Has AVB lost his cool already as Chelsea prepare for Arsenal?

Chelsea v Arsenal, Premier League, Saturday October 29, 12.45pm. Live on Sky

If Chelsea’s derby defeat at QPR last Sunday came as a surprise, so too did the reaction of Andre Villas-Boas.

The Portuguese manager has appeared to be calmness personified in his four months at the helm at Stamford Bridge but, as with so many who have gone before him, the facade could never last.

Many remember Jose Mourinho being cool and collected in his early days at Chelsea, before the toys being thrown out of the pram became a regular occurrence.

Of course, emulating the achievements of the ‘Special One’ who delivered the Blues’ first league title for 50 years in his first season and then retained it the following year for good measure, is no bad way to start.


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But losing to their newly-promoted local rivals was not the kind of result associated with Chelsea in the Mourinho era and as yet the jury still seems to be out on whether Villas-Boas is going to be like a second coming of the Special One or go down the route of his predecessors Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti and feel the sharp edge of Roman Abramovich’s axe.

The defeat at Loftus Road was of course tempered by the fact that Chelsea played more than half of the game with nine men, following the red cards shown to Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba which consequently rule them both out of Saturday’s showdown.

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Villas Boas was not impressed. “We are title contenders and we want to believe that we are title contenders, and we are pushing to play good football, to play attacking football and we are colliding with a lot of bad days from the refs,” he said on Sunday.

“Eventually one day things will go in our favour for sure but I think this is too much, it’s not to Premier League standards. Conspiracy theories can lead to bans and lead to you calling us cry babies, and we’re not. But it keeps happening.”

Arsenal have looked like babies against Drogba for much of the last six years, so Chelsea without him is a scenario the Gunners are happy to entertain given his scoring record which currently stands at 13 in 14 matches against Arsene Wenger’s side.

The Ivorian will not get the chance to add to that tally, however, although Fernando Torres is available to return after completing his own three-match ban.

It has been an impressive, if not spectacular start for the 34-year-old who led Porto to title and Europa League glory last season.

While Chelsea sit comfortably in third place, two defeats and a draw in their opening nine games leaves them six points behind leaders Manchester City.

Their first defeat came at Old Trafford, however, and the only other points dropped were at Stoke. Ominously for Arsenal, four home games have brought about four victories so far.

Villas-Boas inherited the strong but ageing squad from Ancelotti, with the late summer additions of Raul Meireles from Liverpool, Juan Mata from Valencia and Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht.

Daniel Sturridge also returned from his successful loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, and with the former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka also in the reckoning, Villas-Boas is not short of options to replace Drogba.

He will surely opt for Torres, who returned to some sort of form with two goals in last week’s Champions League demolition of Genk, but prior to that had managed just three goals in 26 Chelsea appearances. Not exactly the impact expected of a player who set them back �50m in January.

It is the midfield which is causing Villas-Boas almost as many problems. With Michael Essien a long-term knee injury victim, and Ramires having also picked up a knee knock earlier this month, Villas-Boas is reliant upon the trio of Meireles, Frank Lampard and Jon Obi Mikel.

Much of the creativity comes down the left flank, where Mata will play in front of Ashley Cole and expect to cause plenty of problems for Arsenal’s makeshift right-back Johan Djourou.

Despite differing fortunes last weekend, Chelsea are still fairly imperious at home, and Arsenal’s away league record (P4 W0 D1 L3 Goals against 14) does not stand much scrutiny.

Arsenal have been beaten on five of their last six visits to Stamford Bridge, the only exception being the 2-1 win in November 2008 courtesy of Robin van Persie’s double strike.

Given his central role in most of Arsenal’s victories of late, one can’t help but feel that the Dutchman will once again be central to the Gunners’ hopes of repeating that rare victory this weekend.

Verdict: Chelsea have won all their home games this season, while Arsenal haven’t won away, which doesn’t bode too well for Gunners fans. Clean sheets are a problem, a point would be a good start. 2-2

Follow our Arsenal coverage on twitter @ArsenalFC_Lon24

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