Friday Football Feature: Andre Villas-Boas – back him or sack him

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By James Dickenson

As the power struggle between Chelsea's manager and their most senior players engulfs the club as they stand on the brink of another trophy-less campaign, the message for owner Roman Abramovich could not be simpler: back him or sack him.

The Russian tycoon is not one for public statements of support or condemnation, but previous experience tells us he is not shy of big decisions, be it firing managers or signing his own players.

Jose Mourinho went after falling out with Abramovich, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari were sacked because they weren't any good and Carlo Ancelloti paid the price for a poor finish to his second season after winning the double during his first campaign.

So the former Governor of Chukotka is no stranger to wielding the axe, that is a given. But he doesn't ever publicly back an under-pressure manager, instead usually preferring to hand him his P45 on his way out.

It seems that matters are coming to a head at Stamford Bridge under new boss Andre Villas-Boas and a decision over his future is impending. Abramovich can do what he always does, fire the lambasted boss, or make a public statement of intent that reinforces the Portugese's position.

Villas-Boas has embarked on a radical project at Chelsea, slowly dissembling the most successful side of the club's history and remaking the team in his own dynamic and dextrous image.

However, the most pressing problem afflicting the Blues at the moment is that AVB's team cannot defend. David Luiz is so clearly not a centre back its a wonder he persists with playing him there – why not give the Brazilian license to utilise his natural talents further up the pitch and remove his hazardous defending from the back four?

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In midfield Frank Lampard is continually overlooked, but surely a player of his stature and experience was needed in the hostile atmosphere of Naples this week. The footballer with an IQ of 156 must feel increasingly dumb kicking back on the bench every game.

Michael Essien did not look like the holding player of old when he came on, but perhaps would have made more of an attempt to stop Ezequiel Lavezzi's equaliser than Raul Meireles did.

Chelsea have cause for belief in their attacking play, with Juan Mata looking like the signing of the season and Daniel Sturridge rapidly developing down the flanks. But is it Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres that AVB prefers? He needs to stick with a striker to help the front man – whoever it may be – regain and retain their form.

The 33-year-old tactician may well become a great manager at the club, given time to implement his technical methods and after he has cleared out the older boys in the dressing room – who still crave a Mourinho return by flooding their former boss with text messages.

Or will AVB become another name on the growing list compound to the Stamford Bridge managerial scrapheap. What is clear however, since Chelsea have not won a game of football since 28th Jan, and as speculation mounts of a dressing room divide between the former Porto leader and his most senior players in West London, that the issue is coming to the boil.

So Roman Abramovich has two options; to back him or sack him. It is in the best interests of the club to do so. And Abramovich has pumped over £600million into his Premier League play-thing to make these big calls. Come on Roman, turn over your cards.

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