• Former Chelsea manager back at the Bridge on Wednesday
• 'I was another manager that just passed by. It means nothing'
It is the classic break-up line. "It's not you, it's me." André Villas-Boas did not exactly hear it from Roman Abramovich when he was dumped by the Chelsea owner last season, but he has come to see the sentiment.
Abramovich treats his managers mean. He has sacked seven in nine years and when Villas-Boas considers what has happened at Stamford Bridge since his departure and as he prepares to go back for the first time, with Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night, it certainly helps him to feel a bit better.
Roberto Di Matteo, the caretaker who won the European Cup to earn the job full-time, was dismissed in November and Rafael Benítez, the interim replacement, will not be upgraded to permanent status. Abramovich is ready to recall José Mourinho in the summer. Upheaval appears as the default setting.
"It's fine because in the end, sometimes, the only option is for a manager to go," Villas-Boas said. "I have discussed this at length. You need courage in this difficult moment. At this time, I understand it. Chelsea is going through the same turmoil of managers after I left. So it makes me a little bit calmer to understand how they work."
Villas-Boas needed to be strong and it took him time to pick up the pieces. But fate has conspired to load tremendous importance on to Wednesday's fixture and offer him the opportunity to make a point to Abramovich. Not that Villas-Boas sees it that way. He believes that the fight for Champions League qualification ought to be the story, rather than his own individual motivation, which he has been keen to downplay.
"I'm not sure if I passed time enough for me to feel anything [about going back to Chelsea]," he said. "I was another manager that just passed by. I spent three great years on the staff [as the opposition scout] … when I was given more responsibility [as the manager], I wasn't given time enough so it means absolutely nothing, although I have great friends [at Chelsea], who I don't want to undermine by what I'm saying.
"For me, it would be excellent but only if we get the three points. At the moment, it means absolutely nothing. Chelsea is just like any other team, it's about the result and hopefully, at the end, there can be a little bit more satisfaction."
It feels as though Tottenham have to win but what is clear is that they will need to play a lot better than they did against Southampton, when Gareth Bale provided a lone moment of quality with his fizzing late strike to rescue a collectively flat performance.
Southampton pressed high up the field, did not allow Tottenham to settle and had first-half chances to take control. The defeat, though, meant that they remained shy of 40 points and Wigan Athletic's victory at West Bromwich Albion has raised the temperature in the bottom half of the table.
"I'm not worried, it just shows that the season is not over," Nathaniel Clyne, the Southampton full-back, said. "We're not playing like it's over. We still have a target to reach. We've got to win our last two games [against Sunderland and Stoke City] and if we play like we did here, we will have a chance."
Man of the match Gareth Bale (Tottenham)