AVB admits to a grilling from owner
CHELSEA owner Roman Abramovich demanded an explanation of Andre Villas-Boas's team selection against Napoli, the Chelsea manager has revealed, and he had to supply it via technical director Michael Emenalo.
Villas-Boas explained why he left Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole out of the starting line-up in the 3-1 defeat, and is adamant both that he picked the right team and that he retains the support of Abramovich.
His future, though, is on a knife-edge, with indications that Abramovich's camp is genuinely split on whether he should remain manager. The fact that Abramovich preferred to ask questions of Villas-Boas through Emenalo, and other confidantes, hardly appears encouraging.
"I have not spoken to him (Abramovich)," said Villas-Boas.
"I have spoken to persons near to him. He is disappointed about the result and asking questions about how we set up the team and they were duly explained.
"I spoke to the people close to the owner to transmit the message. He just wants to know the thought process.
"We shared ideas regarding what happened in the game but we still have 90 minutes to play and we strongly believe we can turn the tie around."
Asked whether he had sought fresh assurances from Abramovich about his position, Villas-Boas said: "My assurance is my work and his words and my project for the following seasons. I don't ask every day on the phone, 'Am I going to be here tomorrow?'
"I don't have any regrets regarding team selection against Napoli. I did the best for the team and it was the selection I felt was completely right."
The main surprise was Villas-Boas' decision to start with both Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole -- two of Chelsea's most experienced players -- on the substitutes' bench.
Lampard outlined his annoyance directly to Villas-Boas but the Chelsea manager yesterday described his relationship with the club's senior players as "very good". He also denied reports that Cole had openly questioned his tactics in a team meeting.
Chelsea, though, have now gone five games without winning and Rafael Benitez, the former Liverpool manager, is in pole position to replace Villas-Boas if he is sacked.
If Benitez were appointed, it is understood that Chelsea would prefer a short-term contract until the end of the season when other candidates, such as Pep Guardiola and even Jose Mourinho, could become available.
Villas-Boas yesterday described Benitez as "one of the most successful managers in world football".
Among the attractions of Benitez would be his experience and how, at Liverpool, he seemed to entice the best out of Fernando Torres.
Villas-Boas took full responsibility for the club's faltering form.
"I have made a lot of mistakes, of course," he said.
"There is one person who takes responsibility. That is myself and the players don't have to take it and they shouldn't take it."
Chelsea face Bolton in the Premier League tomorrow, with Villas-Boas seeking his first win at Stamford Bridge for more than a month. The club confirmed that John Terry has undergone successful knee surgery, with their captain expected to be out for up to six weeks.