LONDON: The days when Andre Villas-Boas was referred to as ‘Mini Mourinho’ are long gone writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The man once thought to have risen on the strength of his association with The Special One has undergone the full extent of footballing fire to emerge as his own man.
Inevitably those comparisons will be redrawn ahead of Saturday’s first meeting them on equal Premier League terms when Tottenham under Villas-Boas host Mourinho’s Chelsea on Saturday.
Intriguingly, Villas-Boas would appear to possess the advantage. Tottenham sit just above Chelsea in the fledgling league and the midweek evidence – albeit in the League Cup – is that Villas-Boas is pulling a redeveloped squad together more quickly than Mourinho.
Tottenham’s strength in depth, and ability to profit, was demonstrated by the fact that Lewis Holtby made three of the goals in a 4:0 win away to Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. Also, England striker Jermain Defore scored twice. Yet Holtby and Defoe – both players with World Cup ambitions – cannot be considered first-choice with Spurs any more.
Chelsea, by contrast, defeated third division Swindon easily enough by 2:0, as a team priced at £180m should do. In the process however, they lost both Marco Van Ginkel and his goal-scoring substitute Ramires to first-half injuries which rule them out of Saturday’s derby. Indeed, Van Ginkel could be missing for up to six months after being carried off with knee ligament damage after only 10 minutes.
Maybe Mata . . .
Van Ginkel’s bad luck could be good news for Juan Mata. The Spain midfielder has been singled out by Mourinho for special attention – not because of his creative strengths but because of his defensive failings.
Even before the season speculation linked Mata with a departure for Arsenal or Tottenham. Mourinho has left Mata in no doubt that he needs to work harder for the team out of possession. Only then can he compete for a playmaking role again alongside, or instead of, Oscar.
Against Swindon Mata made his third start under Mourinho and his busy performance suggested he is learning.
As assistant coach Steve Holland said: “The message to all the attacking players, from day one, has been that they need to contribute both offensively in terms of production but also out of possession and defending.
“Juan made an early chance for Fernando Torres and was involved in his goal. Then, in injury time, he conceded the final corner of the game in supporting Ryan Bertrand at leftback . . . There’s no such thing as a luxury player these days.”
Mourinho may have little option, when he picks his team on Saturday, but to trust that Mata, indeed, has got the message.
Schwarzer’s black mark?
** Mark Schwarzer may find that his summer move from Fulham to the Chelsea substitutes’ bench has harmed his prospects of playing in the World Cup finals in Brazil.
On Tuesday, while Schwarzer was making his Chelsea debut in the League Cup against Swindon, he was dropped by Australia manager Holger Osieck from a 24-man squad for friendlies against France and Canada next month.
Schwarzer, 40, is Australia’s most-capped player with 108 appearances but looked short of match practice in Australia’s 6:0 loss to Brazil earlier this month.
** Gus Poyet, ex-Uruguay and Tottenham midfielder, is favourite to be appointed new manager of Sunderland. Tempestuous Paolo Di Canio was sacked on Sunday night following a players’ revolt after defeat at West Bromwich left them bottom of the Premier League.