When it seemed Chelsea’s season couldn’t get any worse, Southampton and Jose Mourinho took it to a whole new level on Saturday.
The Saints outwitted, outmuscled and outplayed the Blues in a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s sixth defeat of the season so far, leading the Portuguese to unleash the most self-interested, unruly and paranoid monologue witnessed in the Premier League since the days of Kevin Keegan.
One question from the post-match interviewer produced a seven-minute answer, two minutes of which were about refereeing decisions and five minutes of which were about how the Special One is still very special – in case we’d all forgotten.
But regardless of disappointing results and cringe-tastic rants, the worst thing Blues owner Roman Abramovich could do right now is sack Jose Mourinho; the manager responsible for three of Chelsea’s four Premier League titles, who returned to west London to build a legacy.
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In a fashion so uncharacteristic it verges upon oxymoronic, Chelsea need to accept this season, at least in the Premier League, is probably a write-off – but realise that doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of sacking one of the best managers in the business.
Don’t get me wrong; plenty of mistakes have been made at Stamford Bridge this season and many of them can be traced back to the man in the dugout.
Beginning pre-season a week later than the rest of the title competitors left Chelsea underprepared for the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and opening day draw with Swansea City; physically and psychologically, they’ve never really recovered from that disappointing start.
Likewise, Mourinho’s criticism, dropping and subsequent sacking of team doctor Eva Caneiro created a crisis when none was needed, whipping the media into a frenzy and placing unnecessary attention on the club, whilst turning the accusative finger towards his players in the following weeks has clearly done more harm than good.
The likes of Terry and Nemanja Matic must feel particularly embarrassed after being hauled off against Manchester City and Southampton respectively – especially in the latter’s case, having only entered the fray from the bench during the interval. There’s a common convention amongst managers of protecting their players as much as possible but Mourinho seems to be inviting criticism of certain individuals, as if he’s intentionally trying to make them scapegoats.
But the Special One’s pedigree as one of the top managers around remains indisputable. 52 is still incredibly youthful in management years – Pep Guardiola is the only younger member of world football’s elite manager bracket at 44 – yet Mourinho has already claimed two Champions League titles and domestic honours from every league he’s been employed in, spanning Portugal, England, Spain and Italy.
Mourinho has always made seemingly impulsive, cut-throat decisions, such as substituting off his captain at half-time. For whatever reason, they simply haven’t paid off this season and on the whole have probably made matters worse, but can any manager in the game today, or for that matter former greats like Sir Alex Ferguson and Jupp Heynckes, be realistically expected to get every decision right, every time? There’s a fine line between insanity and genius and most managers end up veering on either side.
No doubt, this is the worst spell of Mourinho’s career; the win rate of just 31% from the Community Shield onwards is lower than his personal worst of 45% from six months with Uniao de Leiria. Yet that in itself suggests that what we’re currently seeing is a glaring anomaly rather than any sort of permanent decline. Eventually, Mourinho will turn the ship back in the right direction.
Short-termism has continually riddled the Premier League over the last decade and Chelsea are amongst the biggest culprits. Although I did not agree with the tone, manner or motivation of Mourinho’s seven-minute rant on Saturday, he’s right that the Blues must stop their trigger-happy culture based on disappointing results. That’s why the end to Mourinho’s first spell in west London came so abruptly and how Chelsea went through seven managers in six years before going full circle and eventually hiring him again in 2013.
There was an obvious motivation behind the Portuguese’s reinstatement and I believe it is still valid; Chelsea cycled through some of the greatest managers in world football, such as Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Phil Scolari, but none epitomised the characteristics synonymous with the club during the Roman Abramovich era – defensive resilience, an ever-under siege mentality, big results in big games and most importantly, silverware at all costs – quite like the Special One.
He should be the one manager given the chance to build a genuine legacy; he fits the club like no other. Is it really worth throwing that all away and rebuilding because of one bad season from his six in west London?
Likewise, the idea that the Blues must never drop below a certain standard is becoming increasingly unrealistic in a division that hasn’t seen its title successfully defended since 2009 and enhances the financial muscle of its rank and file with every passing season. As much as only Chelsea are to blame for their recent woes, we’ve seen the exact same thing from Manchester City and Manchester United in the last five years. Clearly it is a Premier League problem as much as it is a Chelsea one. The same can be said for recent performances in the Champions League.
The concern, however, is that Mourinho can become insufferable when things aren’t going his way – as Saturday’s rant proved in abundance. The international break represents a much needed cooling off period for the Portuguese; although I’m sure his job is safe for now, more public relation disasters coupled with bad results could quickly turn Abramovich and the supporters against him.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015