Is Roman's faith founded in Villas-Boas?

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Andre Villas-Boas has a CV to be proud of, but Chelsea's young pretender is the first to admit that after seven months in charge at Stamford Bridge, things have hardly gone as planned.

The Portuguese tactician currently finds himself embroiled in a struggle for fourth place, with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle United hot on the heels of the Blues in the race for that all-important Champions League place.

Roman Abramovich's presence in the past couple of weeks has inevitably been interpreted as a sign of the Russian owner's growing concern about the club's lack of progress, but Villas-Boas is adamant that he retains the full backing of the board.

After passing up the opportunity to make a statement of intent, and establish a sense of conquest in last weekend's 3-3 home draw with Manchester United - a game in which Chelsea conceded a three-goal advantage in front of an onlooking Abramovich - Villas-Boas' Premier League naivety and inexperience was the only thing that shone through.

But, despite sacking almost every manager who has failed to win the title during his nine years as owner, Abramovich seems to be more patient with the current regime, even if he has made regular appearances at the Chelsea training ground in Cobham, to cast his eye over Villas-Boas' coaching methods upon his return to England.

"Roman is always very interested in the running of events and it was good for the team to feel his presence," was the manager's reaction to questions on the subject in last week's post-match press conference after the United game.

"We touched a little bit, of course, on next year's project but mainly on that [United] game. Roman is a very educated person to the cause of Chelsea Football Club and his aura is always present.

"We set out with a team that we believe in for this season and we will continue to pursue the trophies that we have in our hands and try to win them. One of them is the FA Cup and the other is the Champions League."

Villas-Boas concedes that the current battle to hold on to fourth place represents a major underachievement for Chelsea, but it looks as though he will be given time to make the necessary changes, with Abramovich recognising the squad needs a significant overhaul before being able to challenge the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City.

"We have two competitions where we look better, and another competition where we have to dilute the damage and try to finish fourth, at least, which is not a very honourable position for the dimension of this club," he added in yesterday's pre-match presser.

"I think when we set up with this team, we believed that the team was ready for four trophies. We are confident on playing still to reach the objectives that we have for this season with this team, and then eventually move on to what is next year.

"The reality is that in the last years there was a pattern of managers shifting. In the end, you have to agree that from 2004 Chelsea has been massively successful.

"It has been the best period of Chelsea's history, and hopefully we can progress that within the three-year range with me here."

Villas-Boas was hired with a view to upping the entertainment ante at Stamford Bridge, and whilst the manager has begun implementing his ideologies, you can't get away from the fact that changing a solid side to make them more attacking always runs the risk of defensive destabilisation.

Chelsea are still too easy to peel open - as proved last weekend. In an attacking sense, the lively Daniel Sturridge continues to excite, while summer signing Juan Mata has been a regular supplier of the kind of artistic flourishes that Abramovich craves.

The league table may suggest that Roman's empire is on the slide - Chelsea now lie 14 points behind leaders City and, perhaps more importantly, just one ahead of fifth-placed Newcastle - but it is important to keep the faith.

However, failure to qualify for the Champions League may test that faith to the limit.

Premier League

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