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Andre Villas-Boas is doing a Brian Clough: Will it end the same?

AVB's doing a Clough! But will it end the same for under-fire Chelsea boss

Andre Villas-Boas has managed to last longer than 44 days but there are echoes of Brian Clough's brief, tempestuous reign at Leeds United at Stamford Bridge right now.

Like Leeds, Chelsea are a club divided and, like Leeds, the division is between a strong, successful dressing room and a young manager who might have acted with a touch more diplomacy when it came to handling senior players.

Showing the strain: AVB watched City beat Porto on Wednesday evening

Showing the strain: AVB watched City beat Porto on Wednesday evening

Villas-Boas did not march into Cobham in July and tell them to throw their medals in the bin because they had not been acquired fairly. It would have been a bit rich given the role the 34-year-old Portuguese played in the success they enjoyed under Jose Mourinho. It also would have been unfair.

But we now have the uncomfortable situation of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and, to an extent, John Terry being cast as the Bremner, Giles and Hunter of the Chelsea dressing room.

Under siege: Chelsea were soundly beaten by Napoli in their Euro clash

Under siege: Chelsea were soundly beaten by Napoli in their Euro clash

Like Clough, Villas-Boas has chosen to take them on. Unlike Clough, he has gone a stage further by dropping those who have dared challenge his authority for a Champions League tie and most important match of their season.

They lost 3-1 to Napoli thanks in no small part to the selection choices he made. The problem, it seems, is how Villas-Boas has gone about managing the situation.

Lampard is 33 and would probably admit the legs do not get him up and down the pitch as effectively as they did but he still has enormous value and the manner in which he has been left out has clearly left a bitter taste.

Fall-out: Villas-Boas has chosen to take on Lampard and co

Fall-out: Villas-Boas has chosen to take on Lampard and co

Villas-Boas is considered arrogant and aloof, his apparent failure to acknowledge the contribution of certain players leaving the likes of Lampard deeply offended.

Lampard has complained publicly of a lack of communication and what would seem a lack of courtesy.

It came to a head in that training ground meeting 11 days ago, when players openly expressed their frustration, and again in Naples when Lampard and Cole learned of their exclusion.

Warming the bench: Cole and Lampard were missing from the starting line-up on Tuesday night

Warming the bench: Cole and Lampard were missing from the starting line-up on Tuesday night

These players may not be helping the situation if they are playing any part in these incidents becoming public knowledge. The spat with Cole and Lampard, something Villas-Boas all but confirmed after the match, was known hours before Tuesday's game.

But in this atmosphere something needs to give and there can only be one winner. Roman Abramovich will determine that. He will decide if Villas-Boas is allowed to oversee an overhaul of the playing staff by driving these rebels away or a sixth manager is sacked in eight years.

But it cannot continue much longer when Chelsea could not only go out of the Champions League but fail to qualify for the competition next season.

The problem Abramovich has sacked managers at will in recent times

The problem Abramovich has sacked managers at will in recent times

There appears no way back for Villas-Boas with the senior players but yesterday there was a sense he had lost all the squad.

Clough actually commanded a fair bit of respect among players like Giles. They knew the 39-year-old was a terrific young manager after encountering his championship winning Derby side. Clough just hacked them off, and in the end his brashness cost him his job. The players stopped playing for him, the board sided with the players and he was gone.

In 44 days. Villas-Boas has been less confrontational but he does not command the same respect despite his success at Porto. Longer-serving players still see him as the opposition DVD guy when he returned as manager. At 34, he is also around the same age as Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Abramovich failed to recognise the potential problem when he decided Villas-Boas could do a better job than an Italian who secured a domestic double in his first season and finished second to Manchester United in his second having already guided AC Milan to two European Cups.

Ultimately, this is a mess of Abramovich's making; the product of awful decisions, like getting rid of Mourinho as well as Carlo Ancelotti.

Abramovich has also been far too influential in Chelsea's transfer policy. It's his money but until he watched Real Madrid play at Manchester United 10 years ago he had no interest in football.

He has not invested wisely, with 90million blown on Fernando Torres, David Luiz and Ramires. Now, he has to decide if he steps back and allows Villas-Boas to sort it out or start all over again, again.

Yesterday Villas-Boas gave the players the day off while the Chelsea hierarchy went into crisis mode to discuss what happens next. Like the Leeds board, Abramovich has to pick his side.