Bridge Banter: Abramovich shadow looms large over AVB

First published in Chelsea Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

Such was the frustration of Chelsea fans at the game against Bolton that when retired winger Jesper Gronkjaer limped round the pitch at half-time to nostalgic applause, the Shed end chorused ‘Bring him on, bring him on, bring him on…’.

The weekend’s league game, billed as do-or-die for under-fire gaffer AVB, stood at 0-0.

It ended comfortably enough at 3-0, but the sense of unease was palpable.

Andre Villas-Boas admitted it was ‘an extremely anxious stadium’, especially as owner Roman Abramovich – back in his usual seat after a couple of weeks away on business – was gazing down from on high.

In truth, the jury is still out on AVB.

His youth and relative inexperience are simultaneously assets and disadvantages.

Where they count against him is in being able to draw on a reservoir of accumulated wisdom when confronted with, say, having to claw back a two-goal deficit in a high-pressure Champions League match.

If the 34-year-old can produce a result against in-form West Brom on Saturday, it might give him the momentum to defeat Birmingham City in the FA Cup replay next week, and get the necessary result against Napoli at the Bridge the week after.

But recent stuttering performances suggest that’s a tough ask.

The team appeared more together and focused last weekend, but they will need yet more sharpness and edge in the coming fortnight… and that’s still without dealing with the elephant in the room, Fernando Torres.

AVB defends the performances of his £50m striker by saying he contributes a lot of assists. But Torres wasn’t bought to assist, he was bought to make the net bulge 20 times a season for five years.

As long as he sits on the bench, or comes on for spells where his contribution is good without being spectacular, it will remain an issue.

And the bearded Russian occupant of seat D1, executive box seven, is not someone who waits forever.

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