Academy Adapts To (Yet Another) New Manager

For the fifth time in slightly under five years, Chelsea have a new manager.

Andre Villas-Boas returns to Stamford Bridge having departed with Jose Mourinho in September of 2007, and he returns as one of the hottest commodities in the game, a 33 year-old academic who smashed records with FC Porto last season.

For Chelsea’s academy, however, things are about to change again as they will embark upon yet another new direction.

Whilst much of the work done by Neil Bath and his team is independent and done with the best intentions as far as individual development goes, the eventual target will always be to provide players capable of playing in the first team.

That task is made all the harder when the incumbent is under immediate pressure to win everything he possibly can. Rare is the manager who can succeed in his short term aims whilst finding the room to hand opportunities to the next generation.

It typically takes success for a manager to prove his worth to the board and/or owner(s), and once sufficient trust has been earned, the manager may then look to the future.

Both Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti made bold statements about the potential at the club, but fleeting appearances for Miroslav Stoch and Josh McEachran aside, they proved to be false dawns for the burgeoning talent on the ‘other’ side of the Cobham training ground.

Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink can be afforded passes on account of their temporary stewardship but nonetheless, the coming weeks and months will be a new experience for the academy coaching staff as they attempt to assimilate themselves into Villas-Boas philosophies.

The decision was taken some years ago to develop all of the club’s youngsters in a 4-3-3 formation as it was the one which most allowed players to become versatile and dynamic at the same time.

Its instigator was Frank Arnesen, but he too has now departed, so Villas-Boas may look to restructure things throughout the club.

That much is unlikely, as the Portuguese has shown himself to be a fan of the formation, but he will come to London with his own ideas and methods, and will expect those to be part of day-to-day work on the training ground whether in the first team or in the Under-9s.

Chelsea’s kids will need to take on board new theories, new directions, and new aspirations as they develop as individuals aiming for a place at the top table.

For those who have been with the club for some time, it’s not going to be a new experience. Putting a positive spin on things, they will have been exposed to a great many different thinkers in a short space of time and will have taken aspects from each which they were able to best apply to themselves.

In the coming days and weeks, Villas-Boas will meet with his new staff and begin to devise strategies ahead of pre-season. He will need to decide which, if any, of the reserve team squad are going to travel with the first team on the tour of Asia, something which Bath, Steve Holland and Dermot Drummy are sure to help direct.

It’s an exciting time for everyone at the club, and particularly once more for the academy. With each new manager comes hope that the opportunity to make the step up will exist.

Previous managers have talked a good game but failed to deliver. It’s not so much an argument of whether the players are good enough, but how and when they’re used, because there are undeniably players serviceable for Premier League football at the very least.

Whether Villas-Boas favours a younger approach is really too hard to tell, as he has only had a little over a full season in club management.

He reduced the age of Porto’s first team dramatically en route to success, and was keen to bring on the likes of 19 year-old winger James Rodriguez, but his philosophy is yet to truly reveal itself.

Chelsea’s new manager will be tasked to bring success and bring it quickly. For the players looking to further their careers, another new dawn is emerging from the horizon.

They’ll be hoping it’s not another false one.

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