Referring to the fact that he had only just arrived at the club and needed his first season to get settled, and how many of the Chelsea personnel were young and inexperienced, Mourinho told the press that his Chelsea side ‘needed milk’ and needed to ‘learn how to jump’ and despite having just beaten title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad stadium, insisted that next season, not this season, his Chelsea side will be ready to challenge properly.
All season long, José Mourinho has taken every opportunity to talk down his side’s title chances, even at times where Chelsea have been clear at the top of the table, much to the amusement of the British public and press.
For a while now it’s been clear to everyone that Chelsea are major contenders for the title and there was never any reason why they shouldn’t be, and the reasoning for José’s constant down-play has pretty much been in order to save his own skin in case Chelsea end the season with nothing.
Perhaps we would have all been persuaded by the old Mourinho, the young, brash yet lovable mastermind who first walked through the doors of Stamford Bridge back in 2004. But this new José, the 50 year old José just can’t seem to pull those kinds of stunts off any more.
Newspapers, pundits, reporters et al. no longer seem to buy into the cheeky Mourinho charm (or at least not as much as they used to), instead they scrutinise him. But while it certainly just looked like an act to save face, one could argue that Mourinho did have a point. After all during the times when the Chelsea boss was being questioned about his insistence that Chelsea weren’t favourites, Chelsea were never technically clear at the top. Man City’s games in hand meant that the title picture was never truly clear, but whilst Chelsea clung to top spot and the press began to scoff at the idea of Mourinho playing his side’s chances down, if City won their games in hand, they would go ahead of Chelsea.
What I would deduce is that Mourinho had a fair point, but he over did it. He insisted far too much, so much so that he made himself look a fool. Yes, Chelsea never were mathematically clear at the top, yes Man City’s players are all mostly in their prime while Chelsea’s aren’t and yes Chelsea are lacking a world class striker, but his constant insistence of all of the above seemed to backfire on him in more ways than one.
As mentioned before, the Mourinho of old might have gotten away with it, but ‘the Happy one’ will have to seriously think about how he approaches the English media the second time around. He’s come across as somewhat bitter and moody this season, which could have perhaps been played off as admirable self-confidence back in 2005. Now, he doesn’t seem to be able to pull it off as well.
The other way in which Mourinho’s words seem to have backfired on him is that he’s talked his team down so much that despite what he might tell the players behind the scenes, it does feel like they might have bought into the idea that they’re not good enough this season.
Too many times have Chelsea come up against weak opposition this season and seriously struggled. Their disastrous 2-1 loss to Sunderland at the weekend, all but ending their title hopes, is just the latest in a long line of uninspiring performances against teams they really should trounce. This is a team that, despite everything their manager has emphasised, were well and truly in the title race and were four victories from becoming Champions. But on Saturday, Chelsea didn’t play like champions. They played like a little horse, a horse that as Mourinho stressed, needed milk and needed to learn how to jump.
But the reality is they didn’t. They were probably even marginal favourites for the title before the weekend, particularly as their results in the big games have been so impressive. Chelsea have taken maximum points against their two main title rivals, City and Liverpool, while they’ve taken four points from six against Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
Those performances (as well as a few in Europe) are the biggest indication of how good Chelsea are this season, but a serious lack of consistency and motivation in the less important games has let them down. And all of this has probably been brought on by Mourinho himself and his constant emphasis that Chelsea basically aren’t good enough this year.
His criticism of his strikers follows the same plot-lines. José has a point, Chelsea’s lack of a world class striker is all too evident, but perhaps that message has been transmitted, unintentionally, to his players. It may be causing Hazard or Oscar or Willian to think twice before passing to Eto’o or to Torres, or perhaps when Ba begins to warm up, the team feel a sense of deflation or anti-climax due to the lack of a world class substitute. This is all up for debate of course, but public criticism is never a good thing in my mind, particularly from someone as well thought of as José Mourinho, as some of the players are bound to believe every word he says, given his calibre as a manager.
Mourinho has had his and his club’s interests at heart, but his antics have most certainly backfired. Of course, Chelsea may still end up winning the Champions League and even the Premier League, but you can be sure that much of Mourinho’s words this season haven’t helped.
If he failed to win the league, Mourinho was relying on Manchester City pipping him to the post, as he could bemoan their squad experience, but with Liverpool looking set to take the crown, he can forget about excuses. The title was in Chelsea hands and they look to have blown it, for one reason or another.
Mourinho’s insistence that Chelsea will be ready next season seems to be right on the money however. They look set to land a (desperately needed) world class striker, important first team players like Willian, Schurrle, Hazard, Oscar, Azpilicueta and Matic will be far more settled into the side and Mourinho’s team will start to take proper shape. But despite what José may claim, Chelsea were good enough this year but seemed to buy into the idea a little too much of being a ‘little horse’.