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Andre Villas Boas - The rise from Opposition Scout to Head Coach

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

AVB Background:


Andre Villas Boas (AVB) for me is one of the most innovative coaches in the modern game. His introduction into mainstream football came during his period as Opposition Scout for Jose Mourinho's when they achieved consistent success domestically and in Europe at FC Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan.


Since he embarked on his own Head coaching career at Academica, FC Porto, Chelsea, Tottenham, Zenit and SIPG Shanghai, from an outsiders perspective he has stuck true to his values, beliefs and style of play. Their has been adaptations within his game model, however the overall philosophy has been consistent.


- Strongly believes that football is a chaotic and emotional game

- Match is dictated by the tactics & strategies which reveal themselves across 90+ minutes through rehearsed improvisations

- Predominately uses the 1-4-3-3 as his base system of play (Starting point)

- Prefers a possession build up style of play with controlled transitions and calculated high pressing

- Philosophy can be summarized as having possession of the ball to move it around the pitch in an organized way, with technical quality, and with a team that is patient in the way it builds, searches out and creates space to allow penetration to occur


Opposition Scouting:


AVB became renown across the coaching circles for his detailed match analysis of upcoming opponents and how he contributed greatly as an opposition scout to the success Jose Mourinho achieved during the 2000's.


Below is some quotes that provide insight into AVB's scouting method and we were able to grab some example scouting reports during his time at Chelsea:


"Jose is obsessed with detail - He will leave nothing to chance, even if his team are playing the worst side in the league. My work enables Jose to know exactly when a player from the opposition is likely to be at his best or his weakest. To know an opponent in depth, you need four to five games because we have to understand whether things happen by chance or whether they are controlled movements and parts of the team's dynamics. I will travel to the training grounds, often incognito, and then look at our opponents mental and physical state before drawing my conclusions and presenting the full dossier to Jose" - Andre Villas Boas


"It takes me four days to put an entire file together, so it is very comprehensive. When the players go out on the pitch, they are totally prepared, so there can be very few surprises during the game" - Andre Villas Boas


"We started preparing for the Monaco game by watching a lot of games played by our opponent. I knew everything about Monaco, but wanted my players to know too. Every player got an individual DVD to analyze. For example, I gave Paulo Ferreira a DVD of Jerome Rothen. The Centre Backs got information on Fernando Morientes and Dado Prso. The French Team had no secrets for us" - Jose Mourinho on the preparation for the 2004 Champions League Final vs Monaco


Villas Boas & Mourinho observing an opposition match

"The reports he draws up are extremely thorough. He can scrutinize an opponent right down to the smallest detail. Nothing gets past him. He knows everything about the players and everything about the teams" - Ricardo Carvalho Former FC Porto, Chelsea and Portuguese International - Currently AVB's Assistant Coach at Olympique de Marseille (OM)


Ricardo Carvalho collaborating with Villas Boas during Pre Season with Olympique de Marseille

Here is a full video presentation that shows the methodology, process and reporting that AVB did for Mourinho. The example report is from the match between Chelsea v Barcelona from the Champions League in 2005/2006, which shows that AVB & Mourinho were very advanced and ahead of the times during that period in their analytical process:



Click on the image below to download the another full match report from November 19, 2005 - Chelsea v Newcastle:

As you can see from the quotes and above scouting report examples, nothing is left to chance and every detail is broken down across all match moments, set plays, game patterns and individual opposition players. Outside of being great reads and insights in to the inner workings of a Professional football club, it is clear that AVB has a fantastic eye for the game and high level of tactical understanding....doesn't surprise me that he achieved immediate success when coaching FC Porto by winning the Europa League, Portuguese League and Cup in his second year as a Head Coach.


AVB First Look at Olympique de Marseille (OM):


We were able to analyze the pre season match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) vs Accrington Stanley (English League One Side). From a tactical match up perspective, Olympique de Marseille lined up in a 1-4-1-2-3 (4-3-3) formation vs Accrington Stanley's 1-4-4-1-1 Shape.

Tactical Match Up - Olympique de Marseille 4-3-3 vs Accrington Stanley 4-4-1-1

The clear numerical superiority in the OM building up phase is the 3v2 (2 CB's + HMF) advantage vs the 1-1 Front line of Accrington Stanley. OM Holding Midfielder Luis Gustavo provides technical quality, precision in his passing to break opposition lines and game intelligence on when/where/how to risk/progress possession and was used frequently to start/initiate their offensive play. Luiz Gustavo looks like he will play a core role for AVB during OM offensive organization in official matches - Specifically, OM's Short build up from the back because of his qualities.


In the wide sectors, OM FB's (#17/18), Winger (#10/38) and AMF (#24/8) would rotate and interchange positions to overload the opposition FB or create/exploit spaces between the lines. You will see later in the video analysis some of the most effective movements that were used by OM and one tactical detail to notice is the wide/high FB's and inverted winger positioning of #10 Payet & #38 Lihadji. If the FB's weren't available in the width, OM always had options between the lines (Inverted Wingers or positional MFD's with the #9 exploiting depth behind the OPP Back Line).


Olympique de Marseille - Key player relationships during the build up

If Luiz Gustavo did not initiate the build up in 1st Phase, CB's Kamara and Sertic would take responsibility for eliminating the OPP 1st Line and Luiz Gustavo would drag the #11 from Accrington Stanley towards the weak side to allow the Ball Side CB Space to drive into MFD areas.

Example of the OM High FB's and inverted wingers when the CB's has engaged space beyond the OPP 1st Line of Pressing

This video analysis highlights how AVB has inverted his wingers to occupy the spaces between the lines (Half Spaces), which effects the height of this full backs. In the 1st phase, the AMF drops deep to support the FB and opens the space between lines to play through and into the inverted winger (Payet). In 2nd/3rd phase of the build up, OM switch the point of attack and the winger inverts and clears the wide channel for the FB to join. This could be a movement pattern that is used during the Ligue 1 season when OM construct their attacks to penetrate in the opponents half of the pitch.


OM movement pattern with the Inverted Winger & FB occupying the Wide Channel - Provides the CB with 3 Passing options (MFD - Winger in between the lines - FB in the wide channel)

Luiz Gustavo would drop into the back line to create a back 3 (drop either on the outside or centrally depending on the channel OM where plotting their penetration). I was impressed with Luiz Gustavo's intelligence to manipulate the #11 of Accrington Stanley (Attempted to Man Mark Luiz Gustavo). His movement to create a back 3 and create a 3v2 or 4v2 overload (4v2 when Sanson and/or Khaoui would drop behind the OPP Front 2) allowed him opportunities to dictate rhythm/tempo of the OM build up.


Olympique de Marseille Back 3 Build up with Luiz Gustavo Centrally

Video Analysis example of Luiz Gustavo's movement to create a back 3 build up. In this example he drops on the outside of the CB's and then makes a second movement between both CB's. This is a highly effective build up structure vs Front 2 or 1-1 Front Line structures (Creates numerical superiority plus the qualitative superiority provided through Luiz Gustavo).


When describing AVB's philosophy in general terms earlier in the article, we highlighted a point from an old AVB interview where he used the term "Rehearsed Improvisations". I believe the below video analysis on the Rotations & Positional interchanges that OM performed is a concept highly linked to "Rehearsed Improvisations". These type of movement patterns can be practiced and rehearsed many times in training, however during the game they are improvised based on the OPP structure, cues and spaces available.

The pre season results are no indicator on how well AVB and OM will do this season. From watching their pre season performance/tactics thus far, they are looking well on track towards implementing a winning game model that will lead them towards success under the leadership of AVB and his technical staff during the Ligue 1 Season.


Wish them success!


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