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Andre Villas-Boas: Philosopher and Crime Scene Investigator

Between smiles, the manager’s dark side slips through the crack.


Villas-Boas has closed the case on Fernando Torres with a smile.

Andre Villas-Boas joined José Mourinho’s Chelsea coaching staff as a scout in 2004. It was his job to analyze upcoming opponents and produce reports to be used in Chelsea’s strategic preparation. This report* on Newcastle in 2005, printed by the Times of London, is only one example (although the reports were likely put together and presented similarly from week to week), and offers insight into the development of the future manager. Newcastle’s strengths, weaknesses, patterns, and tendencies were interrogated and organized into categories: offense, defense, set plays, and a set of diagrams titled “Pattern Play and Offensive Combinations”.

Newcastle’s offensive organization is broken down into phases from back to front:

From 2nd to 3rd phase their build-up has also a pattern. Normally it involves a mixture of a direct approach, with short possession football. The fullbacks like to combine with the wingers in order to progress with the ball. If space is tight Owen will do shuffle movements to the wing (usually right side) to receive. Other pattern is when Emre and Parker come short to receive the ball and immediately release the strikers in depth…

The entire report unfolds in the same quantifiable objective manner, but the breakdown also contains qualitative descriptions. Newcastle is “attack-minded and aggressive”, “quick” going forward, “deadly”, and possesses “great vision.”

Also throughout, Villas-Boas makes psychological assessments. Newcastle has “motivation + great spirit”, an offensive transition with a “quick and aggressive change of attitude”, while on defense only a “medium change of attitude.” Psychology is already important him, its value determined by inclusion in the report. It is something for his manager to consider when calculating Chelsea’s game plan.

In addition, there are twenty-four diagrams that contribute to producing the most quantifiable and measurable picture from a set of collected data, yet the information includes descriptions and states of mind not easily reducible in this way.

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