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AVB: Blues dressing-room a democracy

Andre Villas-Boas has admitted his age and relative lack of experience make it difficult for him to assert his authority over Chelsea's players, with the Blues boss insisting he "could never be dictatorial" in the dressing-room.

The pressure is mounting on Villas-Boas, with his side currently 12 points adrift of joint-Premier League leaders Manchester City and Manchester United in fourth place.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich forked out more than £13 million in compensation to free the Portuguese manager from his contract with Porto last summer, and his patience is clearly being tested as the club grapples to stay on course for a Champions League place.

The heat is certainly being turned up on Villas-Boas, 34, and the Chelsea boss admits he is struggling to take command of a dressing room that is in desperate need of some strong leadership.

"Because of my age and my lack of a professional playing background, I could never be dictatorial," the Portuguese coach was quoted as saying in the Daily Star. "I therefore let the players have a certain amount of input into decisions regarding the way we play and how the team is run.

"Also, when we talk about the well-being of a group, I encourage the players to participate in the decisions affecting their professional life. For example, at Porto I would discuss with the players the starting time of the training or the need for rest days.

"I try to be an open-minded leader and to respect people. You must build a two-way relationship, even over any decision-making about arrangements or actions in the game. Naturally, as the coach I make the final decisions though and if I have to upset a couple of people, then so be it."

Villas-Boas may still be finding his feet in English football but he will be well aware he is unlikely to be afforded the luxury of a season's settling-in period, particularly if they fail to qualify for Europe's elite competition.

World Cup-winner Luiz Felipe Scolari was axed just seven months into his reign at Stamford Bridge and afterwards revealed he had found coping with the dressing-room politics difficult - a battle Villas-Boas is becoming all too familiar with.

"The players, of course, are always testing the manager to find out what his weaknesses are," Villas-Boas added. "In the first two or three weeks when you implement your ideas, they test your leadership and your competence.

"It also depends on the way you come across, and if you are able to sustain yourself through this period it can build the basis that can take you forward.

"The disruption will come and that is a normal part of the game because of the frustrations that players live with. We have to remember that players are often under tremendous pressure. The testing, if you cope, will strengthen your leadership position. The game is so unpredictable, but the variables are influenced by the team that wants it more.

"You need to have confidence and belief in what you do. The players must be by your side, but ultimately it is the players' talent that solves the match situations."

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