As Premier League champions Chelsea, yes that’s right – Chelsea, struggle to replicate even a glimpse of their title winning form, questions have been raised over Jose Mourinho.
Previously untouchable at previous clubs (other than a run in with Florentino Perez at Real Madrid), the controversial Portuguese was recently given the dreaded vote of confidence by the Blues board.
However, recent reports suggest that enigmatic owner Roman Abramovich has earmarked Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone as the man to replace the ‘Special One’ should he become the ‘Sacked One’. The authoritative Argentine has kept the red side of Madrid competitive with the vastly more wealthy likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, even breaking their tug of war over the La Liga title.
His Atleti side has been crafted around hard work, togetherness and an intense atmosphere created for every game. Sound familiar? The parallels between the two are clear, but ‘El Cholo’ has had to deal with smaller budgets.
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‘Effort is non-negotiable’ is perhaps the key quote when assessing the 45-year-old closely. It would be too far to describe his work as ‘ugly’, but he has a similar attitude to Mourinho, in that they both value winning at all costs higher than art like football.
Moreover, the two share a fiery temperament, seen when the Argentine confronted Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane after the Frenchman kicked a ball in his direction following the 4-1 defeat to Los Blancos in the 2014 Champions League final.
Where the similarities end, however, is more towards their personality. Mourinho is full of confidence, always looking to involve himself in mind games before a big match. Simeone is far more understated, preferring to rally his troops into a controlled frenzy than become involved in a pre-match war of words with the opposing manager.
The Blues’ stagnation, and then belly flop into uncharted waters for a club so used to success, is baffling. For a side who lifted a first league title in half a decade only five months ago, something seriously has gone wrong. Perhaps the lack of investment over the summer could be attributed, with only Barcelona winger Pedro coming in to make an immediate impact on first team proceedings.
A lack of investment cannot wholly be attributed to the sudden downturn, though, as it doesn’t explain the abject performances from Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Eden Hazard or Cesc Fabregas. There clearly are more issues than meet the eye going on in West London, and it’s not hard to imagine Mourinho being key to them.
So, a complete change in style is not what is needed, the spine of the side who won the league at a canter is still extremely solid. Diego Simeone is exactly the right balance between refreshment and resurgence, using many of the same key attributes already in play, but a far more understated approach.
It’s not that he would relax the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, a la Carlo Ancelotti, he would provide a more approachable one than Mourinho, who has a history of falling out with big players.
The ‘Special One’ is a fantastic manager and deserves time, after all he’s achieved throughout his career. He’s the best manager the Blues have ever had, though his intense, ‘us against the world’ style could be wearing thin. By moving for Simeone, Abramovich could retain some of the aspects that make his team so hard to beat, while freshening up what appears to be toxic atmosphere.