Villas-Boas to implement gradual change
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has assured his players there will be no radical changes at Stamford Bridge and promised evolution rather than revolution. The 33-year-old was appointed as the west Londoners' new boss last month after impressing during a trophy-laden spell at Porto. Villas-Boas has since been linked with a plethora of players, with Tottenham's Luka Modric and West Ham midfielder Scott Parker mooted as potential targets.
Young Genk goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois looks set to be the first new signing of the Villas-Boas regime after the Portuguese boss admitted yesterday a deal was in place, although he was keen to stress no drastic changes will be made to the existing squad. "I am still evaluating things at the moment," he said after watching his side defeat Portsmouth 1-0 in a pre-season friendly at Fratton Park.
"It is not that I have to change things radically and I will take it step by step. I think it is pretty obvious that we will go into the market at one time or the other but not with radical changes to the team. The team will keep itself (together) and most of the players.
"Today it was important for us to show the fans the future of Chelsea and you could see that in the number of (young) players we had on the pitch. We had a 16-year-old (Nathan Chalobah) on the pitch - that promises a lot. He is English, he has a future and these are all things the fans must see."
The former Porto boss says he will evaluate players during their upcoming pre-season trip to Asia and admitted Daniel Sturridge could be one of those that may spend the season away from Stamford Bridge. The 21-year-old enjoyed a thoroughly impressive spell with Bolton during the second half of last season and Villas-Boas intimated a similar kind of deal may be in the pipeline.
"This is one of the decisions we have to take," he said. "Daniel is a very, very interesting player with a tremendous future. The individual is highly regarded by myself. I have 15 days in Asia to make the best decision and I need those four games to continue to assess.
"When we get back from Asia we have a week running into the Rangers game and I think from then on a decision will have to be taken to be ready for the first game of the season. Then again it does not mean that we won't be active after that, because the market always gets very frenetic in the last days and you never know what will happen."
It was put to Villas-Boas that the players must feel as though they are on trial at the moment, but he said: "No, I don't think so. I think the opposite because I gave them that flexibility from the beginning. Normally people would expect you to arrive at Chelsea and make radical changes and we are taking everything on board and making the right decisions. Again our arrival is much more about freeing these players and finding their talent rather than making radical changes."
Meanwhile, Portsmouth manager Steve Cotterill was proud of his troop for coming through against one of Europe's top sides. "It was a tough game for us, but I thought we did well," he said. "Physically, the lads could not have done any more than they did.
"They were first class. It's a credit that they stayed with Chelsea for 90 minutes. Fitness-wise, we're in top shape, exactly where we want to be at this stage of pre-season. We had the fitness belts on the lads during the game and we'll examine all the data from them."