Last night at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea cruised through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a convincing 3-0 win over top La Liga side Valencia. Following the pressure laden last few weeks for Andre Villas Boas, this win came as a relief to him and the club but in essence, it means much more than that.
Central to Villas Boas’s tactical preparation for last night, was his omission of Frank Lampard from his starting line-up. Freed from Lampard’s labored approach in the middle, Chelsea’s midfield took on a new lease of life and tore through Valencia’s ranks, much in the same way that Arsenal beat Barcelona last season, even though the Spanish side had the majority of the possession. With Chelsea stuttering through their Premier League season, we have all wondered when he would start to clear house of many of the crusty veterans that seem to have lingered on well past their sell by date.
Lampard’s benching represents the first stage of that process fpr Villas Boas but Didier Drogba certainly cemented his short term future with a sterling performance, reminding many older fans of the bygone days of the classic English centre forward.
Following the game last night, Villas Boas lit into the press for having doubted his team’s ability to perform which came as a refreshing attitude to say the least. He does tend to talk too much to the media but you can see that maybe he has a little bit of “The Special One” in him after all.
I can only hope that Fabio Capello is paying attention to events at Chelsea and if so, maybe there is hope for England yet.