Earlier this season I wrote a piece about the depth of both City’s and Chelsea’s squad hampering either team mounting a serious challenge for the League this year. Who was going to be the team that was going to dominate opposition like the Chelsea of yesteryear? City, despite the injury of Aguero seem alright at present but Chelsea are a different kettle of fish. Where to begin with Chelsea. The Chelsea of last year, whose performances from August until that festive fixture car crash of a defeat at White Hart Lane were truly spelling-binding, brushing sides away like lower league opposition. Whilst their form curtailed through the second half of the season they sauntered to the league title. No one could have predicted this, predicted this opening to their title defence. 10 games played. 11 points collected. More defeats in the opening 2 months of this term than all of last season (5 already in 15/16 compared to the 3 in the entirety of last season). Why does the 3rd season under Mourinho’s tenure really dislike the man so much?
To unpack everything is a long winded task which delves a lot deeper than Mourinho’s current predicament. To stay momentarily in the present, this summer brought its own issues that are easily identifiable. Recruitment over the summer was poor. The old adage of strengthening from a position of strength clearly ignored as Pedro offers the only real sign of a player signed to have an immediate threat to any of last year’s staring XI. Pre-season was sluggish, with Diego Costa’s admittance of having one to many summer sangria’s highlighting both a refreshing honesty from a footballer as well as emphasising the lack of preparation that could be synonymous with the entire playing squad. Chelsea haven’t turned up to the races this year. You start running out of fingers when counting the players whose form really has been bad, emphasising the lack of depth in the squad. Mourinho seemingly hasn’t got the calibre of reserve players to implement change. Whether this is entirely fair in the case of Baba Rahman, as the vultures circle above Cobham and news that Rahman wasn’t a Mourinho signing emerge, he surely would warrant a place in the team instead of the increasingly hapless Ivanovich. How little confidence does Mourinho have in this £14 million youngster?
The bigger issue we are all seeing week by week is the decline into instability of Mourinho’s psychology. Each game brings another opportunity to watch the great game player that is Mourinho decline further into paranoia and conspiracy theories. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ drifting more and more alarmingly into the ‘Crazy One’.
This season shares great parallels to Mourinho’s last in Madrid. League winners the year before, Mourinho’s final year in the Spanish capital was littered with incidents between himself and the Spanish media, himself and opposition managers, himself and his own players and clashes with officials at Madrid. Mourinho’s now well-trodden vernacular of refereeing biased against this side, a campaign in the media, are all apparent this year under the guise of Chelsea manager. Whilst nothing has quite topped the Tito Villanova eye-gauge so far, Mourinho has presented himself as erratic and rattled, a far cry from the smiling ‘Happy One’ of two summers ago. It is well known that Mourinho’s tactics of creating an ‘Us vs. Them’ feeling in the dressing room creates a great intensity of togetherness in the camp, but when that begins to unravel Mourinho is seen to be wanting.
The dismissal of Eva Carneiro was the first and perhaps gravest sign that this season wasn’t going to be the one every thought it was going to be. Carneiro dismissal for treating Eden Hazard against Swansea still rumbles on the background and whilst Mou and Chelsea has had a case of sexual discrimination dismissed by the FA, an unfair dismissal case still rumbles on the background. A list of FA charges and threats of stadium bans seems to increase week on week, with José and his assistant being sent to the stands against their most recent Premier League defeat to West Ham somehow avoiding the triggering of a suspended stadium ban for referee comments. Gary Cahill took the media duties this time, as Mou decided not to try and emulate his rather fantastic 7 minute Shakespearian-esque diatribe delivered in the wake of another defeat – this time at the hands of Southampton. Poor Greg Whelan wasn’t expecting such a response but Mourinho’s rhetoric of biasness remained ever present throughout, as he marched on with his own campaign of hate against officials.
Whilst the lack of players to replace failing stars is one thing. The alienation of certain players, in particular Terry, Hazard and Matic, has led to claims of fractures in the squad. If there is one dressing room you don’t want to turn on you as a manager, as the Chelsea hit-squad of Terry, Lampard and Cole pulled the strings of manager departures in the past, Terry certainly as the air of someone bigger than a manager, even if his partners in crime are elsewhere plying their trade. Terry substitution against City could be excused, the defence needed more pace, to then drop Terry for a period of time from a defence low on confidence start the rumour mill about unrest. Matic and Hazard have both been named and shamed by Mourinho in recent weeks, none so spectacularly as Matic who had the rather unforgettable honour of being subbed on and off in a 23 minute cameo against Southampton. Hazard on the other hand, with no short of suitors eyeing up the influential Belgian is seemingly having his head turned by Madrid and Paris as his form continues to dissipate without any real acknowledgement as to why.
So what next for Chelsea and José? Some fans have started calling for his head, media momentum is building in a very Brendan Rodger’s kind of way and he has had the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ from the board. Will Chelsea sack him? At a reported cost of £30 million in compensation and with no real managers out there of the stature that Chelsea would like, it is a hell of a gamble. The arrogance of some Chelsea fans is highlighted by their claims for the return of Carlo Ancelotti, humiliated 5 years ago after winning the league, seemingly West London is a big enough draw for a manager touted as the heir-in-waiting of a certain Guardiola’s position at Bayern Munich. And then that name is now mentioned. A 1000 words in and Roman’s numero uno target. Pep Guardiola. Guardiola this week has now stated that he for one will no longer talk about his future more out of boredom than anything else. The Bayern manager is conceivably coming to the end of his cycle in Munich, dominating the domestic scene and one of the three big super powers in European Football, Guardiola could well become available next summer and looking for his next challenge. I for one don’t see him going to Chelsea. The lack of philosophy at the club, the firing mentality of Abramovich in the past and the potential mess left in the aftermath of a Mourinho sacking present three negatives that come to mind immediately. Other names that that could be mentioned range from Fabio Capello to Laurent Blanc, via the bizarre notions of Avram Grant and Brendan Rodgers (*link to source article at the bottom of the page). Liverpool’s seizure of Jurgen Klopp certainly represents a coup that certainly has changed the managerial landscape at the ‘big’ jobs.
All of this however could hail into insignificance. Mourinho and Chelsea could beat Liverpool on Saturday and start a sensational run to leap up the table. What is true however is that this is Mourinho’s most testing period as manager in his career. Upon joining Chelsea for a second time, words like legacy and dynasty were bandied round, Mou was here for the long term. I for one think he will stay but Mourinho needs to burden some of the blame himself. Only in admitting to his own shortcomings can the lid be taken off the pressure cooker over at Stamford Bridge. One moment of potential weakness could reap vast rewards. Showing that he is human and not infallible, could prove a catalyst in Mourinho’s development as a manager that he is more than about the short term aims of trophies. Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world but hasn’t proven himself as a manager who can ride a crisis and go on to dominate a league for years, rather than leave when the going gets tough. The ability of being able to adapt, of being wrong and consequently identifying what should be done next could elevate Mourinho into the rarefied realm of Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex had the acumen to rebuild and go again, and if Mourinho rides this turbulence and makes it out the other side, he too will have the ability to rebuild the squad to challenge for another title rather than needing to exit stage left after fighting one to many battles that he was always going to lose.