Do you feel a bit bad for Jose Mourinho? Or do you think he deserves all he gets?
Do you think that we should give him a break from all the media furore, the fines and the bans, the fun poked at his expense? Do you think he’s had it coming for years of being difficult and petty?
Poking fun at Jose is like finishing a whole packet of biscuits for me. I know it’s wrong, I feel a bit bad, but nothing’s going to stop me.
I feel bad for the players, though. They’re the ones caught up in the storm. Mourinho’s snipes at the board for not buying him the players he needs. The board’s coded messages back to him, backing his managerial abilities and backing him to turn it around with the squad he has.
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Just a few months ago they were the best team in the league, and comfortably so. They won the league easily, so easily that they had it won by March, really. They were building a ‘dynasty’, the word used almost non-stop over the summer.
In many ways they simply couldn’t live up to the hype. Ask Manchester City’s players what it’s like to win the title and then go right out and defend it, all whilst the press lauds you as the best and poo-poos anyone else’s chance of beating you.
But Chelsea have fallen further than anyone else, it’s like they’ve fallen off the edge of the cliff. Paraded in front of the world as the best there is. Like that scene in the Lion King where Simba is presented on Pride Rock. Only to be dropped from a height, hitting their backsides numerous times on the way down. From one cartoon to another, from the epicness of the Lion King to the ignominy of looking like Homer Simpson trying to jump the canyon only to fail so spectacularly and fall to a bloodied, yet comical finish.
If this is to be one of the last times Jose Mourinho sets-up a Chelsea team to play at Stamford Bridge, it’ll be his own fault in some ways, and the fault of others in other ways.
Last season he played a certain brand of defensive football with an edge of flair. The start of the season they were magnificent, but by the end they were left hanging on, even if they were still better than everyone else.
The players got no rest. At least, the ones who played. The ones who didn’t got nothing but rest. And when you do that, you risk burnout.
And so with things going badly this season, a burnt-out core of players seems to be one of Chelsea’s problems. Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, John Terry – all of these players played masses of games last season, playing even when not fully fit. Mourinho trusted them to a huge extent, but perhaps it was a case of not trusting his benched players enough. Whatever it was, these are the players really suffering this season.
You can blame Mourinho for that, but the board has to take some blame too. They didn’t back Mourinho with new players in the summer. He was given Asmir Begovic to replace Petr Cech, Radaeml Falcao to replace Didier Drogba and Baba Rahman to replace Filipe Luis. Understudies to replace understudies. The only player he was given who had a chance of starting was Pedro. As good a player as Pedro is, he’s hardly the marquee signing that would make the Champions completely unstoppable. Not when you compare that to Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, for example.
And it’s so bad that you just can’t imagine that’s the only problem.
It’s not just the burnt-out starters and the lack of help they’ve been getting. There are rumours of an all-out player revolt, of players turning away from Mourinho. And no matter how bad it gets, you always feel like Mourinho won’t give in. He won’t admit he was wrong on any score.
Not to his board, his players, the media, the officials. When Mourinho fights you, he fights to the death. It doesn’t matter if he’s the one destroyed, which is what happened at Real Madrid and at Chelsea the first time around, or if he’s the one doing the destroying. He’ll either destroy you or you destroy him.
There’s no coming back from this if that’s the case. And given Chelsea’s incredible fall it doesn’t look like form or tiredness are the only factors.
There has to be more to this whole situation than meets the eye, and if there is Mourinho won’t give in. Either he wins or he loses, and either way it’s bad for Chelsea. He might be able to turn it around, but what sort of scorched earth policy will he need to make that happen? Who will he have to ruin in order to do that?
Confrontation, for Mourinho, is like the packet of biscuits. He knows it’s wrong, but he can’t help himself.