We’re starting to see a new dawn. The green shoots of recovery are beginning to rise from the ashen soil at Stamford bridge. Eden Hazard is starting to show glimpses of why he was hailed as the third best player in the world – or maybe even the second best!
Well, it really seems like none of those things are true.
And why did we ever think they were? After all, Chelsea managed to beat an awful Norwich side, thump a Maccabi Tel-Aviv side who are surely one of the worst the history of the Champions League and then they drew 0-0 away to a Spurs side who had just come back from a crazy trip in a game that no one could surely call ‘European’ if it weren’t for some very strange Uefa international border-work.
So Chelsea’s defeat to Bournemouth at the weekend, while certainly unforeseen, is hardly beyond the realms of belief or even prediction. Chelsea lost their grip on an unbeaten run that was looking fairly slippy in the first place.
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But what’s even worse is Jose Mourinho’s insistence that Chelsea are getting better and are about to turn the corner. When you start to look so keenly for something, you start to see it everywhere. And Jose Mourinho is looking for improvement so hard that he’s seeing it everywhere, even in Hazard.
And while it’s true that Hazard has looked much more lacklustre this season than he has done in recent matches, surely it’s not enough to hold him up as proof that Chelsea are getting back to where they belong?
But that’s the sad part. Chelsea were so good last season and this time they’re a world away from that. They’ve slipped so far, in fact, that any slight improvement has become a major event.
But interestingly, Jose Mourinho’s approach has been different.
Although there is some very small and probably insignificant improvement in Eden Hazard’s performances, Mourinho has chosen to praise rather than to criticise. His nuclear option, taken earlier this season by humiliating Nemanja Matic and criticising Cesc Fabregas and others didn’t work, and now it’s as if he’s in a position where he’s trying to do today what was necessary in September.
But where do you go after nuclear fallout? Surely bridges are burnt. Surely after taking such a harsh line with his players, praise is no longer a viable option. They’re desensitised to his harshess and his mildness is no longer sweet relief.
If Jose Mourinho truly thinks that there is progress at Chelsea, then Chelsea have bigger problems than what’s going on between the white lines on the pitch – although we knew that already. If Mourinho truly and seriously thinks that Chelsea are turning a corner, then he’s either blind to the problems, in denial as to their depth and complexity, or he’s just completely and utterly lost the plot. All of those options are surely sackable offences.
After all Mourinho has done for the club, he shouldn’t be sacked just like that. Of course Mourinho should be given the time he needs to turn it around. But sometimes it’s gone. Sometimes you just can’t do it. And when you are already in December, still claiming that it’s going to happen soon and you’re still praising players after using up your nuclear option months ago, there’s something wrong.
If it gets results then you’ve pulled off a miracle. But if, like Chelsea, the malaise lingers then you have to do something about it.
The champions, even if it seems almost satire to call them that these days, have fewer than half the points that Leicester City have, and we’re almost halfway through the season.
If Mourinho thinks that he’s turning this one around by claiming that Eden Hazard is running a bit more than he did three months ago, then I’m afraid that his grip on reality is fading faster than Chelsea’s grip on the Premier League trophy.