Under-fire Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas is confident his side are firmly back in the English Premier League title race. The 34-year-old witnessed his side silence their -- and somewhat more importantly -- his critics with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Such was the magnitude of the Blues' performance that the scoreline could have stretched to double figures but for the heroics of Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who made a string of fine saves. A landslide score would not have flattered Chelsea, but Villas-Boas was delighted with the three goals nonetheless, for it quelled talk about his position at the club. The former Porto manager has been at the club since the pre-season when Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich paid Porto £13.3m ($20.5m, €15.5m) to get the highly-rated coach.
Yet recent defeats, including a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League, had raised question marks about his future. This win, thanks to first-half goals from captain John Terry, Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata, somewhat eased that pressure. Coupled with Manchester United's 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle, Chelsea have moved closer to the top four and Villas-Boas senses his side can push on to mount a title challenge.
"I think we can (win the title)," he told reporters. "We have the talent and belief will be the last thing to die. It's difficult for us to look at a distant leader but we have the example in the past that we can shorten distances. That serves as inspiration. We need to get the winning streak back like we did last year. It was important for us to get the three points. We managed to shorten the distance to Manchester United and Newcastle, but for us to be a threat at the top of the table, we have to continue."
"December will be an important month. We have a Champions League fixture still to play, but the rest of the games are in the Premier League. For Chelsea to be competitive in terms of the Premier League, we need to have a good December. We have some important games. Newcastle away, Manchester City at home and Tottenham away, these are difficult games but can make a difference for us."
The victory over Wolves ensures a stay of execution from Abramovich, yet there is no way that Villas-Boas is relaxing just yet as he knows the Russian tycoon is a stickler for success. The win "does not take the pressure off me," he said. "We have to continue to grow as a team. I have to reflect on the games in the past and we did not deserve to lose, but it influences opinion-making and that is part of the job. We are two goals away from being the best attacking team in the Premier League and that is a positive."
The only solace for Wolves boss Mick McCarthy was that the Black Country side at least mustered a better performance in the second half. Yet in truth they were reliant upon a wonderful performance from Wales goalkeeper Hennessey. McCarthy said that at half-time he asked his players "to salvage a bit of pride and self-respect.
"In each occasion (in the first-half) we were in possession of the ball when Chelsea scored. It was not good enough from us. We came here looking to take advantage of whatever might have been going on here but we gave away an early goal."