday would do more than any other

victory this season to promote that. It would also give Villas-Boas

more ammunition against the critics he so angrily lashed out at

during Friday’s pre-match press conference. Win, lose or draw,

Monday’s result will give an indication of where Chelsea truly

stand in relation to leaders City, who are 10 points clear of

Villas-Boas’ side. That could have a knock-on effect on the club’s

January transfer activity, especially with Nicolas Anelka and Alex

having been placed on the transfer list and Didier Drogba and

Salomon Kalou set to spend up to a month on international duty at

the African Nations Cup. Villas-Boas said of his forward line: “We

have to make a decision. “Fernando (Torres) is there for that

position, (Daniel) Sturridge and (Romelu) Lukaku. I think that’s

enough options. We don’t have a date yet for Didier’s departure.”

Of his defence, he added: “We have plenty of central defenders on

loan. “We have a bring-back option on (Hamburg defender Slobodan)

Rajkovic. “We don’t know if Alex will go, or if the offers will be

acceptable. We have kids coming through, as well.” Villas-Boas

sidestepped questions about his reported interest in Universidad de

Chile forward Eduardo Vargas but was unequivocal on the prospect of

making a move for City outcast Carlos Tevez, saying: “He’s not in

our plans.” Chelsea have little room for manoeuvre in January, with

UEFA regulations prohibiting them from introducing more than three

new players to their Champions League squad. One of those will be

Michael Essien, who is nearing his return from knee surgery. “We’ll

just have to address it in the best way possible,” said

Villas-Boas, who was forced to omit both Romelu Lukaku and Ryan

Bertrand from his Champions League plans during the group phase due

to further restrictions. “It’s premature to speak about it at the

moment, with a December still to play and Essien to return. “These

are the decisions we have to make.”