LONDON: Jose Mourinho is a worried man. His customary ‘third season dip’ has never been as bad as this. In the closing minutes of the Premier champions’ 3-1 home defeat by Southampton visiting fans chanted: “You’re not special any more!”
It remains implausible that Chelsea will emulate the feat of Manchester City who were relegated in 1938, the season after winning the league. But, hauntingly, this is Chelsea’s worst start to a season in 37 years, when they were relegated from the old First Division.
They have taken eight points from eight games, trail the league leaders by double figures and are only two places above the drop zone.
Mourinho recalled captain John Terry within resolving defensive problems which Southampton exploited ruthlessly. Chelsea have conceded at least two goals in seven of their eight league games. Willian put them ahead from a fourth free-kick goal in four games but that was the last serious assault on Maarten Stekelenburg’s goal in Chelsea’s first home defeat by Saints since January 2002.
Steven Davis levelled and Mane punished mistakes by Gary Cahill and John Terry before Pelle struck Southampton’s third.
This was the first time that Mourinho’s Chelsea have ever conceded more than twice in a Premier League home game and he responded in his usual manner by blaming someone else. He is certain to face disciplinary action after targeting his old enemies, the referees.
Mourinho criticised Robert Madley for showing Radamel Falcao a yellow card for a dive rather than penalising Stekelenburg without mentioning that Southampton had two early penalty claims denied.
In a seven-minute rant Mourinho said: “The referees are afraid to give decisions for Chelsea. With the score at 1-1 there was a huge penalty and once more we don’t get it.
“If the FA wants to punish me they can punish me. They do not punish other managers, they punish me. It’s not a problem for me. But I want to repeat my [opinion] because I am a Chelsea fan too, that referees are afraid to give decisions for Chelsea.
“We are punished when Diego Costa is suspended because of images. We see same thing in other matches and it is not given. But with us it is – even in the Champions League, a game with not three officials but five – and we are still not given a penalty.”
The ‘missed’ penalty was crucial, for Mourinho, because the team’s fragile confidence and cohesion then collapsed in response to “the first negative thing that happens.”
Mourinho went on to dare Roman Abramovich to sack him, as the club’s Russian owner he did on September 20, 2007. He said: “I want to make it clear: one, I don’t run away. Two, if the club want to sack me, they have to sack me because I am not running away from my responsibilities, from my team and from my conviction.
“Third, even more important that the first and the second, I think this is a crucial moment in the history of this club. Do you know why? Because if the club sacks me, they sack the best manager that this club has had.”
When Mourinho left eight years ago he was the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history, after winning six trophies in three years. He was also undefeated in all home league games. Already, this season, they have lost two in four games.