Despite coming close in both the Premier League and the Champions League, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side have ended the season empty-handed. The second coming of the “Special One” at Stamford Bridge has so far yet to produce any silverware.
But with Roman Abramovich being notoriously trigger-happy, is Mourinho actually lucky to still be at Chelsea?
There should be no doubt that the “Special One” has underachieved this season and it is surprising that it hasn’t been discussed more widely. Although they figured more prominently in the title race this time around, Mourinho could only match Rafa Benitez in guiding Chelsea to third place. While the former Liverpool manager delivered the Europa League and FA Cup in his interim spell last season, defeats to Atletico Madrid and Manchester City ended any hopes of success in the most recent campaign.
For the first time in eleven seasons, the Portuguese manager has failed to finish in the top two of the respective domestic league. It is an impressive record which includes his time at Real Madrid, Inter Milan and FC Porto.
In securing sixteen out of a possible eighteen points against the rest of the top four, Mourinho demonstrated that he still has the appetite and the nous for the big games. The “park the bus” strategy may be maligned by many but it proved to be a ruthlessly effective tactic. But the title was ultimately lost with the points dropped against the smaller sides. 0-2 at Aston Villa, 0-1 at Crystal Palace, 1-2 at home to Sunderland. It was these results which derailed Chelsea’s title challenge and for that Mourinho should be held accountable.
Throughout the season though, the “Special One” insisted that his side were not contenders to Premier League crown. The phrase “little horses” was coined by the Chelsea manager to allegedly depict their status in a title race. In numerous interviews and press conferences, Mourinho insisted that his side wouldn’t be ready to challenge until next season.
Enough money was invested over the course of the season to address any potential flaws the team may have had. Fees of £32 million, £21 million and £18 million were lavished on the likes of Willian, Nemanja Matic and Andre Schurrle respectively.
The squad that Mourinho had at his disposal may have been relatively young but they’re hardly alien to success. Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and John Terry have all lifted the Premier League title before. Eden Hazard triumphed in Ligue 1 with Lille whilst David Luiz and Ramires have tasted success in Portugal with Benfica. The often repeated excuse that the side weren’t ready simply doesn’t fly.
In his reports on the final day of the season for the BBC, Martin Keown stated that it had been a “disappointing” season for Chelsea and it is hard to disagree. Some progress may have been made in the league but the impact that many had expected from the second coming of the “Special One” has not come to fruition.
Perhaps in a sign of growing frustration, Mourinho has been involved in a number of embarrassing and ugly incidents off the field. Labelling Arsene Wenger as a “specialist in failure”, stepping on to the pitch at Villa Park and sarcastically praising the officials after the Sunderland defeat. The Chelsea manager is known for being outspoken but even by his standards, the line has been crossed on several occasions this season.
Bearing this all in mind then, is Mourinho fortunate to still have his job? As many recent Chelsea managers will attest to, loyalty and stability are hardly buzzwords which resonate with Abramovich. Avram Grant was sacked after less than a year despite guiding the club to the Carling Cup and Champions League finals as well a second place finish in the league. Roberto Di Matteo’s services were dispensed with just months after landing the chairman’s most coveted prize.
Admittedly, both of these managers lacked the pedigree and personality of the “Special One.” But having already fallen foul of Abramovich once before, Mourinho should be aware that a repeat of the latest campaign will likely not be tolerated.
With eighty two points and a Champions League semi-final, Chelsea’s season has hardly been a disaster. But with the manager and squad at the club’s disposal, more is understandably expected. Mourinho has underachieved in his second spell at Stamford Bridge and with Abramovich at the helm, the “Special One” is perhaps a little lucky to still be in charge.