Has the return of Jose Mourinho been so talked up that some are expecting actual miracles?
August 29th, 2013
It didn’t go without notice that, after the 2-0 opening weekend win over Hull City, there were those that demanded more.
Comments, tweets, forum posts talking about the importance of goal difference come the end of the season – and how Chelsea had failed to take advantage of a Tigers side that had come with damage limitation in mind.
Then there were the complaints about the Villa game. Yes, Paul Lambert was right to be aggrieved. Yes, his team probably should have had a penalty. And, yes, Gabriel Agbonlahor could have put the visiting side in front – before Branislav Ivanovic swiped the glory form him. Lucky Chelsea.
And most recently the barbed comments about Old Trafford on Monday night: the team selection, the shut-out, the points dropped.
One does wonder if these people were asleep between August 2004 and September 2007.
Mourinho has always built his teams from the back. If you know Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real – you know this. The players know it too. When asked on Monday night, Ivanovic – the longest serving player at Chelsea to have never previously worked with Mourinho – was unhesitating in confirming it was the case.
There is nothing new in any of this.
Take a look at Chelsea’s first nine results under new boss Mourinho in 2004: 1-0; 1-0; 2-0 (against a Palace side that went on to be relegated); 2-1; 0-0; 0-0; 1-0; 1-0; 0-1.
That ninth game proved to be the turning point. Chelsea would have bagged a creditable point at Manchester City, had Nicolas Anelka not stepped up to put away a penalty.
It proved to be Chelsea’s sole defeat of a record-breaking season. And it was also the cue to step up.
Chelsea scored four goals in six of the next 12 games. “Boring, boring Chelsea,” mocked the Blues’ supporters – as the team cantered to the title before April was out.
Another thing confirmed by Ivanovic on Monday night is that Mourinho does things differently to other managers – and Branislav should know, because he’s had seven at Chelsea prior to this one.
He pushes players harder – especially defensively – on the basis that a team which doesn’t concede, also doesn’t lose.
Chelsea has built up a wealth of attacking experience over the last couple of seasons.
But look at the failings of previous bosses: Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benitez. So much of it has been about the defence.
It doesn’t take too much of a leap of imagination to believe that Mourinho has concluded Chelsea’s defence has got into bad habits, needs re-schooling – it’s what enough people have been saying over the last 24 months.
Titles are not won in these few opening weeks of the season. Every side has the same battles with returning form, getting the squad settled, gelling on-pitch.
But titles are lost – by teams that are reckless in throwing away points in pursuit of some ideal of flowing-football that is yet to be properly achieved (I refer you back to the file marked ‘Villas-Boas’).
Chelsea are presently top of the league with seven points from nine – including one whittled out of a trip to Old Trafford.
It’s difficult to see how anyone could suggest Mourinho 2.0 isn’t proceeding according to plan.